Dries Mertens

Napoli v. Barcelona recap and video highlights
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Griezmann gives Barcelona first leg draw with Napoli (video)

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Antoine Griezmann scored in the second half to earn Barcelona a 1-1 draw with Napoli in a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg at the San Paulo Stadium on Tuesday.

Dries Mertens scored a beautiful opener for Napoli, who heads to the Camp Nou for a March 18 second leg.

Arturo Vidal was sent off in the 89th minute for a second yellow card, and Sergio Busquets picked up a yellow which will cost him the second leg.

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Gennaro Gattuso’s plan was to limit Barcelona’s shots, and it worked well in the first half.

Mertens got his goal on one of only five shots in the half, the only two on target coming via Napoli.

How a tale can turn on a moment, though, as Nelson Semedo set up Griezmann’s second-half marker to give Barca a useful away goal.

Barca was much better in the second half but could not find a second away goal.

Here’s the goal of the day, and it belongs to Mertens.

Serie A roundup: Napoli falls to Parma in debut for Gattuso (video)

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Napoli’s last-minute loss to Parma in Gennaro Gattuso’s debut highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

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Napoli 1-2 Parma

Napoli remains in a dark place as Gennaro Gattuso debut with Gli Azzurri ended in a last-minute 2-1 loss to Parma.

The defeat marks eight consecutive games without a win in Serie A play for Napoli, who dismissed Carlo Ancelotti earlier this week despite punching a ticket in the last 16 of the Champions League after a win over Genk.

After their fifth loss of the season, Napoli are currently eighth on the table with 21 points, seven behind sixth-placed Atalanta and 17 behind league leaders Inter Milan.

 

In the third minute of stoppage time, Gervinho – experienced as anyone else in tightly-contested situations – received a simple pass from Dejan Kulusevski, carefully striking it into the back of the net inside the six-yard box. The 32-year-old Ivorian has five goals in Serie A this season, and Saturday’s was his most important yet. 

For Gattuso (and hopeful Napoli supporters), Saturday was the antithesis of dreamy start, but with time and a change of mentality the situation may change.

“I don’t believe in bad luck. Right now we’re not good mentally,” the 41-year-old manager said following the match. “The team is paying for the fact that it has not won (in the league) for 50 or more days.”

“The first 10 minutes also prove it,” he added. “It’s tough as are the whistles of the fans. There’s a lot of work to do.”

The home side recorded 33 shots throughout the night, but Parma proved to be more clinical, scoring at death and opening the scoresheet just four minutes in. In the 64th minute, Napoli were able to get one go their way, as Dreis Merten’s lofting cross with force was headed home by Arkadiusz Milik. 

Gattuso and his men will be tested once as they travel to Sassuolo in a weeks time, while Parma look to trim their four-point gap with Atalanta when they host Brescia.

Elsewhere
Brescia 3-0 Lecce
Genoa 0-1 Sampdoria

Liverpool draws Napoli, takes UCL fate to last match day

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Napoli drew Liverpool 1-1 on Wednesday to push the Reds’ knockout round qualification hopes to the final match day.

Liverpool will advance with a draw or better in Austria against Red Bull Salzburg on Dec. 10. It could also advance with a loss if Napoli fails to beat Genk in Italy.

Salzburg lost 4-3 at Anfield during the first meeting but carries three away goals in case it wins and a tiebreaker is required.

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Dries Mertens scored in the first half, but Dejan Lovren leveled the score in the second half.

Premier League teams would love to have a word with Napoli, or subscribe to their diet or something; The Serie A side has now a 2-1-1 record against the reigning UCL champs dating back to last season.


Three things we learned

1. VAR doesn’t save Reds from opening concession: There were two reviews of Dries Mertens opener, but neither stopped the “1” from staying on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard as the Belgian scored for the second-straight match against Liverpool. Mertens timed his run perfectly well, though at first glance it looked like offside would be the call. Also, as good as the finish was, it was helped by a rare mistake from Alisson Becker. The Liverpool goalkeeper was married to his post.

2. Reds have trouble getting going: Napoli’s plan was to punch Liverpool in the mouth. No, literally. The Neapolitan set had the Reds off balance in the first half hour or so, but goalkeeper Alex Meret was called upon twice in the final 10 minutes to keep the advantage 1-0. The second half was much better, and the Reds could’ve found more than their lone tally.

3. Fabinho injury a worry: Liverpool’s midfield monster walked off the pitch and straight into the tunnel with an apparent hip injury. He was already going to miss this weekend via suspension, so if it’s something small he’ll have some time to heal before the Merseyside Derby on Dec. 4. If it’s not something small, the Reds will have some problems navigating a terribly congested December.

Man of the Match: There wasn’t a true star in this one. Obviously Lovren and Mertens delivered the goals, and Kalidou Koulibaly was good at the back for Napoli. But we’ll give it to James Milner, who left in the 78th minute with an assist to go with 89 percent passing, two tackles, three aerials won, and two dribbles.


