Spalletti rues Napoli inexperience after Milan battle into Champions League last four

By Sports Desk April 18, 2023

Luciano Spalletti rued Napoli's inexperience and fitness issues proving costly after being dumped out of the Champions League by Milan on Tuesday.

A late Victor Osimhen strike cancelled out Olivier Giroud's opener in the quarter-final second leg, yet a 1-1 draw in Naples sent Milan through 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-0 win in last week's first meeting.

Spalletti was quick to credit a resolute Milan but suggested Napoli's lack of experience was an issue, coupled with fitness problems after Osimhen returned from injury after missing the first leg.

The Napoli coach told Mediaset: "We congratulate Milan for this qualification, that must be done because they have played two games managing to capitalise to the maximum [on their opportunities].

"This is a sign of a mature team, of players who know how to choose the moments: when to step on the accelerator and when you have to defend yourself with all the team.

"But I also want to congratulate my players. We played a Champions League campaign of the highest level and we played a good match tonight as well.

"We paid for a little inexperience in reading the moments of the match.

"We played with different players with a little tiredness, starting with Osimhen who had not played for twenty days."

Napoli have failed to progress from four of their five Champions League knockout rounds, with their only success coming in the round-of-16 tie this season against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Spalletti's side are also without a win in their last three games in all competitions (D2 L1), having gone winless in just three of their 16 previous games (W13 D1 L2).

A Scudetto will still likely follow with Napoli leading at the Serie A summit by 14 points, yet Spalletti acknowledged his side have slipped away after getting too comfortable following a March 19 victory at Torino.

He added: "We weren't good enough inside the penalty area to score, as they did the only time they came in.

"We were in good condition, both mentally and physically [in the first half], then after the break we found players not in condition and forcing our press a few times.

"The league win against Torino made us believe that the championship was a formality. During these two games, we did everything totally differently."

After seeing Frank Anguissa dismissed in the first leg, in which Ismael Bennacer's strike proved the difference in a 1-0 win for Milan, Spalletti was left frustrated with referee Istvan Kovacs.

Spalletti once again voiced his displeasure with the officiating, suggesting Szymon Marciniak should have awarded a first-half penalty for Rafael Leao's sliding tackle on Hirving Lozano.

"Tonight there's a clear penalty on Lozano in the 37th minute, very clearly, his ankle just twists," he continued. 

"You can see it very well in the replays. You risk twisting his ankle. It's a penalty you can't miss."

Related items

  • Duggan to leave Everton after second spell at club Duggan to leave Everton after second spell at club

    Everton have announced that Toni Duggan will leave the club when her contract expires at the end of this month.

    The forward is departing after her second spell at the club, having started her career at Everton in 2007-08 before rejoining in July 2021.

    She appeared in all but one of Everton's matches during her return season but missed the entirety of the second after going on maternity leave, but returned to action last October.

    The 32-year-old initially broke into the first team at 16 years old and scored an extra-time winner against Watford to send Everton into the Premier League Cup final.

    In her first spell, she was named FA Women’s Young Player of the Year in 2009 and went on to lift the FA Women's Cup the following year.

    Duggan played 92 games for the Toffees over her two spells, scoring 29 goals.

    Alan McTavish, Everton Women's Chief Executive Officer, said: "Everyone at Everton thanks Toni for her service and commitment to the club.

    "From breaking into the senior team as a 16-year-old to winning the FA Cup, she can be very proud of her contribution to Everton.

    "We wish Toni all the best for the future."

    Duggan has also played for Manchester City, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid while earning 79 England caps to date.

  • Charlotte FC vs Orlando City: Smith hoping for Orso insight against struggling former club Charlotte FC vs Orlando City: Smith hoping for Orso insight against struggling former club

    Dean Smith will hope to utilise the experience of former Orlando City midfielder Junior Orso when his new team Charlotte FC host them in MLS on Thursday.

    Charlotte head coach Smith says the influence of Orso, who spent four seasons with Orlando, could benefit the home side at Bank of America Stadium.

    "It helps," Smith said of Orso's knowledge. "Little insights of information that can help.

    "The fact that Junior will know a lot about them will certainly help us as well."

    The Crown are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, too, owing to their remarkable defence that has helped them to ninth in the Supporter's Shield rankings.

    "Defense wins championships,” said Brandt Bronico, reflecting on the team's success this season. "If you can get the defense right, you can [then] start creating and having fun on the offensive end.

    "The collective defense-first mindset is probably the most important thing in the locker room."

    Orlando are struggling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, sitting just one point ahead of New England Revolution, who still have a game in hand.

    Oscar Pareja's side were beaten 3-1 by Los Angeles FC last time out, extending their winless streak to four games.

    The Orlando head coach acknowledged improvements are needed.

    "We need to have a deeper analysis about what's happening on the pitch," Pareja said.

