Victor Osimhen was understandably frustrated after his 79th-minute substitution, which had more to do with his own dissatisfying showing than Gennaro Gattuso’s decision to send on Andrea Petagna with 11 minutes to play.
The forward could have levelled things up for Napoli minutes before Matteo Pessina’s second of the night for Atalanta, but instead went off with the Azzurri trailing 3-1, rather than level at 2-2. As a consequence, last season’s Coppa Italia winners will not be successfully defending the title they’d won impressively in 2020, with La Dea eliminating Gattuso’s men 3-1 on aggregate.
Frankly, over the course of the tie, the better team progressed. Atalanta dominated the reverse fixture in Naples and missed a torrent of chances to score in the goalless encounter. On Wednesday night, Gian Piero Gasperini’s team were largely comfortable, even if the possession stat (60-40 in favour of the visitors) presents a contradiction.
Gattuso’s men did show some flashes at the Gewiss Stadium, particularly right after half-time which ultimately resulted in Hirving Lozano’s 53rd-minute strike. Be that as it may, they created little clear-cut chances from open play.
One of those opportunities did fall for Osimhen, but he couldn’t flick the ball beyond Pierluigi Gollini. Interestingly, that was the Nigerian’s only effort on a wearisome night in Bergamo, which highlights the lack of service for the big-money summer signing.
The same can’t be said for Napoli, who have battled with absences to key players, Osimhen inclusive, mistakes at the back and profligate finishing as they’ve gone from Serie A contenders to top four hopefuls.
While the Nigerian has returned from his layoff, the sharpness still seems absent, although 79 minutes at Atalanta in midweek was encouraging.
Osimhen hasn’t thrived in front of goal since moving from Lille last summer; still, Gattuso will hope the stars align on Saturday in a clash many believe might have immediate ramifications for the under-fire Napoli boss.
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