A penalty from Matteo Politano – his side’s third of the night – and late goals from substitutes Giacomo Raspadori and Tanguy Ndombele gave Napoli a 3-0 win against Rangers in the Champions League.
The Scottish side were much improved following last week’s tousing by Ajax but remain bottom of Group A and pointless, while Napoli are top with two wins from two.
Both sides created good chances in an entertaining first half, but lacked the necessary quality and composure to convert them.
The second half continued in similar vein until Giovanni Simeone, chasing a through ball, was brought down by James Sands, giving the referee no choice but to award a penalty and brandish a second yellow card.
At which point things got very odd. Allan McGregor saved Piotr Zielinksi’s spot-kick and Politano put in the rebound, only for VAR to discover that he was in the box when the ball was struck.
So the penalty was retaken, again by Zielinski, and McGregor saved again, but then just seven minutes later, Borna Barisic handled inside the box – inadvertently, but with his arm in an unnatural position – and this time Politano stepped up, beating McGregor, just.
Rangers did their best to retrieve the situation, but a goal and man down, the effort was always likely to be futile, and Napoli piled on the pain in the closing stages as both Raspadori and Ndombele scored.
As for the Gers, if things weren’t grim enough already, they must now face a double-header with Liverpool.
What happened with penalty retake decision? McGregor made a terrific save from Zielinski’s penalty, and was unlucky to see Politano stick the rebound through his legs. Except Politano was there so quickly because he’d encroached, his feet in the box when the kick was taken.
This was a rare occasion on which VAR did its job quickly and quietly, disallowing the goal forthwith, only to be let down by the laws of the game, which demanded the ref order a retake – which makes no sense. If encroachment is an offence, the team responsible should be penalised with a free-kick, not given a second chance to score a goal.
Though, on this occasion, McGregor saved the game’s blushes by making another save, there will eventually be a time when this foolishness impacts a result.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Matteo Politano (Napoli): Napoli were nowhere near as sharp as they were against Liverpool, but Politano was a constant menace, and after Zielinski missed consecutive penalties, he took responsibility for scoring the goal that more or less settled the game.
Rangers: McGregor 8, Tavernier 6, Goldson 6, Sands 5, Barisic 6, Jack 5, Lundstram 5, Arfield 6, Davis 5, Kent 5, Morelos 5. Subs: King 6, Colak 6, Matondo 6, Kamara 5, Tillman 6.
Napoli: Meret 6, Di Lorenzo 6, Kim 6, Rrahmani 6, Mario Rui 6, Anguissa 7, Lobotka 6, Zielinski 4, Politano 8, Simeone 6, Kvaratskhelia 6. Subs: Olivera 6, Zerbin 7, Raspadori 7, Ndombele 7, Elmas 6.
55’ – PENALTY TO NAPOLI! RED CARD FOR SANDS!
Zielinski slides through and Simeone lanks through the middle, Sands on one side and Lundstram on t’other. It doesn’t look like he’s the pace to get away, but when Sands tries to tackle, the ball goes through his legs, he ploughs through his man as Lundstram shoves him, and the ref has no choice but to point to the spot!
57’ – GOAL! Rangers 0-1 Napoli (Politano) It’s a poor penalty from Zielinski, but McGregor’s save is still a good one, plunging right to save; he palms away, but Politano tucks under him and between his legs. But was Politano in the box when the kick was taken?
59’ – THE PENALTY WILL BE RETAKEN!
That is very poor law; McGregor saved the kick, Politano encroaching is his own look out, and the game should restart with a Rangers free-kick. But here we are.
60’ – McGREGOR SAVES IT AGAIN!
This time, Zielinski goes higher, but still rightish, and McGregor guesses right then shoves away! Napoli have now missed three penalties in two-and-a-half hours of football! THIS GAME!
67’ – OH MY DAYS! PENALTY TO NAPOLI!
Kvaratskheilia lashes a shot that hits Barisic on the elbow; his arm is up, but he was very close and there was a lot of power in the effort, but the ref is sure…
69’ – GOAL! Rangers 0-1 Napoli (Politano pen) Again, McGregor goes the right way – this time, that’s left – and actually gets a hand to the ball, but the power in the shot takes it in.
85’ – GOAL! Rangers 0-2 Napoli (Raspadori) That settles it, and it’s beautifully done too! Ndomebele whips a ball into Raspadori, who plays off Olivera, accepts the return, and sweeps a confident finish into the corner.
90+1’ – GOAL! Rangers 0-3 Napoli (Ndombele) Ach, ye canne dribble with it there Glen Kamara! He’s robbed by Anguissa, who drives into the box, cuts back obliquely for Ndombele, and if Napoli end this group level with anyone on points and head-to-head, they’re set.