    "But once again, it's not enough at this point. We need to win games and that's not happening."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Charlotte FC – Kristijan Kahlina

    Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five straight home matches for the first time in club history, thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.

    With a shutout against Orlando, Charlotte would become the sixth team in MLS history to keep six straight home clean sheets within a single season, equaling the second-longest run in league history.

    Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro

    Nicolas Lodeiro completed 107 of 115 pass attempts on Saturday against LAFC, a new career high in his 208th regular-season match after never completing more than 88 passes in a match before.

    It was the most passes ever completed by an Orlando player in an MLS match, though Lodeiro may not have as much control for this meeting.

    MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE FC WIN

    The pre-match predictions fall in the favour of the home side as Charlotte appear the most likely victors on Thursday.

    Charlotte FC went unbeaten in all three meetings with Orlando in all competitions last season (W2 D1), after Orlando won both matches in 2022.

    Expect another nervy encounter, however, as all five matches between this pair have been decided by one goal or drawn.

    Yet the hosts will be confident as Charlotte have lost only one of their last 19 regular-season home matches, dating back to the beginning of June 2023 (W9 D9).

    Only last season's MLS Cup finalists Los Angeles FC (40) and Columbus Crew (38) have earned more points at home than Charlotte (36) over that span, and Orlando are struggling heading into this one.

    The visitors have lost eight matches in the 2024 season, one more than they had all of last year.

    Yet not all hope is lost given the Lions have lost only one of their last six away from home (W3 D2).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Charlotte FC – 42.8%

    Orlando City – 30.5%

    Draw – 26.7%

  • Argentina v Canada: Messi braced for tough Copa America title defence despite favourites tag Argentina v Canada: Messi braced for tough Copa America title defence despite favourites tag

    Argentina are preparing to defend their Copa America title, but Lionel Messi is staying realistic ahead of their opening match against Canada on Thursday.

    The Albiceleste beat Brazil 1-0 in the final in 2021 to win the title for the first time since 1993 before going on to lift the World Cup just over a year later.

    Since their victory over France in December 2022, Argentina have remained in strong form, losing just one of their 14 matches in all competitions and winning the other 13.

    Messi, who will become the Copa America's all-time record appearance-maker when he next features in the tournament, says he expects to face a tough challenge to retain the trophy.

    "Argentina are always favourites," Messi said. "I think it is going to be a very eventful tournament because national teams are becoming better and better.

    "Today we are the best because we won the World Cup, but the Copa America is going to be difficult.

    "It will be even, and our team is aware that we are going to have to continue doing the same and more to win again.

    "We are going to try to win the Copa America again but let's remember that not everything is about winning."

    Meanwhile, Canada are making their first appearance at the Copa America after qualifying through the playoffs with a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.

    They failed to get out of the group stage on their return to the world stage in Qatar two years ago, but now under new coach Jesse Marsch they are looking to make an impression before co-hosting the World Cup in 2026.

    Canada had an encouraging 0-0 draw against France in their last warm-up match and will hope a squad containing Alphonso Davies, Stephen Eustaquio and Jonathan David can be competitive in a Group A that also contains Chile and Peru.

    Tests do not come much tougher than the reigning champions, but Marsch is confident they have a plan to deal with the danger Argentina, and Messi, pose.

    "We're excited for this tournament, we know it's a big challenge," said Marsch. "It won't be a shock to us when we encounter the quality and the level of play with Argentina.

    "We'll be preparing heavily for everything that Argentina will do and prepare for what they present. Certainly, Messi is still a massive part of their team and who they are."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Argentina – Lionel Messi

    Who else?

    His next appearance in the Copa America will be his 35th, overtaking Chile great Sergio Livingstone, and he has scored 13 goals for Argentina in the competition along the way.

    He has also provided nine Copa assists and has had more shots than any other player at the tournament since the start of the 2011 edition (102).

    Canada – Cyle Larin

    Larin is Canada's all-time top scorer, netting 29 times for his country in 68 appearances including a key strike in the win over Trinidad and Tobago.

    Despite struggling for goals in LaLiga with Real Mallorca in 2023-24, netting just seven times in all competitions, Larin will be looking to further improve his international record at the tournament, with Lille's David (26) fast closing in on his tally.

    MATCH PREDICTION: ARGENTINA WIN

    Unsurprisingly, Argentina are the overwhelming favourites to start their title defence with a win and they go in with a 74.3% chance of finishing the game with three points.

    Canada, meanwhile, are given just an 11% chance of claiming an upset in their Copa America debut, with the draw slightly more likely at 14.7%.

    The Albiceleste have only lost once since the start of 2023, and in that run of 14 matches, they have conceded just four goals and impressively kept 11 clean sheets.

    Canada failed to score in either of their warm-up friendlies against the Netherlands (4-0) and France (0-0) in the build-up to the tournament, last hitting the back of the net in March.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Argentina – 74.3%

    Draw – 14.7%

    Canada – 11%

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.