Napoli vs. Chievo Verona, final score 1-1: Albiol saves Napoli from total embarrassment

Giuseppe Bellini

Napoli gave their worst performance of the season against a solid Chievo side, but Raul Albiol's late goal preserved a point for his team at home.

This was expected to be an easy game for Napoli, but it seems like those don't exist for the partenopei anymore. Chievo Verona came very close to taking all three points from the San Paolo. The win wouldn't have been undeserved - while the  home side had more chances, it was Chievo who were smarter and used their talents far better than Napoli, who gave perhaps their worst performance of the season. With Fiorentina breathing down their necks, Rafa Benítez simply can't afford another showing such as this one.

The biggest surprise of the game was the fact that Chievo can actually play football. Not just their usual, boring ten men behind the ball, hoping for an odd counter attack style, but actual football. The visitors were passing, dribbling, overlapping on the flanks. They weren't afraid of going forward in numbers. Gennaro Sardo and Boukary Dramé played higher up than usual, like real wing-backs, and forced Christian Maggio and Anthony Revelliere to defend, thus preventing their forward runs.

Chievo took an early lead when, in the 18th minute, Sardo's one-two with Cyril Thereau saw him run inside, leaving Napoli's defense somewhat confused (not that this is an unfamiliar state for the Napoli defense). With the Napoli players standing by, watching, Sardo took a shot from the edge of the box, putting the ball in the upper right corner of Rafael's goal.

Not too long after that, Napoli had squandered a chance to equalize, with Gonzalo Higuaín missing a sitter from about one meter away. On an empty goal. Perhaps the hosts simply deserved nothing, after that.
The partenopei did manage to come back and get a draw, although they left it until the very end. Their pressure at the beginning of the second half almost paid off immediately, when Christian Puggioni punched away a shot from Higuaín. Raul Albiol pounced on the rebound, but his close range shot missed the target.

After that, the game entered a very boring period in which Chievo did what everyone expected them to do from the start. They sat back and soaked up the pressure, with Napoli completely out of ideas on how to create chances. Napoli did manage to hit the woodwork twice, with Dries Mertens shaking the bar from a free kick and Lorenzo Insigne grazing it from a shot that went just a little too high. Insigne did provide the assist for Napoli's only goal, scored, perhaps surprisingly, by Albiol.

Napoli (4-2-3-1): Rafael; Maggio (Insigne 79'), Albiol, Britos, Reveillere; Inler, Dzemaili (Jorginho 57'); Mertens, Hamsik, Callejòn; Higuaín

Goal: Albiol 87'

Chievo (3-5-2): Puggioni; Frey, Dainelli, Cesar; Sardo, Bentivoglio (Radovanović 72'), Rigoni, Hetemaj, Drame'; Paloschi (Estigarribia 79'), Thereau

Goal: Sardo 18'

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