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February 8, 2014
• Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
Referee: D. Massa
• Attendance: 40000
G. İnler 11'
G. Higuaín 56', 82'
A. Taarabt 8'
That's all that we have time for from Serie A's evening kick-off, as Napoli complete a comprehensive 3-1 win over Seedorf's Milan. An exciting game for the neutral, with plenty of opportunities and audacious effort, which we hope you have enjoyed. I'm Simon Harrison, and I will see you again next time.
A debut goal for Taarabt was the only high point for the Rossoneri, in a frustrating game in which Balotelli left the field in tears. As a result, Napoli open up a small gap over Fiorentina in fourth place, while Milan continue to stagnate in mid-table, despite their mini-resurgence.
FULL TIME! Milan took the lead in the early stages, but the visitors could not stave off the many threats of a fluid and attacking Napoli side. Goals from Higuain and Inler sealed the 3-1 win for the Partenopei, as Stadio San Paolo continues to be a real fortress in Serie A.
90' + 2'
Poor pass from Montolivo! The former Fiorentina midfielder is found by a wayward clearance, and has the chance to find Pazzini in the centre of the penalty box, as the substitute peeled off between Fernandez and Maggio. The delivery is poor, however, and Fernandez is able to head away.
90' + 1'
HIGUAIN! The Argentine frontman is allowed to turn on the edge of the box, far too easily, before driving towards the byeline. He steps inside, before unleashing an effort with the outside of his foot, which Abbiati claims with ease.
DZEMAILI! The substitute midfielder is presented with the opportunity to shoot with his first time, but can only scuff an effort slowly towards Abbiati! Essien gave the ball away, allowing Napoli to quickly move upfield, before Callejon's pass to the Swiss was squandered.
Taarabt uses a nice piece of skill to skip around two challenges, but the Moroccan is then robbed of the ball. Somewhat representative of Milan's performance this evening, as they've shown occasional creative inspiration, but just haven't got the cutting edge required to win games against the big sides.
Yellow Card José Callejón
Despite Milan's recent resurgence, this game is serving as a demonstration of how much rebuilding needs to be done to return the Rossoneri to their former glory. They've been second best throughout the entire 90 minutes, and haven't looked likely to leave with any points.
Narrowly over five minutes left on the clock, and Milan won't be able to get back into this game as a contest. Had Balotelli managed to capitalise on Reina's earlier error, this might be a totally different scenario at this point in proceedings, but instead the visitors are chasing the game without any real spark.
Assist José Callejón
Goal Gonzalo Higuaín
GOOOOOAL! HIGUAIN MAKES IT 3-1! That's Napoli out of sight now, as Milan are picked apart by an incisive move, despite the visiting defense not covering themselves in glory. Callejon is fed in behind the Rossoneri back line, before cutting the ball back unselfishly to his former Real Madrid teammate. As easy as it gets!
PAZZINI! Great lofted ball by Montolivo, which puts the substitute in behind enemy lines, but Reina is quick off his line to deny him! The Spaniard makes up for his earlier error, stealing the ball from the feet of the Milan forward, after a great bit of control on his chest.
Ten minutes left to play, and Milan will be gunning for an equaliser, in order to try and turn Balotelli's frown upside down. Seedorf's side aren't out of this game by any stretch of the imagination, and are just beginning to threaten in the late stages.
Important interception from Rami, who hooks away a dangerous cross, with Higuain lurking over his shoulder. The Argentine goalscorer has been a menace throughout this game, playing on the shoulder of the last defender and causing plenty of problems.
Someone isn't very happy! Balotelli has his face buried in his coat, and is crying on the Milan bench, after being substituted for Pazzini. Not the best reaction, but at least it shows a desire to impress and perform well for the team.
Half chance for Milan! The visitors managed to stretch the hosts, due to the overlapping run of Abate from right-back, and the Italian full-back managed to fire a dangerous ball across the penalty area. Albiol manages to scramble the ball away!
Mexes makes a terrible challenge, kicking Mertens despite the Belgian having already skipped around the Frenchman. Cynical, but Milan have to try and stay within a goal of their opponents, if they are to try and steal a point from the fortress that is Stadio San Paolo.
WHAT A MISTAKE! Reina is let off the hook, as the Spaniard completely misses his clearance when trying to hoof the ball out of the path of Balotelli. The Milan striker picks up the loose ball, and tries to turn it home quickly, but three Napoli players stand in his way, much to Reina's relief. The opportunity goes begging, with Reina leaving an open goal.
