STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): Few were expecting fireworks when Napoli arrived to face Lazio, but Sunday’s Serie A Matchday 22 stalemate in the Eternal City will soon be forgotten after a night where flair and creativity were badly missing.
Lazio had the better of this 0-0 draw, and may well regret not taking all three points against a heavily depleted Napoli side, but a season-long lack of cutting edge in front of goal cost Maurizio Sarri’s side dearly once again.
A point does little to help or hinder either side in this most competitive of top-four races, with just five points separating Napoli in ninth from Atalanta in fourth.
Key players missed by both sides
Both sides came into the game shorn of some of their most potent weapons.
Lazio were missing Mattia Zaccagni and Ciro Immobile through suspension, while Napoli were without Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Victor Osimhen, Giovanni Simeone, Alex Meret, Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa and Jens-Lys Cajuste between AFCON duties, injuries, and suspensions.
A goal-packed thriller therefore seemed unlikely in an eery Stadio Olimpico, where three northern sections of the stadium were left empty as punishment for racist chants aimed at Romelu Lukaku during Lazio’s Coppa Italia win over AS Roma earlier this month.
So it proved. A first half that will soon be forgotten produced few moments of note, with stale possession the order of the day for both sides.
Young Gustav Isaksen, looking to seize his chance in the absence of Zaccagni, was by far the brightest player in a dull 45 minutes, twice coming inside from the right wing to send shots over the bar, winning free-kicks in good areas and requiring some close attention from Napoli’s five-man backline when he got the ball at his feet.
Napoli offered next to nothing in attack as Giacomo Raspadori cut an isolated figure and his supporting cast of Matteo Politano and Piotr Zielinski failed to get anything going in the final third.
Offside flag denies Castellanos wondergoal
The boredom was broken in sensational fashion just moments into the second half, when Taty Castellanos raced after a long ball, popped it up with his chest and sent a wonderful overhead kick over Pierluigi Gollini and into the bottom corner.
It was a moment of outrageous skill, but the Argentinian was denied a moment that could have marked a breakthrough in his Lazio career by the offside flag going up.
Things thankfully livened up from then on, Lazio having the better chances as Danilo Cataldi flashed a shot narrowly wide and Castellanos’ clever back-heeled finish was crucially blocked by a back-tracking Leo Ostigard.
Gianluca Gaetano came off the bench to flash a volley wide for Napoli and Zielinski steered a free-kick off target, but it was a blunt performance from a side badly missing their cast of attacking stars.