Napoli won an important victory despite an inconsistent performance against relegation threatened Udinese at the Stadio San Paolo on Saturday evening.
Carlo Ancelotti's side raced into a 2-0 lead within half an hour, but Udinese fought back to level in the 35th minute through Seko Fofana's brilliantly worked equaliser. The game looked to be running away from Udinese until Kevin Lasagna scored his team's first following a quick counter and the goal seemed to give Le Zebrette confidence.
Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens secured the three points with well taken goals in the second half as Napoli began to look like the side that charged into a lead in the first period.
Carlo Ancelotti will have been relieved to see his side rescue a win prior to the international break. He'll also be worried at how his team threw away a two goal lead in the first half against a side who had scored only 22 goals this season.
The victory was marred by the injury of goalkeeper David Ospina who was stretchered off in the 44th minute after failing to recover from a head injury he suffered earlier in the encounter.
Here's 90min's breakdown of the game.
Key Talking Point
Napoli goalkeeper Ospina was stretchered off midway through the first half at the Stadio San Paolo. He suffered a head injury in a hefty collision with Ignacio Pussetto which resulted in him sporting a bandage for much of the first half yet he was cleared to play on by Napoli's medical team.
However, shortly after Udinese had equalised, the Colombian keeper collapsed and was unresponsive as he lay on the ground. He received treatment before being taken off by stretcher and transported to the local hospital.
David Ospina had to be stretchered off during Napoli vs Udinese after he collapsed on the pitch. He had earlier taken a hefty whack on his head.— GiveMeSport Football (@GMS__Football) March 17, 2019
Another example of why the concussion protocol needs to be taken very seriously.
We pray that he's ok 🙏 pic.twitter.com/VcRFGp67Zf
Alex Meret replaced his teammate in the Partenopei goal but the incident changed the atmosphere of the game. It will be debated whether Ospina should have been taken off when he suffered the injury, rather than being allowed to play on and if current concussion protocol is sufficient for these incidents.
Starting XI: Ospina (5), Ghoulam (7), Koulibaly (9)*, Maksimovic (6), Malcuit (7); Younes (7), Zielinski (6), Allan (7), Callejon (7); Mertens (8), Milik (7)
Substitutions: Meret (6), Verdi (6), Hysaj (6)
Kalidou Koulibaly put in a commanding performance in the heart of Napoli's defence. The Senegal international was at his dominant best, clearing dangerous balls, blocking at crucial times, whilst also making a nuisance of himself during set plays.
Koulibaly is rightly considered one of the best centre-halfs in the world and with displays such as this, the praise is justified. The only thing that would have capped off this brilliant showing would have been a goal or keeping a clean sheet, but Koulibaly will be happy securing the three points.
Key Talking Point
Seko Fofana's goal was the a great example of how to move the ball. Having won the ball off of Napoli in midfield, he twisted and turned his way towards the home side's box.
The Napoli defence seemed to stand still as Udinese, confidence renewed after Lasagna's strike, quickly passed between themselves before the ball came to Fofana who was about 14 yards out when he steered the ball into the Napoli net.
It set the tone until Ospina's injury, one where Udinese were growing into the game and where Napoli were far from the dominant team they were in the opening 25 minutes. If Udinese can play like that in their remaining games, they'll have a great chance of escaping the clutches of relegation.
Starting XI: Musso (); Ter Avest (5), Stryger (5), Troost-Ekong (6), Mandragora (5), Zeegelaar (6); Fofana (8), Sandro (6), De Paul (6); Pussetto (7), Lasagna (7)
Substitutions: Ingelsson (5), De Maio (5), Okaka (5)
Fofana, along with many of his other Udinese teammates, looked lost in the opening 20 minutes as Napoli quickly moved the ball from defence to attack. Yet, something changed just after the Partenopei's second goal. Fofana seemed to spark into life and began to dictate the play.
He provided the assist for Lasagna's goal before scoring brilliantly himself, and his performance was good enough to give Napoli cause for concern.
Napoli travel to Rome after the international break as they face Claudio Ranieri's Roma. Ancelotti will be hoping his side claim all three points to further strengthen their grip on second, with Juventus well out of sight in top spot.
Udinese welcome Genoa to Stadio Friuli in their next game in Serie A. Davide Nicola will be wanting all three points so that his side move up the table and away from the relegation zone.