Napoli 3-1 AC Milan: Higuain at the double for the Partenopei
Adel Taarabt scored just eight minutes into his debut for the Rossoneri, but Gokhan Inler equalised and Gonzalo Higuain bagged a brace to give the Vesuviani a deserved three points, as the hosts garnered the best of the game’s chances.
The first period was very open and fast from the outset, and it was a fantastic display of attacking football, with chances arriving at both ends of the pitch.
Napoli started aggressively, and came flying out of the blocks with two good chances through Higuain and Marek Hamsik in the first two minutes, however neither could convert.
Taarabt then opened the scoring after eight minutes against the run of play – he intercepted a pass by Federico Fernandez and ran at the Partenopei defence, side-footing a curled effort with his right boot into the bottom right corner, out of Pepe Reina’s reach.
The hosts went on the lookout for the equaliser, and Inler hit the back of the net just two minutes later. The Swiss midfielder was left with too much space on the edge of the box, and after receiving the ball from Jorginho, he took a touch and fired a looped effort into the right side of Christian Abbiati’s net. Nigel De Jong’s attempted block only served to make the flight of the ball harder to anticipate for his goalkeeper, as the deflection wrong-footed him.
Lorenzo Insigne made a beautiful lofted pass forward for Dries Mertens, which fooled the Milan defence – Mertens ran on to it, followed by Adil Rami, as Abbiati came out to meet the ball, with the Diavolo custodian blocking the Belgian forward from running through on goal. He was booked for his troubles, but saved the resulting free-kick which was well-struck by Mertens, who caused problems for the Milan defence all evening.
Jorginho then made a cross from the left, which was met by Insigne at the near post – The ball was smothered at his feet by Abbiati but not held, and in the confusion which incurred, the ball fell to Christian Maggio on the right, who struck the post with his effort, as the ball pinged out and was cleared from danger by the Milan defenders.
Insigne then headed just wide a minute later at the far post after a good cross from Jorginho on the right, a chance he should perhaps have done better with.
The Rossoneri started the second half as the more aggressive team, but the home side were still having more shots on goal, with Hamsik and Insigne both going close after the restart.
Napoli took the lead for the first time in the game in the 55th minute – an incredible long ball from Inler was met in the middle by Higuain, whose deft headed touch directed the ball past Abbiati into the bottom right corner of the goal, as the Milan ‘keeper was rooted to the spot.
Higuain almost doubled his tally just two minutes later, chesting the ball down on the edge of the box on the left and shooting with his right foot on the half-volley, but his effort went clear of the crossbar.
Michael Essien attempted a spectacular volley down the other end, as the ball fell to him, but Reina did well to punch the powerful shot away.
Tarrabt then brought the ball down brilliantly as Balotelli switched the play to the left. The Moroccan cut inside with speed, going past two Napoli defenders and fired a shot on goal, which Reina spilled but Balotelli and Kaka couldn’t meet it as the chance went awry.
Reina then came out to meet a ball, missing it completely, but Balotelli failed to make him pay for his mistake and didn’t anticipate it, as the ball went across the face of goal. He followed the ball out wide and chipped in for the on-running Kaka, but it came to nothing.
Higuain finally got his second of the game in the 81st minute after some great play by Hamsik on the edge of the box. He made a beautiful through ball for Jorginho who ran through on the right, and the Italo-Brazilian squared the ball to Higuain who was free in the middle, to finish in the bottom left corner.
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