Napoli vs. Udinese: Final Score 3-3; Udinese take advantage of Napoli's defensive woes

Giuseppe Bellini

Udinese showed they are a tricky side once again, holding Napoli to a draw in a very entertaining match.

Udinese came back to snatch a point at the San Siro, in yet another entertaining match for the neutrals. That won't make Napoli feel any better, however. The azzurri are now eight points behind Juventus and, with that defense, it seems certain their title chase is already over. For Udinese, it's almost as though the season is just beginning. Their form is getting better and better and with games against Torino, Livorno and Verona coming up, the zebrette may suddenly fly up the table.

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It took nearly 40 minutes for Napoli to break down Udinese. The visitors were intent on keeping Napoli from creating any chances in front of Željko Brkić's goal while still using their quick breaks to put pressure on stand-in goalkeeper Rafael. Going down the flanks, Dušan Basta and Gabriel Silva were able to easily trouble Anthony Réveillère and Christian Maggio. Yet still it was the hosts that opened the scoring. Goran Pandev got on the end of a header from Federico Fernández and easily put the ball past Brkić.

Not two minutes later, Pandev had scored again. Only 2 minutes later, Pandev scored again. Gonzalo Higuaín zipped past Maurizio Domizzi down the right flank and passed the ball to Macedonian,  who controlled it in the center of the area, turned and sent it to the right corner of Brkic's goal.  Despite Udinese's strong start, it looked as though Napoli had put the match to bed. That is, until five minutes later, when Fernández decided an assist just wasn't enough, and he needed a goal as well. The Argentine very kindly helped Thomas Heurtaux put the ball past Rafael for an Udinese goal.

After the restart, the partenopei put pressure on Udinese, looking for the third goal. However, the defense continued to fall apart under the zebrette counterattacks. Things got worse for the hosts when

Francesco Guidolin decided to introduce a forward, Maicosuel, in place of a defender, Heurtaux in the68th. Only two minutes after that substitution, Udinese equalized. This time, the blame fell on Rafael, as the young goalkeeper was too far from the goal line to rescue Bruno Fernandes' shot from distance, which just sailed over Rafael's head.

It took just two minutes for Napoli to regain the lead.  Brkić managed to save a shot from Higuaín, but Blerim Džemaili was close by and tapped it into the net. What was already a very entertaining game now became even more open, with both sides trying to score. Napoli could have wrapped things up had Insigne decided to pass the ball to Higuaín, who was in perfect position to score, rather than selfishly taking a shot from outside the penalty area. Napoli were made to pay in the 80th minute, when Basta took advantage of some confusion in Napoli's box and, after messing up his first attempt, was allowed plenty of time to shoot once more, this time burying his shot in the back of the net.

Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Reveillere (Armero 82'); Dzemaili (Behrami 78'), Inler; Insigne, Pandev ( Mertens 74'), Callejon; Higuain

Goals: Pandev 38', 40', Dzemaili 72'

Udinese: Brkic; Heurtaux (Maicosuel 68'), Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Allan, Lazzari, G. Silva; Pereyra, Fernandes (Naldo 83'); Nico Lopez (Zielinski 80')

Fernandez own goal 45', Fernandes 70', Basta 80'

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