SCOTT PETERSON - Thursday, September 22, 2011
After making his debut this past weekend, Michael Bradley received his first start in the Serie A as Chievo scored a surprising win against high-flying Napoli in Verona on Wednesday night.
Bradley showed head coach 'Mimmo' Di Carlo enough against Parma this past weekend to be selected in front of Czech Kamil Vacek to help man the midfield. Cheivo came into the contest having failed to win in their first two league matches and could only muster a single point, but Napoli, despite their recent pedigree and qualification for the UEFA Champions League, was just the team that Chievo wanted to see come to town as they had won their previous two encounters.
After putting in a strong effort in the Champions League to take a point against Manchester City and demolishing reigning Scudetto holders AC Milan this past weekend, Napoli head coach Walter Mazzarri opted to field a B team, leaving both Slovak Martin Hamsik and Uruguayan Edson Cavanni on the bench.
With a dearth of proven attack acumen on the field, Napoli struggled to find their rhythm, and Chievo was content to counterattack in front of their own fans. The result was a tepid opening 45 minutes with the majority of chances generated being lost distant shots missing the target badly.
The second half finally started to see the match liven up, with the underdogs from the north getting the better of the action.
After Cruzado and Luca Rigoni combined neatly in the center of the field to advance forward in the 50th minute, the ball landed at the feet of Finnish midfielder Perparim Hetemaj, who blasted a right-footed shot from 30 yards out that Napoli keeper De Sanctis did well to parry to his right.
Chievo then created a string of chances, with defender Fernandez and striker Davide Moscardelli coming close in the 64th and 65th minutes respectively.
Chievo, however, should have taken the lead in the 68th minute. Paloschi was all alone in front of keeper De Sanctis after Rigoni played a brilliant diagonal pass to him and the diminutive striker chested the ball down and fired quickly, but the net minder for Napoli made an amazing right-handed save from short-range to keep the game scoreless.
Just two minutes later, Hetemaj floated in a lazy cross from the left that Napoli defender Ignacio Fideleff completely misjudged, tapping it through his own legs to the lurking Moscardelli. Moscardelli pounced on the ball just seven yards out and the big Italian rocketed his left-footed shot into the back of the net.
A goal down with time running out, Napoli finally came out of their shell and threw numbers forward, with Colombian Juan Zuniga and substitute Hamsik coming closest, but it was too little too late. Napoli managed to just get one shot on target the entire match.
The victory was Chievo's first of the year, and their third straight against Napoli. Bradley will hope to get the nod once again next week as Chievo host Genoa.