StartingXI: Ospina, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Mario Rui, Fabian, Lobotka, Politano, Zielinski, Insigne, Osimhen.
StartingXI: Maignan, Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Hernandez, Bennacer, Tonali, Kessie, Leao, Giroud, Messias
Napoli 0 Milan 1
Scorers: Giroud (49’)
At this stage of the season, every game was crucial for Napoli. After a thrilling stoppage time victory at the Stadio Olimpico, the home side were hoping to do the double over Milan. With a full week of rest, the Partonepei were able to put out a full strength squad, with Slovakian Lobotka replacing Diego Demme in the pivot role. Milan had less time to recover, after a Coppa Italia draw midweek, Pioli had rotated the team bringing in Messias and Kalulu for Romagnoli and Ruiz. Zlatan lurked ominously on the bench.
The atmosphere was thunderous and teeming for an exciting match as the teams were ready to go. Although there were initially no real chances, both teams had early penalty shouts. Milan were up first, Giroud’s deft header into the box almost allowed Bennacer to get a shot away, but Koulibaly’s large body obstructed him, sending him to the floor. But the referee was unimpressed.
A few minutes later, Osimhen single handedly dragged Napoli down the pitch into the box but was tripped by Tomori foot but once again, Orsato was unmoved.
The next clear opportunity fell to Milan from a corner. Tomori’s bullet header was somehow clawed out by Ospina but the play was called dead via offside.
For the opening 20 mins, Napoli seemed to be mostly on top with most of the possession but as the half went along, Milan seemed to get back into the game picking up the ball in increasingly dangerous positions.
However for now, neither side were really able to string the final pass together, this was especially the case for Spalletti’s men who still had yet to work Milan’s gk Maignan.
The first half ended without a proper opportunity for either side, but the match itself was chaotic and exciting. The feeling inside the stadium was that the chips were going to fall.. eventually.
And the first of those fell to Milan, after Napoli failed to clear the ball from a freekick, Calabria drilled a shot into the box and a waiting Giroud was able to deflect the ball into the net.
Osimhen almost responded perfectly, a neat one-two with Politano gave Osimhen some space to fire a shot on target but he could only fire directly at Maignon.
Milan had a taste for blood now, trying to press their advantage taking the game to the homeside. Bennacer found space on the edge of the box and sent a curling shot towards the back of the net but a sprawling Ospina managed to make another good stop.
The importance of the match could not be stressed and as the clock ticked on Napoli would be growing increasingly desperate to get anything out of this game.
The curling miss from Ounas was the closest opportunity for Napoli, he sent in a curler which rooted Maignan to the spot, but it could only go wide.
Osimhen started to show his frustrations, trying to help Theo Hernandez back to his feet earning the anger of the fallen Frenchman and a yellow card for both of them after a small scuffle ensued.
The big Nigerian ran onto another long ball taking it wide but could only smack it at the goalkeeper again. Hernandez took inspiration from this, running onto the ensuing counter long ball, his rocket of a shot stung the palms of Ospina but the Colombian still kept him out.
Milan started to squeeze the life out of the game, after another biting counter from Salemakers who somehow didn’t score. They then went into time wasting mode and saw the rest of the game out.
There was no denying it, Milan played an excellent away game. They stalled and blockaded their goal and made all Napoli attempts virtually ineffective. Napoli would be distraught, they had lost their must win, but this season was not over and they were only 3 points off the top. Onto Verona!