Serie A Game of the Round – Napoli vs Atalanta

The best match of the round was rather predictable this time, as Napoli-Atalanta had excellent premises in terms of entertainment and it delivered.

The Partenopei had tied in the match versus SPAL, furthering their trend of not being a supremely consistent side, while Atalanta had walloped Udinese to garner their fourth win in the last five fixtures. The two sides came in separated by three points in the standings.

Both managers rotated their squads, as Carlo Ancelotti spared Dries Mertens and deployed Hirving Lozano. Nikola Maksimovic filled in for the injured Kostas Manolas, while Sebastiano Luperto moved the left flank. Gian Piero Gasperini kept Luis Muriel on the bench and utilized a rather conservative line-up with Mario Pasalic in the hole, while José-Luis Palomino recovered and started in the back, along with Berat Djimsiti and Rafael Toloi.

The first two chances of the game were for Arkadiusz Milik and Josip Ilicic, one from the heart of the box and the other on a free kick, but both goalkeepers answered the bell. Napoli lost Allan due to a knee sprain after ten minutes, with Piotr Zielinski subbing in. Pierluigi Gollini denied the onrushing José Callejon by coming out beautifully.

The Azzurri broke through at the 16th minute, as the Spaniard was left with too much room on the left flank after a corner kick and picked out Maksimovic in the box with a soft cross, which the defender easily bagged with a header. Milik could have doubled the lead right away, but he mistimed a close-range header, hitting the post, and then he did not find the ball with his left foot to tap it in inches away from the goal-line.

The Goddess managed to equalize at the 40th minute with Remo Freuler, who escaped past Kalidou Koulibaly in the box on a feed by Rafael Toloi and put it through Alex Meret’s legs, who committed a rare blunder.

At the beginning of the second half, Pasalic grazed the woodwork with a little curled shot from inside the box. Ancelotti subbed in Mertens and he almost provided an assist right away for Lorenzo Insigne, but the winger put one his trademark finishes too high. Few minutes later, Milik’s free kick bounced off the edge of the crossbar.

The Polish forward did finally get his goal at the 71st minute, as Fabian Ruiz outduelled and stripped Marten De Roon near midfield and quickly launched a through ball behind the back-line, then Milik did the rest gliding past Gollini and putting it in the empty net. The Partenopei could have sealed the deal one minute later as Insigne found Ruiz in the box, but the Spaniard botched an easy finish.

The final and deciding episode was controversial as the home team asked for a penalty as Fernando Llorente and Simon Kjaer got tangled up in the box, then on the subsequent action Toloi sprung Josip Ilicic loose in the box and the attacker rifled it home. The VAR review did not go Napoli’s way and the goal stood. Atalanta almost won it at the buzzer on a close-range attempt by Ilicic, but Meret atoned for his early mistake with great dive.

The Bergamaschi extend their undefeated streak, as they have not been beaten since the second round, but lost two points compared to Juventus and Inter. Napoli instead were leapfrogged by Roma and are now tied with Lazio and Cagliari.

In the fantasy game, the scorers Ilicic, Freuler and Milik all corralled four points, while Maksimovic and Toloi (two assists) got just two because they lost some for conceding multiple goals. Same haul for Ruiz that set up a goal.

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