The second week of the Serie A season was highlighted by a series of upsets. Milan were beaten by Cesena, Roma were thumped by Cagliari, Juventus held by Sampdoria, and Genoa and Fiorentina lost to Chievo and Lecce. Unfortunately for Napoli, who hosted the serial giant-killers Bari on Sunday night, they were the latest to be added to that list.Napoli will probably have expected to win their first home match of the season, despite facing a belligerent Bari who shocked Juve last week. Nevertheless, Walter Mazzarri must be disappointed with the 2-2 draw that commenced at the Stadio San Paolo, and especially the way his side threw away a seemingly assured victory.
Napoli went a goal down 12 minutes into the match, after terrible marking at a corner allowed Bari’s Barreto to open the scoring. Mazzarri’s men, who had the better of the first half, were level on the half-hour mark. Edinson Cavani rifled home from the edge of the area for his first goal at the San Paolo. The Uruguayan has started life at Napoli on top form, after scoring a brace against Elfsborg in the Europa League preliminary to secure a place in the group stages, and – following that – with a goal last week against Fiorentina.Both sides had chances to win the match, with Ezequiel Lavezzi and Cavani going particularly close for the Vesuviani. And with just three minutes remaining on the clock, they had a breakthrough. A cross into the box was not dealt with by Bari, and Napoli’s skipper Paolo Cannavaro was on hand to adjust his body and volley the ball in, apparently wrapping up the three points. However, directly from the resulting kick-off, Bari stormed up the field to take on Napoli’s feeble back-line. The ball was squared across the six-yard line and Jose Ignacio Castillo – inexplicably left unmarked by Cannavaro and co – had the simple task of equalising just 60 seconds after Napoli took the lead.
Mazzarri fielded Gianluca Grava, Cannavaro and Hugo Campagnaro in defence ahead of goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis, and they were collectively very poor on Sunday night. Both of Bari’s goals were avoidable and the result of non-existent marking. Christian Maggio, Michele Pazienza (replacing the suspended Manuele Blasi), Walter Gargano and Andrea Dossena were across the midfield, with Marek Hamsik supporting Lavezzi and Cavani.Despite conceding immediately after taking the lead with just a couple of minutes left, Napoli remain undefeated with two draws from their first two matches. They sit in 14th place, although this is clearly deceptive as Juve, Palermo, Fiorentina and Roma are all even lower in the league table at this particular point in time.
With games coming thick and fast due to Napoli’s involvement in the Europa League, they welcome FC Utrecht to the San Paolo on Thursday night to kick-off the group stage that also includes Steaua Bucharest and Liverpool. With a difficult Serie A trip to Sampdoria coming up on the following Sunday, Mazzarri is well aware of the challenging nature of competing simultaneously on two fronts. The Coach said: “We’ll take it step by step. We know what it means to play in two competitions. It’s a remarkable expenditure of energy, but it’s also a great motivation because we have achieved the Europa League after an exciting championship. Sometimes we might be not on top form, but I know we have a compact and valid group. This is my guarantee.”Although the new signings made during the summer have yet to start in Serie A, Mazzarri is adamant they will play a determinant role in the forthcoming European matches. Algerian midfielder Yebda, on loan from Benfica, and Argentine attacker Sosa, who was bought from Bayern Munich, have been particularly talked up by the Napoli boss. “They are working with us at the moment,” he said. “Yebda is one of the central midfield players, but he can be used in an offensive phase too. Sosa has technical qualities and a great build. I’d like to give him a mark as forward. He can do it, but I have to be convinced. In any case you know my thoughts – new purchases need time to get acclimatised. Here, their performance is tested and we have to quickly give them the right integration with everybody. This, above all, is to protect the guys’ value. In this team there are happy guys who are enthusiastic to wear this shirt. This has to be our motivation.” This only means one thing: the disappointment of failing to beat Bari must be put behind Napoli now. FC Utrecht await at the San Paolo on Thursday, and the Dutchmen are an unknown quantity. Mazzarri must hope that Cavani’s shooting boots remain firmly on his feet after the striker’s start to the season.