Cagliari StartingXI: Cragno, Goldaniga, Lovato, Altare, Bellanova, Baselli, Grassi, Deiola,Dalbert, Jao Pedro, Pereira
Napoli StartingXI: Ospina, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Juan Jesus, Di Lorenzo, Demme, Zielinski, Mario Rui, Elmas, Petagna, Mertens.
Score: Cagliari 1 Napoli 1
Scorers: Pereiro (57′) Osimhen (87′)
It was crunch time for Napoli. After Milan’s draw and Inter’s loss it was time for Napoli to legitimize their title campaign against plucky Cagliari, who although 18th were unbeaten in their last 3. Spalletti had decided on an unfamiliar- yet nostalgic formation, with a 3,4,3 seemingly trying to match former Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri who had also gone with 3 at the back but looking to overload the pitch with 5 midfielders. Osimhen returned to the bench with part-man part-tractor Petagna deputizing for him alongside veteran Mertens.
Napoli would go top with a win and almost cemented a lead early on with a chance from Di Lorenzo. After Zielinski found space down the right side, he crossed into the box and the ball found itself at the wingback’s feet who fired it just over.
They didn’t have full control however, after an inswinging cross into the Napoli box, Ospina failed to catch it and the ball fell to Altare who headed it down and kicked it just wide before tangling with the Colombian goalkeeper.
Napoli bore the misfortune of losing Di Lorenzo, after pulling up after his close chance, the stalwart would be missed.
Indeed Napoli seemed to have the nerves. From a goal kick, Koulibaly scuffed a long ball which fell to former Napoli man Alberto Grassi, who deflected the ball to Jao Pedro in the box . The captain somehow scraped the ball just wide of the post.
Cagliari would squander another big opportunity, after overloading the left wing, Dalbert was able to find space and cross to an open Deiola in the box, who could only slice it wide past the right post.
Disaster struck for Napoli, as Cagliari took the lead of an Ospina error. After working the ball to the left, Uruguayan Gaston Pereiro fired a curling ball into the box which seemingly bounced earlier than Ospina wanted it too… as it bounced over his arms and into the goal.
There would be no breather for Napoli as Cagliari almost struck again. After winning the ball back in Napoli’s half, Pereiro found space again on the left and layed the ball off for the oncoming Bellanova who crossed to Pedro who’s drilled header almost beat Ospina, and Baselli couldn’t take advantage of the rebound firing it over.
Spalletti had to change something, so he made a significant change of Osimhen, Ruiz and Ounas, and for Petagna, Jesus and Demme. Drastic measures were needed to get a result out of this match. Why this hadnt happened 20 minutes earlier was questionable.
The changes wouldn’t stop the homeside however, a headed through ball from Sub-Marin to their Skipper Jao Pedro, who fired just over.
Marin would continue with his inventive energy, he won the ball back and took the ball to just outside the box and smacked the ball towards the net. It took a special save from Ospina to deflect it out. The ensuing corner brought another excellent save out of Ospina who had to dive sharply to keep out the Cagliari header.
However from that same corner, Ounas drove the ball up the pitch and Napoli were able to switch the ball to Rui. The Portuguese fullback did what Napoli hadn’t really done all match and crossed the ball into the box for a towering header from Osimhen who powered the ball past Cragno for the equalizer.
Cagliari wouldn’t take this lying down however, in the 92nd minute Marin received the ball in the Napoli box and drilled it just wide of the Napoli post and out.
Despite increased Napoli pressure, there would be no more goals as the game ended 1-1. This was Napoli’s chance to put pressure on the Milan sides, but Napoli almost characteristically seemed to be a nervous ineffective team for most of this match against an efficient Cagliari unit.
They were now level with Inter and 2 behind Milan but Inter did have a game in hand. They would need to play much better if they had any dreams of a championship. Onto Lazio!