Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso, famously combative in his playing days, is not one to tolerate a lack of effort from his players as he again showed on Sunday.
Having slammed his team for their performance in the 2-1 Europa League win at Rijeka on Thursday, Gattuso dropped Mario Rui and Faouzi Ghoulam from Sunday’s match at Bologna because he was not pleased with their efforts in training.
“I sent them to the stands because they were strolling around in training,” he said after the 1-0 win.
Gattuso still made the pair travel to Bologna with the squad and told them of his decision after they arrived.
“It is too easy to be at home on the couch. I brought them with us because they are part of the squad, but they didn’t deserve to play,” he said.
“This is a team that needs to be kept on their toes, we still have too many off days.”
Napoli are third, three points behind leaders AC Milan, but Gattuso did not want to hear any title talk.
“I don’t like this, and suggestions we have to win matches easily,” he said. “People need to calm down. We are a strong team but we get into difficulty when we only play well for one half.”
Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic said he still had something to celebrate after the Napoli defeat — a VAR decision in his team’s favour.
Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly thought he had scored a second goal for his side in the 52nd minute but it was ruled out for handball by team mate Victor Osimhen after the referee reviewed the incident on the pitchside monitor.
“Finally, a referee who went to look at the monitor to disallow a goal against us….it’s been a year and a half since we last had a VAR episode in our favour,” Mihajlovic said.
Mihajlovic also said that he himself deserved to be sent off and thanked the fourth official for tolerating his behaviour.
Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez was singled out of for praise by Cagliari coach Eusebio Di Francesco following the 2-0 win over Sampdoria.
“The great thing about Nandez is how versatile he is,” said Di Francesco.
“He has the ability to adapt to different roles, he’ll do a good job wherever you put and he is always ready to stand up and be counted. Probably, his ideal role is in the centre of a 4-3-3 midfield.”
The tenacious Nandez, who scored the second goal in Saturday’s win, is in his second season at Cagliari after being signed from Argentina’s Boca Juniors.
According to Serie A statistics, he has run an average of 11.697 kilometres per match this season, the third highest of any player in the league.
AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a penalty for the third time this season before scoring a stoppage-time equaliser as the Serie A leaders hit back to draw 2-2 at home to Verona on Sunday.
The 39-year-old sent a wild spot kick flying over the bar in the 66th minute but, not to be denied, headed the equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time, two minutes after Milan had a goal chalked off by VAR.
The win kept Milan unbeaten in the league this season with 17 points from seven games, two ahead of Sassuolo with Napoli and Roma on 14.
Beaten 3-0 at home by Lille in the Europa League on Thursday, Milan went behind after six minutes as Federico Ceccherini headed against the crossbar, the ball struck goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and Antonin Barak turned in the rebound. It got worse for Milan in the 19th minute when Mattia Zaccagni’s volley was diverted into his own net by Milan defender Davide Calabria for Verona’s second. Giangiacomo Magnani deflected Franck Kessie’s header into his own goal to put Milan back in the game in the 27th minute and set up an enthralling second half, with Verona goalkeeper Marco Silvestri in the thick of the action.
Silvestri made a superb save at his near post to deny Theo Hernandez, then watched as Ibrahimovic missed his penalty. As Milan continued to pour forward, Ibrahimovic headed against the bar and had a close-range header brilliantly saved by Silvestri. Calabria had the ball in the net in the 90th minute but VAR spotted a handball by Ibrahimovic and it was disallowed. Silvestri saved yet another Ibrahimovic header but Brahim Diaz turned the ball back into the centre and the Swede this time headed into the net for his eighth league goal of the season.
Lazio substitute Felipe Caicedo scored in stoppage-time for the second week running to earn his side a 1-1 draw at home to Juventus in Serie A on Sunday after Cristiano Ronaldo had given the champions a first-half lead.
The Ecuadorean, who grabbed a 98th-minute winner at Torino last weekend and notched a late equaliser in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Zenit St Petersburg, levelled in the 94th minute to end Juve’s resistance after Lazio had dominated the second half.
Ronaldo had given the titleholders a 15th-minute lead with his sixth league goal of the season. He also hit the post and saw a free kick saved before halftime but was taken off in the second half after appearing to hurt his ankle.
Surprise package Sassuolo missed the chance to go top of Serie A as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Udinese on Friday. They dominated possession but could not turn that into chances on a frustrating night, managing one attempt on target.
Second-half goals from Joao Pedro and Nahitan Nandez gave Cagliari a 2-0 win over 10-man Sampdoria who had a player sent off before halftime in Serie A on Saturday.
Elsewhere, two goals from M’Bala Nzola helped Spezia to a 3-0 win at Benevento in a battle between two of the clubs promoted from Serie B. “I’ve dreamed of scoring a goal in Serie A and today I scored twice,” said the delighted Frenchman who helped Spezia win promotion last season.
Parma and Fiorentina continued their indifferent starts to the season with a 0-0 draw which left both sides stuck in the bottom half of the table.