Napoli starting 11: Ospina, Rui, Rrahmani, Jesus, Di Lorenzo, Anguissa, Lobotka, Lozano, Zieilinski, Politano, Petagna
Spezia starting 11: Provedel; Amian, Erlic, Nikolaou; Gyasi, Kiwior, Bastoni, Maggiore, Reca; Agudelo, Manaj
Napoli:0 Spezia: 1
After a shock win in Milan, Napoli were hoping to finish well in their last game of the year. On paper the title contenders were due to get a win against Spezia. But their recent shock loss to Empoli at home proved nothing was certain in Serie A this season. Spalletti’s men were still injury laden but were happy to see the return of both Rui and Politano to the starting line up.
It was Spezia who actually got to a quicker start, Barcelona-loanee Manaj was able to get his head on a corner which flew just over the Napoli goal.
Napoli responded just as quickly with Lozano heading a long pass past the goalkeeper who had come out to clear but unfortunately the ball flew wide.
Although Napoli seemed in control, Spezia were untroubled 25 minutes in .
Politano tried to change that, making a skillful run just outside the box, the winger cut in and tried to fire a low shot just missing the near post.
From there the pressure started to mount. Mertens was the next player to find space on the wing, this time the opposite one, the Belgian dribbled down to the byline and fired a sharp shot looking to catch the keeper out at the near post, but the Spezia keeper managed to deflect the ball for the corner.
The veteran striker had the next attempt as well, receiving the ball just outside of the box, firing the ball just wide.
But it would be the away side who would draw first blood, After winning a free kick 40 yards from the Napoli goal. Bastoni’s inswinging delivery was good enough that Juan Jesus’ botched clearance resulted in Spezia’s first headed goal of the season.
Napoli did have their chances to respond, finding success on the wings, but they didn’t take their chances. Crosses were fired in but Napoli couldn’t convert.
The first half ended with the 17th placed Spezia in the lead, Napoli would need to do something drastic to wake themselves from their first half slumber. Although they showed promise, Spezia would be leaving the victors if they continued in the same fashion.
Napoli tried to shake things up straight away with a half time change, a surprise sub off for the Napoli all time scorer Mertens for the big and bruising Petagna. Spaletti hoped that his big presence would be enough for a Napoli breakthrough.
A freekick for Napoli in almost the same position as the spezia goal almost led to one of their own. Zielinski’s floated pass fell to the far post where a waiting Lozano struck the volleyed shot with his right boot, drilling the ball over the bar.
The Mexican thought he had equalised with his next clear opportunity, a long ball from Zielinski found Politano who drew the ball back for Lozano to fire home, but Politano had been deemed offside for the initial run.
Spezia should have added to their tally after their captain Meggiore managed to power past Jesus to cross to the defender Amian who couldn’t hit the target.
Petagna was the next Napoli player to have a goal disallowed. Politano curled the ball into the box and Petagna outmuscled the spezia defender to head the ball into the net. His play for the ball was deemed a foul and a freekick for the away side was awarded,
A poor pass back to Provedel allowed Rui to pip the ball to Lozano who had an empty net to shoot into, but Erlic managed to fling himself into the shot to make a vital clearance. It just didn’t seem to be Napoli’s day.
This theme continued after Lozano took the ball in the box, was able to turn and shoot but fired directly into Provedel’s arms.
Spezia were not taking this sitting down however, a Gyasi cross almost fell perfectly into the path of Manaj but it was Napoli’s turn to make a defensive play, with Rui flying in to snatch the ball away just as the striker was looking to score.
The Spezia keeper would make another key stop, this time blocking a drilled cross from Di Lorenzo which could have gone anywhere.
The next chance was a drilled shot from Anguissa, which required a fingertip save to stop. A chance which Petagna failed to take advantage of.
Their clearest chance came from the substitute Elmas. His flicked header from Ounas’s cross agonisingly struck the bar and out.
Napoli had indeed been unlucky, both disallowed goals with small differences here or there probably would have been allowed, the same went for the Lozano open goal opportunity. But they really should have done better against the current opposition, injured or not, you wouldn’t be blamed if you thought Ospina hadn’t made a save in the entire match.
With the final whistle blown, Napoli found themselves 7 points from the leaders as their 2021 campaign sputtered to a stop. A winter break would be welcomed as they return in January against Juventus.