TAARABT! The Moroccan loanee managed to escape from the challenge of Maggio, before nutmegging the second man and arrowing a bouncing effort across goal. Reina beats it away, and Balotelli can't quite stretch to turn the rebounding ball into the net, with Reina still on the ground.
MERTENS! INLER! Two long range efforts in quick succession, and Napoli are continuing to look for a third goal. Their attacks are dynamic and unpredictable, with the likes of Higuain, Mertens and Insigne making intelligent runs which are dragging Milan's central defensive pairing around.
Yellow Card Jorginho
HIGUAIN! The Argentina international manages to get in behind Mexes yet again, and slides to make contact with the dinked cross - but can only direct it wide of the post. Napoli look very comfortable, with Milan moving the ball slowly and predictably, and with Balotelli looking isolated against the physical presences of Albiol and Fernandez.
Balotelli is fed the ball on the edge of the penalty area, but his first touch lets him down, much to the amusement of the home supporters. He's getting frustrated due to the lack of service, and he's so sporadically involved that he isn't wholly sharp when the ball occasionally does find its way to him.
ESSIEN! Great save by Reina, he's done well to remain alert despite spending so long on the fringes of the game! The Ghanaian midfielder fires a venomous effort towards goal, and the Spanish goalkeeper can do nothing but throw himself in front of the ball, that could have gone anywhere!
Less than half an hour left to play, and the home side are well on top. They're carving Milan apart with almost every attack, and the visitors only look comfortable when defending set pieces. Reina hasn't had too much to do in this second half, and Balotelli has barely had a touch.
MERTENS! The Belgian has an effort from 25 yards, and Abbiati is able to gather the ball at the second attempt. His handling hasn't been too impressive today, and it would be reasonable to assume that his spilling of the ball could result in another goal for the opportunistic Higuain.
HIGUAIN! He's ballooned his effort over the bar, despite a great first touch with his chest. His second touch is an attempted volley, but it dips over the crossbar with Abbiati praying that the ball didn't crack into the top corner of the net. One more goal for the hosts should kill off this game.
Milan have plenty of time left to get back in this game, but they're in a precarious position now. Napoli can break with real pace, with the deep lying midfielder of Inler and Jorginho being able to pick brilliant passes. If the visitors press forward, they can expect to be picked apart.
Assist Gökhan Inler
Goal Gonzalo Higuaín
OOOOOH WHAT A GOAL BY NAPOLI! It's a sumptuous ball from Inler, who telegraphs a ball straight onto the head of Higuain, who merely has to guide the delivery past the helpless Abbiati! He was steaming in, bearing down on goal, and there was no way he'd miss. What a pass! GONZALO! HIGUAIN!
That's an important header from Rami! The French defender rises highest at the near post to flick a Neapolitan corner away for a throw-in, with several players in yellow shirts loitering around the six yard box. Milan continue to be resilient.
Yellow Card Adel Taarabt
HAMSIK! INSIGNE! Space opens up for the Napoli midfielder, who fires directly at Abbiati from 25 yards. In the next attack, Insigne steps inside his man, cutting in from the left, before curling a brilliant effort narrowly wide of the top corner - with Abbiati a mere spectator.
Balotelli is picked out by a good cross-field ball by De Sciglio, but Reina is quick off his line to snatch the ball from the forehead of the hotheaded Milan hitman. This game continues to be very, very open, with both defences seemingly willing to let the other side shoot from outside the box.
Hamsik goes down in the penalty area, after running into Adil Rami, and the referee rightly waves play on, despite the former Valencia defender getting in the way of the Slovakia international. He didn't have the ball in his control, so it would have been incredibly harsh to penalise the Milan centre-half.
Good clearance by Mexes! Insigne heads a back post delivery back across goal, in search of Higuain, but the Frenchman steps in to clear the danger. Several half chances already, this game certainly isn't going stale.
End-to-end stuff in the opening minutes of the second half, and it seems fairly clear that both managers are committed to the continuation of their attacking mentalities from before the break. Rafa Benitez is sometimes criticised for being conservative as a manager, but that couldn't be further from the truth this evening.
Kaka has come on in place of Robinho, with the experienced attacking midfielder slotting in behind Balotelli, with Seedorf presumably keen for more accurate service to his star striker. An early Napoli corner is directed towards goal, but it's straight down Abbiati's throat.
