Napoli’s hopes of advancing to the Champions Little league knockout stages remain thin and they need a lot of help to make it happen, nonetheless they got what they necessary on Tuesday in the kind of a 3-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk because of a truly dominant second 50 percent performance.
The first half of the match was, in a word, forgettable. Napoli played very poorly, creating few attacking chances and none of any particular note – more on that in a minute – and seeing both centre backs need sideline treatment after taking heavy knocks. Entering the half, Shakhtar had been the better side, and Napoli followers were rightfully significantly less than enthused with their team’s performance.
The second half, though, was a completely different, and much more glorious story.
Napoli started somewhat slow, nevertheless, you could see that there was a different sense and tempo found in the team when compared to first half. They were more aggressive, and much more proactive within their play, something that threw Shakhtar for a loop and seemed to catch them unawares.
That unbalance helped lead right to Lorenzo Insigne’s spectacular opening goal a little over ten minutes in to the second 50 percent, assisted by Marek Hamsik but mostly created through his individual sheer will and determination:
Insigne 1-0 #NapoliShaktar pic.twitter.com/6Yw5pOpr8Y – Napolism (@Napolism_) November 21, 2017
It took Napoli awhile to look for a second goal, but there was hardly ever any doubt that it would come. Napoli had been utterly dominant after taking their lead, hardly even supplying Shakhtar a breath in the second half. Gradually, they broke down badly – Piotr Zielinski and Dries Mertens scored convenient goals two minutes apart from each other late in the match to blow the overall game wide open.
In fact, the match was so dominant that Napoli’s xG (Predicted Goals) was hilariously great for the match:
xG map for Napoli – Shakhtar. The dream remains alive for Napoli. pic.twitter.com/gmAOvMKeJA – Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) November 21, 2017
For reference, often when teams score even 4 or 5 goals, they only wind up with 1.5 or so xG – a statistic that grades the chance a given shot considered can turn right into a goal – because almost all of their actual goals scored tend to come from lower-percentage chances. The number is in a lot more stark comparison, with Michael Caley even more adding that of Napoli’s 2.0 xG rating, only 0.1 of that originated from their dismal first-50 percent performance, where almost all of Shakhtar’s total originated from.
In simpler conditions, Napoli didn’t just dominate the second half, they may aswell have already been the only staff on the pitch. It was a great showing for the partenopei after an abysmal begin to the game, and it was wonderful to discover them rebound with hence much on the line.
Napoli still need help to reach the Champions Little league knockout rounds, though – not merely must they defeat Feyenoord again, they want Manchester City to defeat Shakhtar so as to advance. But Napoli took caution of the first step in beating Shakhtar on Tuesday, and that’s all they are able to ask for right now.
On to the next.
Napoli: Pepe Reina; Christian Maggio, Raul Albiol, Vlad Chiriches, Elseid Hysaj; Piotr Zielinski (Mario Rui 86’), Amadou Diawara, Marek Hamsik (Marko Rog 65’); Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne (Allan 65’)
Goals: Insigne (56’), Zielinski (81’), Mertens (83’)
Shakhtar Donetsk: Andiry Pyatov; Bogdan Butko, Ivan Ordets, Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Ismaily; Fred, Taras Stepanenko (Alan Patrick 70’); Marlos (Dentinho 79’), Taison, Bernard; Facundo Ferreyra