Goals early on in each half from Jeremy Menez and Giacomo Bonaventura help AC Milan to beat Champions League place rivals Napoli 2-0 at the San Siro. The Rossoneri survived very few scares through out the game and kept Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain especially quiet in a win that boosts their chances of finishing in the third and final Champions League spot.
AC Milan: Diego Lopez (GK), Bonera, Rami (66′), Mexes, Armero, Poli (77′), De Jong, Montolivo (c) (86′), Honda, Bonaventura, Menez.
Subs: Agazzi (GK), Muntari (77′), Saponara, Pazzini, Albertazzi, Essien (86′), C.Zapata (66′), Abbiati (GK), Zaccardo, El Shaaraway.
Napoli: Rafael (GK), Mesto (c), Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam, Jorginho (61′), David Lopez, Callejon, de Guzman (77′), Mertens (72′), Higuain.
Subs: Andujar (GK), Henrique, Britos, Colombo (GK), Hamsik (61′), Gargano (77′), Inler, D.Zapata (72′).
The game appeared to be a slow burner but it sprang into life with a bang, Milan have had a leading light in striker Jeremy Menez who joined on a free from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer and it was the Frenchman who dragged the ball with ease past defender Koulibaly and dispatched a precise low finish into the far corner that Rafael had no chance of saving.
With the sudden shock of conceding, it took Napoli some time before they began to click. Two chances came at once for Rafa Benitez’ side when Jose Callejon was teed up perfectly on the edge of the Milan box and his thunderous strike was too hot for Diego Lopez to handle as he parried to straight into the feet of David Lopez. The goalkeeper, however, was fast enough to get himself together and stop the Napoli player from leveling the score.
The tempo of the game was suddenly electric as both sides attempted to hit the other with speed. Napoli continued to press but could only muster half chances from Higuain and Dries Mertens. Montolivo was the Milan player causing most problems for the Napoli defence but multiple shots from the home side’s captain continued to be wide of the mark.
Napoli’s best chance of the half came just before the end when Higuain cleverly fired a quick cross along the six yard box that needed to be cleared away by defender Philippe Mexes who’s stretch for the ball almost put it in into the bottom of the goal.
Former Swansea City player, Jonathan De Guzman tried to lift his Napoli teammates straight from the start of the second half, but to no avail after his attempts to score and put Higuain in on goal were thwarted by keeper Diego Lopez. After the small spell of pressure from the away side, Milan struck the killer blow.
Coming forward with pace as they had done throughout thus far, the ball reached Pablo Armero out on the wing. The fullback provided a brilliant pinpoint cross for the leaping Bonaventura who was was up in the air before any of the Napoli defence, and his headed effort was perfectly put into the far corner of the goal.
Within minutes of scoring, Milan almost had a third when Menez played the ball into space for midfielder Andrea Poli to run into, however, the Italian’s first touch was poor enough for Napoli goalkeeper Rafael to stop him in his tracks. The second Milan goal hugely deflated Napoli and for much of the rest of the half, Milan defended at ease as Napoli continuously pumped half hearted crosses into the box.
They tried though until the very end but could not even clinch a consolation goal as Milan claimed their victory. The win puts Filippo Inzaghi’s side in the midst of an assortment of sides that are fighting for the third and final Champions League spot with Serie A Champions Juventus and Roma, currently, too far ahead of the rest. The win will be a huge confidence boost for a Milan team that head to Roma next weekend after their 1-0 defeat to Genoa last Sunday.
As for Napoli, Rafa Benitez will most definitely be concerned of his sides inability to create enough clear cut chances and taking them. They play Parma next at home on Thursday night.