We are back underway in the second half, as Napoli look to defeat a plucky Milan side, after an action-packed first 45 minutes. The hosts need three points to pull them away from the advancing Fiorentina, while Milan will simply be happy to prove that they can still compete with Serie A's big sides.
Be sure to rejoin us for the second half in ten minutes time, as Napoli look to bounce back from a two-game winless run with a successful second half in Stadio San Paolo. The signs don't look good for Milan, who are very fortunate to still be in this fixture, but both managers have their fair share of talented players on their respective benches.
Goals from Taarabt and Gokhan Inler have taken the two sides into the break on level terms, but there has to be some more in this game. Chances have come thick and fast for Napoli, with the likes of Hamsik, Mertens and Higuain having several chances each, in a very open match.
HALF TIME! The referee calls time on a very interesting first 45 minutes, with Seedorf's Milan managing to go into the break on level terms with the Partenopei. The home side have had the better of the chances, and should be ahead, but a debut goal from Adel Taarabt has kept the Rossoneri in it.
HIGUAIN! The Argentine tries his luck from an awkward angle, with his low drive clipping off the leg of Emanuelson, before swerving into the side netting. The hosts have a late first half corner, which is well cleared by the head of Balotelli.
Audacious effort from Maggio! The ball sits up nicely for the Italian defender, around 30 yards from goal, and he spots Abbiati narrowly off his line. With a deft flick, Maggio tries to lob the veteran shot-stopper who has to back-pedal in order to pat the ball down and take control of the situation.
WHAT A CHANCE! INSIGNE! Hamsik squares from just inside the penalty area, forcing Abbiati into a good save, before Insigne's effort on the rebound finds its way to Maggio. The right wing-back fires towards the near post, only to see his effort crack off the woodwork! The loose ball finds its way back into the possession of the home side, before a well-weighted back post cross is nodded narrowly wide by Insigne.
Good pass from Jorginho! The former Hellas Verona midfielder has been releasing some excellent passes from his deep lying midfield role, and almost feeds Higuain in behind the Rossoneri back line, but the delivery bounces narrowly through to Abbiati.
Balotelli is starting to lose his temper, as the Italy international hasn't received much of the ball and is getting rather frustrated. A couple of petulant fouls have crept into his game, before the Milan striker argues with Robinho over the quality of the Brazilian's pass.
Yellow Card Gökhan Inler
Narrowly under ten minutes until the half time break, and this game has been totally enthralling. Neither side can find the all-important second goal, despite total freedom to shoot, pretty much at any player's whim.
HAMSIK! OOOOH THAT WAS CLOSE! An audacious effort from the Napoli captain, as he allows a lofted pass to arc over his shoulder, before looking to catch the ball on the first time volley. He arrows the strike narrowly over the crossbar from eight yards! Great attempt.
INSIGNE! The young midfielder drives towards the edge of the area, before looking to sidefoot an effort inside the far post, but he gets the execution all wrong, instead passing the ball easily within Abbiati's grasp.
Maggio tries to clip a clever ball in behind the Milan defence, looking for Mertens to make a run beyond Mexes and bring down the pass whilst on the move. Abbiati clears, Napoli regroup and attack once again, but Rami slides in excellently to hook a dangerous cross away from Higuain.
HIGUAIN! The Argentine chops inside Mexes once again, before the diminutive figure of De Jong flew across in front of the former Real Madrid hitman, pressuring him enough to prevent his opponent from having a clear chance at goal. He balloons a close-range effort over the crossbar.
HAMSIK! The Napoli midfielder is allowed to shoot yet again, and Abbiati is barely equal to the effort, nearly spilling the ball into the path of Higuain. Both sides are allowing plenty of shots, and it seems only a matter of time before the next goal.
The opening half an hour has passed with many incidents, and as things stand the home side will be opening up a slight gap ahead of rivals Fiorentina. A point would be excellent for the visitors, but given the line-up, it wouldn't be surprising to see Milan try for all three.
Inler goes down clutching his hip, after the Swiss midfielder clatters into the large object that is Michael Essien. The former Chelsea midfielder stands firm, as Napoli's goalscorer crumples to the ground in his presence. That had to have hurt.
