Tanner Tessmann was the lone American to see action in Italy’s opening weekend, as Venezia experienced a hard landing in Serie A during their loss to Napoli.
SSC Napoli 2 – 0 Venezia FC
Venezia was widely expected to struggle during their first season back in the Italian top flight in nearly two decades and largely lived up to those expectations in the shut-out loss at Napoli.
While keeping their hosts, who are regulars on the European stage, scoreless for the first hour and only losing by a two-goal margin might seem an admirable first week of running the gauntlet, this must be tempered by the fact that Napoli was playing with ten men for the final 70 minutes, suffered an unwanted first-half injury of stalwart midfielder Piotr Zielinski, and missed a second-half penalty.
Of the two summer American acquisitions by Venezia, only Tanner Tessmann was available for selection and played the final half-hour of the game. Gianluca Busio, who joined the team a few days before, was unable to suit up while still dealing with the final stages of transfer bureaucracy.
Napoli started out as the clear aggressors, with Nigerian international Victor Osimhen leading the charge. Already in the eighth minute, he created a clear chance out of nowhere when he charged Venezia keeper Niki Mäenpää as he was trying to clear the ball downfield, rebounding his attempted kick just wide of goal.
Venezia wasn’t completely hapless, and Dennis Johnsen gave them hope after a quarter-hour when he forced Napoli keeper into Alex Meret into a save. Against all odds, the newly-promoted visitors were even given a fortunate, albeit arguably unfair, opening after 22 minutes when Osimhen was harshly shown a straight red card for a shove on a Venezia defender while trying to position himself a corner.
The hosts’ situation took an even deeper nosedive after 35 minutes when Zielinski was forced to leave the field after what looked like a pulled calf muscle.
With their backs against the wall, Napoli nevertheless held strong for the remainder of the half and was even gifted the chance to take the lead after 55 minutes when Venezia central defender Mattia Caldara clearly deflected an attempted cross by Mário Rui just inside the penalty area. However, Napoli’s pint-sized captain Lorenzo Insigne made a mess of the ensuing penalty attempt, sending his shot well outside of the upper right corner of the goal.
However, he had the chance to quickly atone for the feeble spot-kick just past the hour mark, when Venezia defender Pietro Ceccaroni clearly handled an attempted cross by Giovanni Di Lorenzo. This time, Insigne took no chances, conservatively hooking his attempt to the lower-left corner for the 1-0 lead.
Moments later, Tessmann entered the game in place of holding midfielder Luca Fiordilino, as head coach Paolo Zanetti sought to inject some fresh legs into his squad. The young American took up his expected role in the center of the field but was unable to prevent their opponents from doubling the lead 10 minutes later.
A solid team display to rapidly slice the ball from the backfield to the edge of the penalty area saw Mexican international Hirving Lozano serve up Elif Elmas at the upper left corner. His shot cut into the narrow line between two Venezia defenders and past the outstretched hands of Mäenpää, just inside the left upright for the 2-0 lead.
Tessmann was shown his first yellow of the campaign shortly thereafter after a hard foul on Stanislav Lobotka. Even though the Venezia attack applied pressure as best they could in the final minutes, their lack of precision left Napoli with a relatively straightforward finish to lock up the win.
Tessmann and his teammates will be back in action on Friday evening when they hit the road for a second straight week to face Udinese.
Weston McKennie was forced to sit out Juve’s frustrating 2-2 draw at Udinese on Sunday due to a lingering yellow card suspension carrying over from last season. He will be available for selection and will likely see the field when they host Empoli on Saturday.
Bryan Reynolds was an unused substitute for Roma in their dominant 3-1 home win over Fiorentina on Sunday evening. He will likely see some action for coach Jose Mourinho in the coming days, either in their Europa Conference League second leg against Trabzonspor on Thursday, or on Sunday when they host US Salernitana.
Andrija Novakovich is still in the final stages of recovering from surgery and missed Frosinone’s season-opening 2-2 draw against visiting Parma in Serie B action on Friday evening. He will likely still be out when they visit LR Vicenza on Saturday afternoon.
American-born forward Giuseppe Barone signed with Serie B team Ascoli Calcio during the week and will look for his debut with the team when they visit AC Perugia on Saturday evening.