Napoli took the lead when Van Dijk was momentarily hobbled while rising above Mertens for an aerial win.

Mertens took off as Napoli gained possession, and the Belgian’s run to meet a Giovanni di Lorenzo through ball was immaculate in beating the line set by Andy Robertson. As noted above, Alisson wasn’t at his best and would’ve needed to be in order to stop a terrific strike.

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Liverpool came to life and might’ve won a penalty due to some Sadio Mane tomfoolery that the referee was correct to dismiss as embellishment (no card, though). The Senegalese star would later rifle a shot that Meret turned away to keep it 1-0 heading to the break.

Mohamed Salah pumped a shot into Meret’s belly at the hour mark as Liverpool fought for an equalizer. Oxlade-Chamberlain then cued up Roberto Firmino for a header that was probably put off by Kostas Manolas.

Liverpool found its answer off a corner kick, James Milner sending it in and Lovren finishing the play.

Napoli scores on late penalty, rare Van Dijk error in 2-0 win

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The good news is that Liverpool lost to Napoli last season in the UEFA Champions League, then went on to win the whole darn thing.

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Jose Callejon won a late penalty that Dries Mertens converted, and Fernando Llorente took advantage of a Virgil Van Dijk error to pad the lead as Napoli held serve at home with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.


Three things we learned

1. Goalkeepers immense: No, he’s not Alisson Becker, but Adrian is probably the biggest reason Liverpool didn’t open its UCL defense with a blowout loss. He made a pair of early stops on Dries Mertens before a show-stopping effort in the second half. Napoli got two fine saves from Alex Meret, including a terrific denial of Mohamed Salah in the 65th.

2. Salah, Mane can’t deliver in key moments: Take away Salah’s penalty in the UCL Final, and Liverpool’s two top threats have not accounted for a goal in four matches inside the competition. Mane was mostly good on the day, but misled Salah on an early second half pass which would have almost certainly been a goal. Salah simply had an off day

3. Callejon sells the drama: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson lost a 50/50 with Jose Callejon, who ran into the fulback and hit the deck to win a penalty. That was the difference here, as Mertens beat Adrian.

Man of the Match: Meret was especially good, the 22-year-old Italian goalkeeper big in several key moments to edge Mertens for the honor.


Napoli thought it had gone ahead through El Tri star Hirving Lozano, who nodded over the line following two Alisson Becker saves on Dries Mertens, but the Mexican was offside.

Sadio Mane had a 20th minute chance at the other end, but pumped a point blank low shot to Napoli keeper Alex Meret which led to a corner kick.

Fabinho intervened in the 53rd minute as Napoli emerged from the locker room with energy, but the best chance of the early second half was flubbed in uncharacteristic fashion: Sadio Mane was through 2v1 with Mohamed Salah but made a miserable pass to his teammate.

The first goal arrived when Callejon tapped the ball past Robertson and leapt into the defender to earn a penalty from referee Felix Brych.

It was 2-0 in stoppage time when Fernando Llorente ran onto a Virgil van Dijk error and passed beyond Adrian.

Serie A roundup: Inter edge 10-man Udinese

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Napoli and Inter Milan walked away winners in Saturday’s Serie A action.

Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese

After three games, Antonio Conte‘s spell at Inter Milan remains in immaculate shape.

According to the table, there is no better team than I Nerazzurri, who have won their first three league matches – notching seven goals and conceding only one along the way. In other words, the Italian’s astute coaching style remains effective.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPAgK_pPZxQ&w=560&h=315]

Despite, Inter’s convincing play throughout the 90 minutes, only a goal would separate them from visiting Udinese, who played a with 10 players from the 35th minute on, following Rodrigo De Pual’s slap to the back of Antonio Candreva’s head.

In the 44th minute, Stefano Sensi – one of the smallest players on the field – headed the ball into the back of the net. Late in the game, Alexis Sanchez nearly scored in his Inter debut.

In the end, Udinese were no match for Antonio Conte and Co., who find themselves in prime form heading into their Champions League return midweek.

Up next for Inter in league play: Derby della Madonnina. Udinese, on the hand, host Brescia.

Napoli 2-0 Sampdoria

Dries Mertens is the gift that keeps on giving for Napoli.

To be exact, the Belgian gifted his team two goals on Saturday. 13 minutes in, following a perfectly-placed cross from Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Mertens’ first-time strike was unstoppable for Emil Audero.
Emiliano Rigoni had Sampdoria’s best chance of the night in a one-on-one opportunity with Alex Meret. The Argentine, however, wasted one of the visiting side’s two chances all night.
Then in the 67th minute – with some luck on his corner -Mertens completed his brace off a deflected shot, giving his team their second win of the season.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQq7_pRQiGk&w=560&h=315]

Quick turnaround for Napoli as they host Liverpool midweek before traveling to take on Lecce in league play, while Sampdoria take on Torino next.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Fiorentina 0-0 Juventus