With another week of European hangover threatening to derail any progress they make, Palermo succumbed to a bad 1-0 loss in Naples. They almost held out for the draw but were undone by a last minute Maggio goal. The Rosanero did not play well and deserved the defeat they got from a game that promised much but largely failed to deliver.
The visitors packed the defence to stifle the potent attacking threat but the midfield failed miserably to maintain any possession as the Napoli defence was effective and pressuring. Ilicic and Pastore never looked like creating anything and, as has been the pattern this season, if they don’t do it then no one will. The defence left many gaps but did their job in keeping the strikers without any gilt edged opportunities, right until the death.
With a first half to forget, Napoli had the territory but never penetrated the defence properly. It was the last half an hour of the game when Napoli looked their most threatening as legs tired. Cavani and Maggio started to thread through the defence and create for themselves more and more threatening opportunities. Cavani’s skill upfront has been missed as no one in the squad has stepped up to replace him. He demonstrated his touch by gifting Maggio an opportunity deep into injury time only for him to slip. But, one last chance would arise as Cavani flew past the defence to set Maggio up with a simple goal and gift Napoli the three points with the cruel blow of justice.
This tactic of packing the defence and hoping the midfield will do something on the break has yielded very mixed results this season. As previously preached in this column, the problems of youth is that these performances will come about due to the lack of experience and consistency. It is just very frustrating to see a performance like this on the back of smashing Roma apart the week before. It would be easier to bear if the experienced players at least showed a more dependable approach. But, Miccoli once again looked woefully off the pace, no doubt a by-product of being sidelined for half a year. Regularly being beaten to the ball and showing little imagination, the captain has yet to produce back-to-back good performances and will be worrying the staff with another imminent lay-off due.
Giulio Migliaccio was the one player who came out post-match and admitted the shambles:
“Napoli deserved to win. There is a lot of anger that we let in a goal in the 94th minute,” he commented.
This had the potential to be a rallying point for this team as they can look at this as a prime example of a lack of mental and physical toughness. Not seeing out the game is a huge disappointment and should be a focus point for the coaches.
“We did not play like we normally do. Napoli deserved to win as they created many chances in the end, took home the three points,” Migliaccio concluded.
The question is did Napoli play that well or did Palermo just play that badly? The answer is both. Napoli did provide a stern challenge, they seemed motivated and would chase everything, giving the Rosanero very little time. But the space was there if they wanted it, they just seemed hesitant as though they weren’t sure of themselves.
An internal inquest will surely be under way into why this performance occurred. The Ultras may be intimidating but any mental strength would preclude this from being an issue. This could simply be a reaction to being knocked out of the Europa League or a game where none of the team felt 100%, a problem for every side during the long season. Azzurri Coach Mazzarri believes it was a product of Napoli’s performance:
“From a technical point of view, it is hard to find any issue with what we did wrong,” he mused. Whatever it was, it is certainly a learning point for this young side.
It is difficult to believe that Rossi will hide behind the Azzurri’s performance. They had their chances on Monday night and will once again be blaming a lack of clinical play. With the strike planned for next week, there are not too many games before the winter break. If this team are to make a concerted effort to penetrate the Champions League places, the January recruits will play a crucial role.