HIGUAIN! GOOOALLL.. BUT IT'S BEEN RULED OUT! Jorginho slides an incisive pass into Higuain, who spins smartly inside the penalty area, before slotting the ball into the far corner, with Abbiati well beaten. That was the right decision by the linesman.
Important defensive header by Albiol! The former Real Madrid defender is under plenty of pressure from Balotelli, but stands firm to direct Taarabt's near post delivery away from danger! The referee decides to penalise the Milan striker for a push, despite the Spanish defender managing to clear his lines.
MERTENS! The Belgium international takes the set piece himself, but can only fire straight at Abbiati, with the ball making its way through a ruck of players. The visiting keeper will be relatively happen with that save, though it was easy, as there were plenty of bodies ahead of him.
Yellow Card Christian Abbiati
MERTENS The dangerous winger is played in behind by Ghoulam, using his pace to pull away from his markers. He lifts the ball over Abbiati, with the ball bouncing wide of the target, but Mertens goes down after colliding with the Milan goalkeeper - resulting in a yellow card for the keeper, and a free-kick on the edge of the area.
Fantastic play from Mertens! The former PSV winger beats Emanuelson, leaving a second defender on his backside, before placing the ball across the six yard box from the byeline. However, there's no player in yellow awaiting the delivery, and Abbiati is able to reach out and claim the dangerous cut-back.
MERTENS! The in-form Belgian sets his sights on goal, but Abbiati is happy to watch the effort wide of his goal. Plenty for both goalkeepers to do in the opening 20 minutes, and this game is phenomenally open. Definitely not a match for the defensive purists.
Seedorf's Milan can't be criticised for coming to Stadio San Paolo with the aim of getting a point! The visitors are trying very quick transitions, working the ball into the feet of Balotelli, before allowing their talented wingers to play off him. We could see some goals on the break here tonight.
BALOTELLI! The former Manchester City striker blasts a ferocious effort towards goal, and it's too powerful for Reina to handle! The Spaniard beats it away, with the ball stinging his palms, with such force that it loops out of the danger zone.
HIGUAIN! OHHHH SO CLOSE! The Argentine cuts inside from the right flank, stepping inside Mexes with consummate ease, before arrowing an effort from 20 yards towards goal! It whistles past the far post, with Abbiati beaten. Unlucky for the hosts!
An all-action start, and it would be very surprising if both teams can maintain this high intensity throughout the 90 minutes. The pressing is beginning to subside somewhat, following Napoli's equaliser, as Benitez's men managed to get the goal which can allow them to settle into the game.
DE SCIGLIO! The young full-back tries his luck from 25 yards, but Reina is able to gather the shot with relative ease. Well, what a game we have on our hands here! Both teams are set up to attack, and we're certainly seeing goals and defensive frailties!
Goal Gökhan Inler
INLER! GOOOOOOOAL! The Swiss has fired an ambitious effort towards goal, but I think that might have taken a deflection! It loops over Abbiati cruelly, deflecting off the shin of De Jong, and we're all square once again! It's 1-1 after merely 12 minutes!
The home side want a penalty! Higuain cuts into the area, before Emanuelson flies in with a very brave challenge, but the referee judges that the Dutchman got plenty of the ball. It was a risky challenge, but one that the Milan left-back had to make, otherwise Higuain was in on goal.
HAMSIK! The Slovakian has another strike, but fires directly at Abbiati, who smothers at the second attempt, with Higuain lurking. The hosts have had the better of this game by far, but the individual brilliance of Taarabt has gifted the Rossoneri an early lead.
Goal Adel Taarabt
GOOOOOOOOAL! ADEL TAARABT SCORES ON HIS DEBUT! He slots the ball with finesse into the bottom corner, after being afforded too much space by Albiol and Fernandez, who kept backing off! It's against the run of play, but what a delightful finish! He passes the ball into the bottom corner, with Reina having no chance.
An intense start from the hosts, as they're prepared to press high up the field in an attempt to fluster Milan's defenders - and it's working. Napoli have started much the better of the two sides, much to the presumable delight of Benitez. His side needs three points here tonight.
A smart touch around the corner by Balotelli looks to find Taarabt bombing down the left flank, but the former Tottenham youngster doesn't have the pace to catch up with the pass. Higuain is almost threaded through on goal by a smart ball, but it evades the former Real Madrid man and finds its way to Abbiati.
