Napoli XI: Ospina, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Ghoulam, Lobotka, Demme, Politano,, Insigne, Mertens, Petagna
Sampdoria Xi: Audero, Dragusin, Ferrari, Chabot, Augello, Ciervo, Ekdal, Askildsen, Thorsby, Gabbiadini, Quagliarella
Scorers: Petagna (43’)
After a well earned draw in Turin, Napoli were hoping to continue their new year’s form against a faltering Sampdoria side. The home side were still dangerously low on active players, a fact made worse by the loss of Zielinski who was out to covid. He was replaced by Elmas, and Politano was swapped out for the bruising Petagna but it was an otherwise unchanged side. Samp were hoping to follow in the likes of Spezia and Empoli for a potential upset in Napoli. Their front two former Azzurri players, Gabbiadini and Quagliarella were hoping to upstage their old employers.
The game started tentatively, with both teams taking time to warm up. But it was clear to see both teams’ blueprints. Napoli would dominate possession and try to crack the Sampdoria shell whilst the away team were set up to be patient and wait for an opening to counter.
The first shot of the match fell to Gabbiadini whose snap shot fired over the bar.
The Partonepei had a potential claim to the penalty when Petagna fell down with contact in the box but the referee had decided that it wasn’t enough for a chance from 12 yards.
The injury woes seemed to continue for Spalletti’s men. As departing captain Insigne seemed to go down with no-one around him. Replays would reveal a potential muscle strain around his upper thigh. After a short spell back on the pitch, the Toronto bound talisman was subbed off for Politano.
Napoli’s first shot on target was from an unlikely source. The Cb Rhramani found himself in space at the edge of the samp box and decided to strike it. The shot was true and Audero had to make an athletic stop to send it for a corner.
The next big chance fell to another Napoli defender. After Lobotka won a free kick just outside the box, the Algerian swung the shot in over the wall but it was unfortunately too close to Audero who was able to save.
The oncoming pressure was telling though and Napoli believed they had a goal to show for it. After a free kick 45 yards out, Mertens found Politano on the right wing, the Italian drove the ball into the box and crossed to the far post where a waiting Juan Jesus calmly headed into the net. Unfortunately Jesus came back from an offside position and the goal was disallowed.
Napoli would continue to press, with an excellent individual run, Politano cut inside and sprayed just wide.
They would get their goal, with a bit of complaining and a slice of audacity. After Mertens went down in the box, his protests were so effective that the Samp team seemed to forget about the falling ball which was on its way into the box. The only attacking player in range was the target man Petagna who superbly volleyed the ball for his 2nd of the season and much needed goal in this injury ravaged side.
After the restart both teams seemed to continue as usual, the only notable difference was the substitution of Samp debutant Thomas Rincon. The veteran midfielder seemed to add some bite to the timid minefield breaking up some Napoli attacks.
Mertens was unable to poke a cross home after a slick counter attack from the homeside. In a matter of moments, the southerners were able to switch up a few gears. But it didn’t matter unless they were able to put them away.
However, 60 minutes into the match, the Blucerchiati didn’t seem threatening in the slightest, with just the one speculative shot on target in the entire match.
Napoli seemed in total control, aside from the scoreline which remained at 1-0. But they had played well, keeping the tempo from the start. The prowling Demme and Lobotka ensured that any Sampdoria counters were firmly snuffed out. On the other half of the game they also kept Napoli ticking distributing the ball to the attack.
Petagna had been barreling about the entire pitch, his determination, distribution and technique had been the best of any Napoli player today. His goal today would surely earn him the title of man of the match. He was playing with confidence as he took the ball and tried to curl round Samp’s sub keeper. This time Falcone had done enough.
This game also saw the return of the creative Fabian and also a debut of Axel Tuanzebe for Napoli. The Man United loanee was much welcomed depth for the defence.
Mertens wasn’t too far away from making sure of the points. The Belgian breached the Samp defense but fired it wide.
In the closing minutes, Sampdoria had a small spell of pressure as the desperation increased. But it wouldn’t be enough and Napoli were able to see things out for a vital 3 points as they tried to work through this difficult period. They certainly showed why they were title contenders, dominating the match. The lack of goals was the only issue, but today it didn’t matter. Onward to Bologna!