For the third consecutive match at home Napoli failed to score with the game ending in a stalemate, this time against the current champions, Inter on Sunday night.
Napoli had the better of the game inside the cauldron that is the San Paolo. In the opening exchanges, the first real chance fell to Marek Hamsik in the 10th minute as he rifled a shot against the crossbar. The pressure on the Nerazzurri defence continued after some excellent work by Juan Zuniga 10 minutes later down the right flank which ended with a flying header from the Argentinean, German Denis. Fortunately for Inter, Julio Cesar pulled of a remarkable save to prevent a golden opportunity for Napoli to end their goal-drought at home. Zuniga was a constant outlet for the Azzurri and his attacking prowess down the right side saw Sully Muntari struggle at times to contain him.
Inter finally came out of their shell on the half-hour mark with Muntari also being denied by the woodwork when he stroked the crossbar with a venomous shot. But this was the only real bit of pressure that the Napoli defence came under as they dominated the opening 45 minutes and put the reigning champion’s credentials to the test. Napoli would go on to rue those missed opportunities as in the second half Inter took some control of the game. The best chance came on the hour mark and fell to Goran Pandev after a delicate back-heel from Diego Milito into the path of McDonald Mariga, who crossed to the Macedonian talisman only to see him lose composure and shoot straight at Morgan De Sanctis.
Although Napoli lost their way after the break, they were unfortunate not to score five minutes later. Denis headed down to Fabio Quagliarella on the edge of the box and his shot canoed of the post. Denis after all his good work in the build up, missed the rebound, a gilt-edged chance in a half short of goal-scoring opportunities.
Although the Napoli faithful may feel they deserved more from the game, they survived two contentious penalty decisions. The first came in the 15th minute when the ball clearly struck Salvatore Aronica’s hand in the box. The referee who had a good game waved play on but Jose Mourinho and Co may feel hard done by. The second moment of controversy came in the first five minutes of the second half when Gianluca Grava had his arms wrapped around Pandev as he went for a shot in the Napoli area. No penalty was given and the game remained tied.
Before the start of the game Walter Mazzarri would have been pleased with the point but after his side’s impressive display of attacking football he must feel his side deserved all three. It seems as though luck has deserted them of late after the three goalless draws at home and the referee’s howler at Udine last weekend. It may seem as though San Rocco has forgotten about his team but they still sit happily in fourth place and the dream of Champions League football lives on.