HAMSIK! The Slovakian midfielder fires high and wide from just inside the penalty area, after Higuain set the ball back to his midfield captain. Half chances for the home side in the opening minutes, and Milan certainly haven't managed to utilise their positive attacking options yet.
HIGUAIN! The Argentine forces Abbiati into his first save of the game, testing the veteran with a smart header. The Italian shot-stopper had to get down smartly there, and it's a good job he has been alert from the very start. Abbiati might be glad to get his first touch early on.
We are underway in tonight's late Serie A kick-off, with Seedorf's resurgent Milan looking to steal some points from the Partenopei's fortress. Napoli are in their alternative yellow and blue strip, with the Rossoneri in their customary red and black stripes. This has the makings of a very interesting game, with both managers clearly not afraid to throw their new signings into the fray and attack from the off.
We're only a few minutes until kick-off, and this is a real chance for Napoli to kick-start 2014. The atmosphere is good, with tangible excitement, given the amount of newly acquired players on show for both the hosts and the visitors. The players begin to stream out onto the field, and we're close to getting the action underway in Stadio San Paolo.
Napoli, on the other hand, perhaps made one of the shrewdest signing of the January transfer window, picking up Brazilian midfielder Jorginho, who has been enjoying himself in Serie A with Hellas Verona this season. First spotted during the newly promoted side's push from Serie B last season, the young midfielder has been providing creativity and goals in relative abundance.
Adel Taarabt is Milan's new acquisition, with the Moroccan attacking midfielder bringing some flair to a Milan side which requires some inspiration to sparkle. Though sometimes criticised for being greedy and over-intricate with his dribbling, the former Tottenham man was integral to Queen's Park Rangers' ascent to the Premier League, and has shown himself to possess real quality and creativity over several top flight seasons.
Only 15 minutes until kick-off, and this is a very difficult game to predict. Both managers have shaken things up with their line-ups, while Milan's resurgence makes it hard to know what is to come from the Rossoneri. They've been patchy this season, but look to be turning things around, with Napoli's scalp being an important marker of progress for their new manager - but it certainly won't be easy.
Seedorf chooses to leave the likes of Montolivo and Kaka on the bench to start, preferring new signing Taarabt to the experienced Brazilian. Meanwhile, Callejon is dropped in favour of Insigne, with Britos usurped by Fernandez. Plenty of changes for both sides, with a lot of options on their respective benches.
Milan substitutes: Amelia, Muntari, Saponara, Pazzini, Poli, Montolivo, Constant, Kaka, Silvestre, Petagna, Gabriel, Zaccardo.
Milan starting line-up: Abbiati; De Sciglio, Rami, Mexes, Emanuelson; Essien, De Jong; Abate, Taarabt, Robinho; Balotelli.
Napoli substitutes: Rafael, Bruno Uvini, Britos, Callejon, Colombo, Pandev, Dzemaili, Radosevic, Behrami, Henrique, Zapata.
Napoli starting line-up: Reina; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Ghoulam; Jorginho, Inler; Insigne, Hamsik, Mertens; Higuain.
TEAM NEWS: Faouzi Ghoulam starts at left-back for Napoli, following his move from St. Etienne in the January transfer window. Jorginho starts in midfield, with Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens playing off the imposing figure of Gonzalo Higuain. A strong side from Rafa Benitez, who clearly see a resurgent Milan outfit as a real threat to their hopes of finishing in the top three.
TEAM NEWS: Adel Taarabt comes into Milan's starting line-up, following his loan deal from Queens Park Rangers of England. Michael Essien starts as part of Seedorf's defensive midfield duo, with Ignazio Abate being deployed on the right hand side of midfield, a position which he used to call his own when he wore the shirt of Torino. There's no Keisuke Honda for the visitors.
I'm Simon Harrison, and I will be leading you through all of the proceedings in Naples, as Seedorf looks to turn Milan's fortunes around with another victory. A draw against Torino last time out was uninspiring, but Napoli have suffered back-to-back defeats against Roma and Atalanta recently. In terms of form, Milan should be preferred, but Napoli are fantastic at home.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of tonight's evening Serie A kick-off, as high flying Napoli clash against Clarence Seedorf's Milan at Stadio San Paolo. The hosts have only picked up one win in their last five matches, with the 10th-placed Rossoneri managing to pick up three victories in the same period. It's a tough one to call, that's for certain, with the Partenopei needing three points to push them away from fourth-placed Fiorentina.
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