Napoli and PSG Share the Spoils at the San Paolo

Napoli and PSG Share the Spoils at the San Paolo  -
NAPLES, ITALY – NOVEMBER 06: Dries Mertens of SSC Napoli vies Marco Verratti of Paris Saint-Germain during the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between SSC Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain at Stadio San Paolo on November 6, 2018 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Facing off in a sold-out San Paolo, Napoli hosted PSG on matchday four in Group C. Thomas Tuchel’s team entered as favourites, with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar starring in Naples. Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli entered full of confidence, as captain Marek Hamšík made a club record 512th appearance.

In a first half lacking significant chances, both PSG and Napoli started slowly. Cancelling each other out during the opening 45 minutes, both teams combined for just two shots on target in the first half. As the referee put his whistle to his mouth, full-back Bernat was the unlikely scorer, giving Tuchel’s team the lead in stoppage time. Neither team did much wrong in the opening half, however, Napoli’s struggles in front of goal really cost them.

In the second half, Napoli appeared motivated, attacking PSG’s defence and putting the French champions under significant pressure. The pressure would tell, as PSG gave away a penalty. Jose Callejon was fouled, after colliding with both Thiago Silva and Gianluigi Buffon. Lorenzo Insigne stepped up, converting from the spot to equalise for the Partenopei. In need of a goal, Tuchel looked to Edinson Cavani, bringing on the Uruguayan with 15 minutes to play. However, the former Napoli man failed to make an impact, as the game ended 1-1 at the San Paolo.

Key Players

On the night, Neymar was PSG’s key man going forward. Playing a key role in his team’s only goal, the Brazilian was superb, helping secure a point on the night. Just like many great players, Neymar found a way to be effective through adversity. Knowing how dangerous he can be, Napoli deployed fellow Brazilian Allan, with the active midfielder man marking Neymar from start to finish. Once again displaying his quality, Allan did a great job of limiting his world-class opponent. Without Allan, Neymar could’ve run riot on the night.

With Neymar orchestrating things going forward, PSG’s defence was struggling as usual. Buffon was the difference, despite conceding. Making several good saves, the 40-year-old was a key player, as Napoli had PSG’s defence on the ropes at times. The Italian legend was making his return to the Champions League, after being sent off in his final appearance for Juventus last season.

Facing what will likely be his toughest test, centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly was immense on Tuesday night. The Senegalese defender was dominant, helping keep Mbappe and others in check. Putting in an outstanding performance, Koulibaly has established himself as one of the best centre-backs in the world.

Group Outlook

After a shock result in the group’s early game, a draw for Napoli and PSG is a bad result when you look at the big picture. Group C rivals Liverpool lost 2-0 to last place Red Star Belgrade, a result which gave both teams a great opportunity. Napoli now tops Group C, despite drawing their previous two games. Liverpool drop to second and PSG stay third heading into matchday five.

On matchday five, Group C reaches a pivotal moment. PSG host second-place Liverpool at the Parc des Princes, a game which could eliminate Tuchel’s team. In the groups other game, Napoli face Red Star at the San Paolo. PSG’s future in the Champions League hangs by a thread, with a win necessary on matchday five.