“It’s no use starting the game if you don’t believe in it,” Felice Mazzu said. “We will have to give it 100 per cent, in every compartment and capitalize on every occasion we get. Fortunately Napoli prefer to play from ball possession, that suits us better.”
“Is it special for me to play against an Italian team? I’m not really concerned with that. My team is the only thing that concerns me. Of course, it’s special to face Ancelotti, but it’s not about me.”
One single change in the starting line-up compared tot he Limburg derby: Dewaest was on the bench, Cuesta started in central defense.
Former Genk player Kalidou Koulibaly accompanied his coach to the Napoli press conference. “I’m pleased to meet so many old friends. There’s so many of them that I haven’t had one single minute to myself. But I’m here to win with Naples, because that’s important for us,” the French/Senegalese said.
Coach Ancelotti himself also had his say. “We will have to do better than it the past few weeks,” the Italian success coach said. “In modern football, there are no more easy games. Not against Genk either, we are well aware of that. They have a great team, they like to attack and always tries to play nice football.”
Ancelotti lined up the team who defeated Liverpool, with Meret, Koulibaly, Mario Rui and Lozano. Insigne was out, slightly injured, Mertens was benched.
No goals in the first half.
The home team were the first to threaten but Lucumi was unable to frame his header from an Hagi corner. Until a quarter into the game everything remained silent. On either side, Genk nor the guests were unable to create any danger. But after fifteen minutes the game broke loose. Goalkeeper Coucke first saw the ball fly bye him, then parried a shot from Callejón via the post but subsequently was chanceless against an attempt by Milik. But Cuesta came to his rescue. The Colombian lunged into the trajectory of the ball and deflected it onto the bar and over the goal.
Five minutes later the home team were unlucky. Hrošovský took a shot, Cuesta deflected it but the ball bounced wide agonizingly slowly. 25 minutes in, the woodwork came to Coucke’s assistance once again. Milik was allowed a header from short range but hit the cross bar.
On the opposite side of the pitch goalkeeper Meret had to go full stretch to palm away a Samatta header. Moments later former Genk player Koulibaly took a shot from inside the Genk box. Hrošovský saved it on the line. Milik was unable to head home from the rebound.
With four minutes left on the clock Bongonda tried a shot from outside the visitor’s box. The ball went wide less than half a meter from the cross. Then, Meret had to get back to work. Berge pushed forward and took the shot. The ball deflected off a defender and the visiting goalkeeper had to go full stretch to push it out of harm’s way. An entertaining first half ended goalless.
A well-deserved first point in the Champions League.
Milik started the second half with a header but he aimed it too high. Genk took over with two blocked shots from Ito and Hrošovský. It ended with a cross from the right headed over by Hagi. After a miss by Callejón, he kicked wide from close range, Napoli coach Ancelotti brought on Dries Mertens for Elmas. That didn’t bring much of an improvement for the guests although Coucke had to save a shot from the Red Devil.
With four minutes of regular play time left on the clock the best opportunity in the second half was for Hagi. The cross came from the right, Allan slipped and Ianis belted it over from close range. That was all in an exciting game. Genk kept Napoli at bay and grabbed a first point in this Champions League campaign.
KRC Genk line-up: Coucke, Mæhle, Cuesta, Lucumí, Uronen, Berge, Hrošovský, Hagi (90'+2' Heynen), Ito, Bongonda (90’ Paintsil) and Samatta
SSC Napoli line-up: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Mario Rui (34’ Malcuit), Elmas (58’ Mertens), Ruiz, Allan, Lozano, Milik (72’ Llorente) en Callejon.
Bookings: 50’Ito, 65’ Milik, 79’ Ruiz
Referee: István Kovács (Romania)