Napoli 2-2 AC Milan: Theo Hernandez and Kessie net as below-par Rossoneri earn a draw

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan picked up a hard-fought point on the road against Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday night, recovering from a 2-1 deficit.

The Rossoneri took the lead against the run of play thanks to Theo Hernandez’s powerful volley into the roof of the net, but the home side hit back through goals from Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Dries Mertens.

Nonetheless, Stefano Pioli’s side would secure a point as Franck Kessie converted a penalty in his 100th Serie A appearance for the club, dispatching from 12 yards after Giacomo Bonaventura had been fouled.

Substitute Alexis Saelemaekers saw red late on after he was booked twice in quick succession, but Milan saw the game out to stay seventh in the table and two points behind Gennaro Gattuso’s side.

Pioli made two changes to the starting XI from Tuesday’s win over Juventus for Sunday’s clash with Napoli, as Lucas Paqueta and Hakan Calhanoglu started in the attacking midfield trident, with Giacomo Bonaventura and Saelemaekers relegated to the bench.

Napoli started the game on the front foot and twice in the opening five minutes were close to finding Callejon in behind with diagonal balls.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced into the first save of the game in the 14th minute as an excellent weaving run from Dries Mertens saw the Belgian fire a precise low shot from a narrow angle that was well tipped away in the end.

The home side continued to press and Donnarumma was called into action again, making another low save to his left to tip the ball onto the post, although the play was blown dead for offside as the Milan keeper was obstructed.

The Partenopei will have been kicking themselves that they didn’t take the lead just before the 20 minute mark. A run from Fabian Ruiz created space for him to cut the ball back to Callejon, who inexplicably fired straight at Donnarumma from around eight yards out.

Straight up the other end it was Milan who took the lead as Theo Hernandez got his sixth league goal of the season. Ante Rebic found space to cross on the right side of the box, and the Frenchman arrived at the far post to volley into the ground, the ball bouncing into the roof of the next past David Ospina.

Napoli almost drew level quickly through Milan’s old nemesis Piotr Zielinski; the Poland international firing narrowly wide from just outside the area having found some space.

The hosts continued to press for an equaliser and Donnarumma was grateful to gobble up a Mario Rui shot from 25 yards that took a wicked deflection.

In the 34th minute it was 1-1 however, and it wasn’t undeserved. A wicked free-kick from Lorenzo Insigne flew all the way through to Donnarumma, who could only parry into the path of Di Lorenzo who had an easy tap-in.

There was yet more danger for Donnarumma to deal with when a blocked cross found its way to Zielinski inside the area, but the Italy international responded with a fantastic save even though the whistle went moments after for a foul.

The final foray forward in the first half saw Mertens fire comfortably wide after leading his side on a counter-attack.

Pioli saw his side’s shortcomings in the first half and elected to bring Alexis Saelemaekers on for Lucas Paqueta on the right side, with the Brazilian having looked a bit slow in the opening 45 minutes.

Milan started the second half brighter and Ospina was called into a save inside the opening 60 seconds when Ibrahimovic managed to create some space inside the area, firing an off-balance shot that resulted in a fairly easy save.

Napoli’s first attempt of the second half came when Zielinski fed a ball over to Callejon on the right, but the Spaniard’s effort from the corner of the box was wild and sailed way wide.

The home side took the lead just before the hour mark though, and it was Dries Mertens who got the goal. Donnarumma could have done better after his earlier heroic as the Belgium international’s near post effort squirmed over the line from Callejon’s feed.

Straight after the goal Giacomo Bonaventura and Rafael Leao came on as Ibrahimovic and Calhanoglu made way.

Leao almost made an instant impact as he picked the ball up around 25 yards from goal and fired a rocket of a shot that whizzed over the bar.

Bonaventura made a quick impact, winning a penalty in the71st minute as the midfielder was chopped down in the box clumsily by Maksimovic. Franck Kessie took the honours and sent Ospina the wrong way from 12 yards after what felt like an eternity of waiting due to protests from the Napoli players.

Milan suffered a big blow with just over three minutes remaining as Alexis Saelemaekers was shown two bookings in a quick space of time, the second for a foul through the back of Elmas which meant his team-mates would have to see out the remaining time a man down.

The final sub came for Milan as the clock struck 90, with Rebic – who had a rare off day – coming off in place of Rade Krunic.

Napoli wouldn’t fashion another clear cut opportunity as the remaining seconds ran out and Milan secured a hard-fought point.

Tags AC Milan Napoli-Milan

2 Comments

  1. Gianluca says:

    Romagnoli could perhaps have done something better than simply WATCHING the development of the action in BOTH goals?

  2. Kourosh says:

    Rebic didn’t have an off-day. He invented the assist on the first goal and was good enough in general. He can’t just always score.

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