Heading into the round, it looked like Napoli could have an easy time against Bologna, which had not scored in the previous three games and had never won on the road, however it turned out to be a very entertaining game and the Azzurri had to resort to more late-game heroics to come away with the W.
The Campania side came into the game looking to avenge Wednesday’s tough loss against Inter, where they were pipped due to a Lautaro Martinez goal after Kwadwo Asamoah had a goal-line clearance on Piotr Zielinski. The Felsinei have not won in ages, since September 30th, but salvaged some draws here and there.
With Kalidou Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne suspended after what transpired in San Siro and Marek Hamsik hurt, Carlo Ancelotti chose Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens up front, Nikola Maksimovic in the back, used Zielinski as central midfielder, with Simone Verdi returning as left winger after a long absence. Filippo Inzaghi confirmed his usual XI, picking Mitchell Dijks on the left flank over Ibrahima Mbaye and Ladislav Krejci and Andrea Poli over Blerin Dzemaili in the midfield.
The guests had a decent start, with some small chances for Federico Santander, Rodrigo Palacio and Andrea Poli. However, the Azzurri scored as soon as they started to rev up, as Dries Mertens tried to shot a couple of times from the middle of the box and, after bouncing around between the defenders, the ball found Milik, who easily knocked it on goal.
Mertens almost doubled the score immediately, but Lukasz Skorupski pulled his curled shot out of the top drawer. Milik outjumped the defenders on the subsequent corner kick, but did not find the target. The Pole had another good header on a cross by Verdi, but just missed the mark.
Bologna equalized against the grain at the 37th minute, when Rodrigo Palacio flicked on a long free kick by Erick Pulgar and Santander headed it home wrong-footing Alex Meret. El Ropero was then forced to sub off due to a thigh problem.
Napoli returned on top six minutes into the second half, as Kevin Malcuit lofted one towards the center of the box and Milik outdueled Federico Mattiello and made no mistake with his header. He has now netted ten in Serie A and has the best goal-per-minute average in the League. Despite the blow, Bologna did not go away and knotted the game again with ten minutes to go, with Pulgar picking out Danilo on another free kick and the veteran defender beating Meret with a powerful header.
However, the Partenopei were not to be denied, charged in the final minutes and Mertens came through, waltzing past a defender from 25 meters out and uncorking a robust strike to the bottom right corner, which Lukas Skorupski managed to touch but not to palm away. The guests against threatened to score on set pieces, but Mario Rui cleared Palacio’s attempt and Meret this time denied Danilo on the far post.
With the three points, Napoli maintain their five-point lead over Inter and keep the gap with Juventus at nine. Bologna showed up but still came away empty-handed: they are 18th, three points behind Empoli.
Milik paced everybody with his eight points, followed by Dries Mertens with six and Santander with four. Fabian Ruiz gathered two for an assist, like Palacio and also Danilo, who lost some because they allowed multiple goals.
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