Napoli 1-0 Spezia: Unlikely hero Giacomo Raspadori’s nets a minute from time to send the Azzurri top… but manager Luciano Spalletti is sent off after late touchline scuffle involving visitors’ coaching staff
- Napoli moved top of Serie A after Giacomo Raspadori’s 89th minute winner
- Spezia were up against it throughout, and were disappointed by late finish
- Luciano Spalletti was sent off following Raspadori’s strike as tempers flared
- The hosts scored four midweek against Liverpool, but left it late against Spezia
For a team that lost its captain, all-time leading scorer and defensive stalwart in the offseason, Napoli has filled in the holes masterfully.
With every match, it seems, they discovers a new weapon.
After midfielder Piotr Zielinski shined in the shock 4-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League, reserve striker Giacomo Raspadori scored his first goal for Napoli a minute before time in a 1-0 victory over Spezia in Serie A on Saturday.
Giacomo Raspadori’s late goal earned Napoli’s win over Spezia in Serie A on Saturday
Raspadori struck the winning goal a minute from time to continue Napoli’s fine form
Napoli (4-3-3): Meret, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Juan, Rui, Anguissa (Zielinski 57), Ndombele (Lobotka 46), Elmas (Gaetano 75), Politano (Lozano 57), Raspadori, Kvaratskhelia (Simeone 67)
Substitutes not used: Kim, Marfella, Olivera, Zerbin, Sirigu, Ostigard, Zanoli
Manager: Luciano Spalletti
Scorers: Raspadori 89
Booked: Elmas 71
Spezia (3-5-2): Dragowski, Ampadu (Hristov 70), Kiwior, Nikolaou, Holm, Agudelo (Sala 81), Bourabia (Ellertsson 70), Bastoni (Kovalenko 62), Reca, Nzola, Gyasi
Substitutes not used: Zoet, Sala, Beck, Caldara, Sher, Zovko, Strelec, Sanca
Manager: Luca Gotti
Booked: Gyasi 45, Dragowski 77
Referee: Alberto Santoro
The last-gasp win at the Diego Maradona Stadium moved Napoli top of the Serie A standings, one point ahead of Atalanta, who can reclaim the lead when it hosts promoted Cremonese on Sunday.
Defending champion AC Milan, who who visited Sampdoria on Saturday evening, could also move level on points with Napoli.
Napoli are chasing their first league title since Maradona led the club to its only two Serie A championships in 1987 and 1990.
Raspadori, the 22-year-old loaned from Sassuolo, started in the place of injured Victor Osimhen and boss Luciano Spalletti kept him on to the end despite substituting most of his other attacking players.
Spalletti’s decision paid off when Raspadori put himself in position to redirect a cross from Hirving Lozano and fire inside the back post.
‘These are all starting points for me,’ Raspadori said. ‘I had missed two focused chances but I was able to remain.’
It was just what Napoli had in mind when they agreed to the loan deal, which requires the club to buy Raspadori’sat the end of the season for €30m (£26m).
What’s more is that Raspadori became Napoli’s eighth different scorer in Serie A this season, tied for the most in the league with Inter Milan.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, the 21-year-old Georgia winger who has already scored four goals and was named Serie A’s player of the month for August, showed off his skills again on the left flank when he dribbled through the legs of two defenders at once during the first half.
Giacomo Raspadori late goal earned Napoli’s win over Spezia in Serie A’s early Saturday match
A few minutes later, ‘Kvara’ was at it again with more dizzying dribbling moves to shake off his markers. His shot this time was a bit more precise but Spezia goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski smothered his effort in front of the near post.
Zielinski came on as a second-half substitute and made an immediate impact, producing a long-range shot that Poland team-mate Dragowski had to palm over the crossbar.
Spezia also threatened on occasion and center-back Amir Rrahmani had to clear a shot off the line amid chaos within Napoli’s defense.
In all, Napoli are doing well to move on after former captain Lorenzo Insigne left for Toronto FC, record scorer Dries Mertens went to Galatasarary and physical defender Kalidou Koulibaly joined Chelsea.
Luciano Spalletti was sent off in the aftermath of his side’s late winning goal on Saturday
Napoli players celebrate in front of their fans following another excellent victory
South Korea center-back Kim Min-jae, Koulibaly’s replacement, was rested after he, too, made a big impact.
‘There’s a great atmosphere within the team. Everyone is very welcoming, which is important for someone shy like me joining a squad like this,’ Raspadori said.
Spalletti was sent off with his second yellow card amid scuffles after Raspadori’s goal, which also resulted in a red card for Spezia’s goalkeepers coach.
Up next for Napoli is a visit to Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Supporters will be hoping their side can continue their run having gone on top of Serie A