Inter vs. Napoli: 5 Things We Learned
For all their chances, Napoli managed to put just a single shot on net. They tore through the field, quick on the counter and then fizzled out.
Inter had just as much trouble: They responded with counterpunches of their own, only to miss the target or run into dead ends. Both teams attempted 14 shots, per WhoScored.com, and neither scored in a goalless draw at San Siro on Saturday.
It was an exercise in futility. Napoli did some good work in midfield, with Gokhan Inler and Lorenzo Insigne launching balls from deep within. But the forwards blew all the momentum in the final third. Jose Callejon shot wide from close range, and Gonzalo Higuain could not get the ball to settle at his feet.
On the opposite side, Rodrigo Palacio did a lot of the creating and running for Inter, working his way into goalscoring positions. He looked exhausted by the end.
The game was eventful for a 0-0 tie. Here are a few things to remember from the match.
A Scary Moment for Gonzalo Higuain
Higuain loaded his right foot to take the shot, but Inter defender Marco Andreolli dove just in time to block it. The collision was crushing: The 26-year-old Argentinian smacked his foot right up against the defender, and Higuain went down. A stretcher took him off the field.
It looked bad, but the early prognosis isn’t. Danielle Matar of The Associate Press relayed the early reports:
Initial reports from San Siro say that Higuain - who was stretchered off - has heavy bruising on his ankle. World Cup NOT at risk #Napoli— Daniella Matar (@DaniellaMatar) April 26, 2014
And Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sports reported even better news:
Reina a @beINSPORTSUSA : "Higuaín will be with us next in Coppa Italia final"— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 26, 2014
Napoli play against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia final on Saturday, and obviously he has only a week to recover. Initial reports from the stadium suggested that he suffered some heavy bruising to the right ankle. The club said that he "will be evaluated over the next few days," via Football Italia.
Mateo Kovacic Taking His Chance
The 19-year-old has started three games in a row for Inter, and they have picked up seven points during that stretch. Again, Mateo Kovacic impressed and dominated in midfield on Saturday, collecting the ball deep and wriggling through defenders.
He is a fantastic dribbler, and he looked comfortable on the ball. He was patient and picked out players on the run. He can create goalscoring opportunities almost at a standstill, thanks to his vision. Usually too timid to shoot, he even let a few shots fly.
Up until this point of the season, coach Walter Mazzarri had kept a leash on Kovacic. The Croatian has started on the bench 18 times in 29 appearances for Inter.
More Beauty, and Trouble, in the Stands
They whistled when the man on the speaker told them to stop. But the songs kept coming from Curva Nord, where a few fans did anti-Neapolitan chants.
Interesting to see how this will end. The CN is singing anti-napoli songs, the speaker warns them, they respond by singing the same.— Siavoush Fallahi (@SiaTheMan) April 26, 2014
With the derby next week, Inter’s famous section could risk another ban, and the whole spectacle may suffer again. Both Milan and Inter supporters did not do any choreography for the first derby this season—and they likely will not next Sunday—out of protest against the Italian federation. The FIGC had banned and fined both sets of fans on several occasions for chants expressing territorial discrimination.
But the Curva Nord put together another great tifo for this game:
Better pic of the Curva Nord choreography. Had been intended for the last derby pic.twitter.com/8EsONhOzUx— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) April 26, 2014
It is written like scripture, and the fans seemed to quote John King, the author of The Football Factory. Translated by sempreinter.com, it reads:
No TV organization is interested in what the fans want but without the shouting and movement of the people football is nothing. The history of football lies in passion. And it will always be like this. Without the passion football is dead: only 11 men on a field kicking a ball around. Basically complete bulls--t. It’s the supporters who make football something important.
Inter with an Italian Kick
Mazzarri chose to start three Italians in Marco Andreolli, Andrea Ranocchia and Danilo D’Ambrosio. It was the first time that many Italians had played for Inter all season. They even had more of them on the field than Napoli.
3 Italians starting for Inter. Thats new.— Cristiano Acconci (@MrAcconci) April 26, 2014
Cesare Prandelli spoke about this problem in Serie A—that not enough Italians are playing. He told the BBC in March that only 37 percent of the players were Italian. “It’s an Italian problem,” Prandelli said, “which sooner or later we’ll have to deal with.”
Erick Thohir Watching the Games
He is talking a lot more about Inter, and he is watching more and more games. It looks like majority owner Erick Thohir, with honorary president Massimo Moratti by his side, is taking real interest in his club.
He recently told fcinternews.it (h/t Forza Italian Football) that Mauro Icardi and Mateo Kovacic, two of the team’s top prospects, will be going nowhere.
And he was there for the match against Napoli on Saturday.