Venezia StartingXI: Lezzerini, Ebuehi, Caldara, Ceccaroni, Haps, Crnigoj, Ampadu, Cuiscance, Nani, Okereke, Johnson
Napoli StartingXI: Ospina, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Mario Rui, Lobotka, Fabian, Politano, Zielinski, Insigne, Osimhen
Scorers: Oshimen (58′) Petagna (95′)
With Milan defeating city rivals Inter over the weekend, Napoli had a real opportunity to keep pace and go one point from the top if they beat failing Venezia. Form wise they couldn’t be more different, Napoli were coming off their 3rd consecutive win and the Venetians were looking for their first victory since November.
The match saw the return of Napoli’s star striker Oshimen. He was starting for the first time since November. Insigne and Politano also returned to the lineup, the latter replacing the injured Lozano. Venezia saw the return of their first choice back 4, along with the first start for Nani, the Portuguese veteran would be working alongside Okereke to make a dent against the best defense in Serie A.
Oshimen would have the first clear opportunity for his side, Di Lorenzo stole possession from Nani feeding the ball into the Nigerian who took it wide into the box and fired just over the bar.
Zielinski would be the next to try the goalkeeper, receiving the ball on the left just outside the penalty box, his curling shot would prove to be a tame one.
The Napoli pressure continued, in the 22nd minute, a headed cross from Di Lorenzo found Politano in the box who curled it just over on the half volley.
So far it was Napoli’s game to lose, the away team had dominated possession, they only lacked goals to back their dominance up. Venezia’s closest chance was a freekick just outside the box, the Frenchman however could only send it sailing into the stands.
Oshimen, hungry for his goal, rattled the post with a snapshot from a sharp angle, just right of the goal. He was certainly keen to continue his early season scoring form.
But it would be the homeside who would have the closest opportunity without scoring. Okereke received the ball just inside the Napoli half, the striker would then stride past Jesus, outmuscling him in the process before beating Rrahmani in the box to make a sharp shot to Ospina’s left. The Napoli goalkeeper however managed to get down and parry and they were able to clear.
They would also have the closing chance of the first half with Crnigoj drilling the ball across the goal for any Venezia players to tap in but no-one was able to get on the end of it.
The first half ended a frustrating one for Spalletti’s men. For all their control, they looked the more vulnerable side in a must win match.
The homeside continued their spell of pressure in the second half, with a low shot from Crnijog from outside the box following the corner, but Ospina once again got down quickly to make the save.
But it would be the Partenopei who finally found the breakthrough they were looking for. In the 58th minute, Politano, with some space on the right, crossed a high inswinger into the box towards the waiting Oshimen who towered above the defense to head the ball back across Lezzerini for the goal. It was his first of the new year.
They would look to continue their newfound pressure with a well worked move allowing Zielinski to fire from inside the box but unfortunately he could only fire over.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes, Napoli looked very comfortable despite not getting their insurance goal. Since Oshimen’s header, Venezia seemed to lose the will to go and get a result out of this game.
The substitution of Petagna for Oshimen did add some energy to Napoli’s front three. The hulking forward managed to muscle himself into the Venezia box and sprayed a shot towards the keeper but he did well to track the flight and parry it out.
The day seemed to go from bad to worse for Venezia when their energetic full back Tyronne Ebeuhi left his studs up in a dangerous foul against Mertens and after a VAR check, he was sent off for the few remaining minutes of injury time.
The 10 men would actually get a final chance to equalize after a successful counter attack resulted into a cross to Frenchman Thomas Henry who’s header wasn’t enough to beat Ospina who had been sharp all game.
That miss would prove even more important, as Napoli were able to capitalize on the space, with Petagna driving down the field feeding Mertens in the box whos curling shot was parried only into the path of Petagna who was able to slot the ball into the net for Napoli’s second.
As the final whistle blew, Napoli could be content that they had done what they needed to do, they were now a point behind Inter, who were coincidentally their next opponents on Saturday. Onto Inter!