Napoli and Roma changed their images at halftime. Insigne shone first
Between Mourinho’s first and second smirk in Roma’s match against Napoli, a game hour ran between. First, José smiled sarcastically at a penalty kick in favor of his opponent. Then a yellow for Nicolo Zagnolo, who lifted the spikes to Mario Rui’s head.
Mourinho fired a third smile by the 80th minute. Zagnolo moved into the role of the injured: collapsed in the penalty area from a clash with Alex Meret. Marco di Bello ignored it. José’s signals perfectly reflected the emotions of the match. And the game between Napoli and Roma also offered two tactical plots.
In the first half, it was the home team that shone. The reason was the attacking side. Luciano Spalletti devised a clever plan that opened up a numerical advantage for Napoli in the center.
Initially Spalletti released three midfielders: Stanislav Lobotka, Fabian Ruiz and Andre Zambo Anguiss. Napoli’s midfielders were opposed by two Roma players: Sergio Oliveira and Brian Cristante. It was a three-two situation in favor of the team in blue.
Sometimes the numerical tie was restored by Lorenzo Pellegrini, who dropped into the middle line. Lorenzo Insigne immediately came to the aid of the Neapolitan midfielders. The Italian’s place on the flank was filled by Ruiz.
Napoli had endless movement in the middle line, thanks to which they passed the pressure of Roma. The actions of Insigne and his partners propelled the hosts into the opposition’s half in the 17th, 18th and 40th minutes.
Another tool for Napoli was Irving Lozano’s darts behind the backs of Nicola Zalewski and Roger Ibañez. Roma’s defenders were missing the Mexican, whose first opening gave the hosts a penalty.
In the 24th and 33rd minutes, Lozano’s bursts brought Napoli a corner kick. In the 19th, Irving nearly brought the ball to Insigne, who was open in the penalty box. Finally, in the 20th, the inattention of the Roman defenders led to the winger’s shot from the box, the fourth sharpest for the hosts on xG (0.07).
Roma responded with a simpler design. Mourinho’s team was getting out of defense through Tammy Abraham. The Briton dropped into the middle third and hooked the ball with his back to goal. Pellegrini and Zagnolo raced into the final third. An example – a moment in the 27th minute when the Chelsea pupil skipped past Lobotka and rolled into the penalty area.
Since the middle of the first half, Roma relied on the counterattack. Zagnolo was the main actor in the fast attack. Before the break Nicolo unleashed at least three attacks on 21, 25 and 36 minutes. After that the situation changed.
In the second half, Roma increased its share of possession from 44% to 59%. The team also took five shots instead of two. On the one hand, Mourinho’s players were driven by a poor scoreline. On the other hand, quality decisions in attack helped.
The first was Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s coming on. The Armenian took Cristante’s position and pushed the ball forward with passes, and sometimes broke into the final third following Abraham’s crosses. I wrote more about the role of the midfielder (and also about the costs it brought) in my Telegram channel after the final whistle.
The second decision was the reliance on the flanks and crosses, which was evident before the break. In the 39th minute, the ball after a Roma free kick hit Napoli’s crossbar. Zalewski, Romans’ left wingback, earned the standard. A minute later, Cristante headed the ball home – he found a comfortable position in the crowd of opposing defenders.
In the second half, the pattern was the same. The sharpest moment in terms of xG – Abraham’s shot on 60 minutes (0,41) – Roma got after a cross. In the 65th, Gianluca Mancini shot from a free kick, and in the 91st, a breakthrough on the flank brought the visitors the only goal.
Unlike Roma, Napoli simplified the game. After the break, the hosts switched to Victor Osimhen’s crosses. On 80 minutes, another longball brought a dangerous challenge: the Nigerian stepped into the penalty area but missed the ball.
The break changed the teams. Napoli’s attack seemed more sensible and efficient in the first half, while Roma’s was more effective in the second. 1-1 was a fair outcome for such a tactical plot, despite sarcasm from José.