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Match Report: Napoli 1-0 Inter – Different competition, same result

A last minute goal for Gonzalo Higuain knocked Inter out of the Coppa Italia and poured more misery upon Mancini and his team.

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After losing to Sassuolo in the league, Mancini looked to the Coppa Italia as a chance to get a win and stay in the running for the domestic trophy that he has had a lot of success in, winning it four times, twice for Inter. Today the side took on Napoli in the quarter-finals in what was often a frantic, wide-open match that ended in a Ranocchia mistake that lead to a goal and defeat.

Marcelo Brozovic and George Puscas were both handed their first starts and Davide Santon was thrown straight into the starting lineup after just joining the side.

The first half was a very open match with chances for both sides. Napoli started brightly, with Higuain flashing a header barely over the crossbar. Inter responded with their best chance of the match, Icardi snapping a shot against the post in the 13th minute. The rest of the half was skewed in Napoli's favor, with Carrizo having to make a number of saves.

Tactically in the first half there was often a lot of space between the midfield and defense, with Medel often being the only midfielder offering extra coverage for them at first. This left a lot of room for Napoli to operate and pick out chances. The reason this happened though was that when Inter first lost possession the team would often immediately press for the ball back. This was highlighted when Shaqiri got a yellow for sliding in to try to get the ball back. While this enthusiasm was appreciated and probably dictated by Mancini, if they weren't able to get the ball back the defense was exposed until the midfielders got back.

The second half was a much tighter affair, Puscas had a good shot saved by Andujar but besides that Inter did not really trouble the Napoli goal. Napoli didn't have any major chances as well and it looked like both sides were prepping themselves to extra time. In the 93rd minute though, there was a quick throw-in towards Higuain. Ranocchia was running through to intercept but completely missed the ball, leaving Higuain alone on goal and he did not pass up on that opportunity, scoring the lone goal and sending Inter out.

Things to note:

  • In the beginning of the match, Napoli was doing most of their attacking down the right flank, likely to target Santon in his first match. He performed pretty well though and made a few key challenges throughout the match, most notably a sliding challenge on Dries Mertens in the penalty box.
  • Puscas was also given his first start in this match but did not perform as well as Santon. Besides his shot on target he was largely invisible. One can lay the same claim against Icardi though we all know that is his style. But when Icardi is playing that way the forward paired with him needs to be more involved and Puscas was not enough. Though he is young and shouldn't be judged to harshly in his first ever start
  • Of the 12 shots Inter had in this match, 10 were outside the box. While this team is supposed to have players that are good at distance shots (including Guarin, Hernanes, and Shaqiri) so far this season they have not been effective. The team needs to get more shots form inside the box in order to be more efficient and score some goals.
  • The player with the most touches in this match was Juan Jesus (94). I get that the team is trying to play out of the back more now but that is not okay. For a team trying to be more attacking minded a center-back and defensive midfielder (Medel-93) should not be the players with the highest touches since most of their time on the ball was either in our defensive half or near the center of the pitch.
  • So Ranocchia....he had a decent performance for most of the match and then made one mistake to ruin it. This is pretty typical of his performances for Inter in general, competent but makes big mistakes that lead to goals being conceded. An error like this that cost Inter a chance for a trophy highlights even more why the club was looking to bring in another center-back in January. Also, I've tried to hold out and give him time/credit but I think the time has come for the club to look for another captain.
This was a disappointing match. After the Sassuolo match tensions were already raising between the fans and the team and this loss will not help the situation. Mancini was shocked and angered in his post-match conference and he needs to light a fire under the players for the next match. This is a crisis now and Mancini's honeymoon period is most definitely over. The only thing that can help turn things around is a win and it needs to come soon.

Match Facts:
Napoli 1-0 Inter
Scorers: Higuain (90')
Napoli: Andujar; Koulibaly, Albiol, Britos, Strinic; Gargano, David Lopez; Callejon (Mertens 73), Hamsik (Gabbiadini 76), De Guzman (Ghoulam 84); Higuain
Unused Subs: Rafael, Colombo, Jorginho, Maggio, Uvini, Inler, Duvan Zapata
Coach: Rafa Benitez
Inter: Carrizo; Nagatomo, Ranocchia, Juan Jesus, Santon (Dodo 86); Brozovic, Medel, Hernanes (Guarin 74); Shaqiri; Icardi, Puscas
Unused Subs: Handanovic, Berni, Palacio, Kovacic, Podolski, Vidic, Kuzmanovic, Obi, Donkor
Coach: Roberto Mancini