Osimhen’s Real Madrid moment slips by as Napoli's marksman avoids spot-kicks

Antonio Rudiger man-marked Victor Osimhen in Napoli's Champions League defeat by Real Madrid (Credit: Imago/LaPresse)

Osimhen’s Real Madrid moment slips by as Napoli's marksman avoids spot-kicks

Seye Omidiora 03:55 - 04.10.2023

Osimhen — man-marked by Antonio Rudiger — could not capitalise on the one chance that fell his way in Napoli’s 3-2 defeat by Real Madrid and still is not going near penalties.

From a Napoli perspective, three things were striking on Tuesday night’s 3-2 Champions League defeat by Real Madrid: Rudi Garcia heeded Victor Osimhen’s advice and played two up top as the Azzurri chased a result, the Partenopei boss opted against taking off Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and the centre-forward remains unkeen on taking penalties.

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Garcia did not substitute Osimhen against Real Madrid

Much was made about Osimhen’s reaction to his substitution at Bologna on September 24, when the striker indignantly gestured that Garcia should have paired him with Giovanni Simeone as the Partenopei chased a result in Emilia-Romagna.

That incident came 14 minutes after the striker had failed to convert from 12 yards, a miss that provoked an unsavoury Tik-Tok post by the Azzurri's official account, Osimhen archiving every Instagram post that concerned Napoli and the club’s empty statement in the lead-up to the Partenopei facing Lecce on Saturday.

When Napoli trailed Los Blancos on Tuesday, Garcia’s three changes with two minutes of normal time remaining saw him retain Osimhen in the XI, choosing to utilise the Nigerian in tandem with Simeone this time.

Victor Osimhen
Rudi Garcia did not substitute Victor Osimhen in Napoli's Champions League defeat by Real Madrid (Credit: Imago)

It was equally prominent that Kvaratskhelia stayed on against the LaLiga giants. The Georgian did not hide his irritation when the former Roma boss took him off in the 2-2 draw at Genoa in mid-September.

However, both decisions did not help to force an equaliser against Carlo Ancelotti’s men, with the four-time Champions League winner claiming maximum points on his return to Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Antonio Rudiger man-marks Osimhen

It was likely to be a game of few chances for Osimhen. A match where the Nigerian needed to make the most out of little as Ancelotti earmarked the Super Eagle as the home side’s top match-winner.

Victor Osimhen
Antonio Rudiger was frequently aggressive with Victor Osimhen (Credit: Imago/Insidefoto)

“Osimhen is a powerful, mobile and very dangerous striker,” warned the experienced 64-year-old in his pre-match press conference.

The pre-game feeling was there would be a plan to neutralise the threat of Osimhen. And so it proved, with Antonio Rudiger sticking to the Napoli striker, just as he closely watched Erling Haaland in the first leg of last season’s semi-final in Madrid.

That much was evident when the Partenopei’s centre-forward had a 13th-minute attempt blocked by the German centre-back, who quickly closed down the striker’s effort...

Victor Osimhen
13th minute: Antonio Rudiger got tight to Victor Osimhen to block the Napoli striker's shot at goal.

 ...and did likewise in minute 36, aware of the striker’s run and anticipating the swiftly-taken shot.

Victor Osimhen
36th minute: Rudiger reads Osimhen's intention...
Victor Osimhen
...and blocks another shot from Napoli's striker

Despite intermittently entrusting his centre-back partner Nacho Fernandez to Osimhen, Rudiger’s role at the Maradona was marked.

Below are several instances of the former Chelsea defender not letting the Nigerian out of his sight. Here, he wins possession after Osimhen brings a long ball down…

Victor Osimhen
Rudiger dispossessed Osimhen before the Napoli striker surveyed his options.

…in another instance, Rudiger is extra aggressive with the striker, who wins a foul…

Victor Osimhen
Rudiger's forceful style helped him against Osimhen.

…and the centre-back was frequently tight to Osimhen, grasping the Napoli striker when he could.

Victor Osimhen
Rudiger held Osimhen as Zambo Anguissa's shot flashed wide.
Victor Osimhen
Late in the game, Rudiger still would not give Osimhen breathing space.

“Yes, we tried to make it one-on-one against Osimhen, who was very dangerous,” Ancelotti admitted after Real Madrid’s 3-2 win. 

“The defenders did not leave spaces behind them; we only struggled on crosses because that is where Osimhen is incredibly strong.”

Real’s approach partly worked. Napoli’s centre-forward won two of 10 aerial duels and was unsuccessful in four of his six ground duels. Many were against the Los Blancos defender.

Osimhen did get the better of Rudiger once, a moment he possibly relished before the game and one he could have netted from in the 39th minute when he unsurprisingly rose higher than the Los Blancos centre-back but could not power the header past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Victor Osimhen
Victor Osimhen rose higher than Rudiger once but was thwarted by Kepa (Credit: Imago/Insidefoto)

Given Osimhen’s excellence in such situations, it was an opportunity missed by the Nigerian, and his reaction suggested he felt he should have converted the header from Matteo Politano’s cross.

Osimhen is still refusing to take penalties

Nevertheless, Napoli’s no. 9 won the penalty from which the Partenopei levelled on the night, a decision Ancelotti described as “absurd”, but elected not to take it.

Garcia’s admission at the weekend that several players could be trusted to have a go from 12 yards was instructive, even if he noted that Osimhen remains the designated taker. 

Victor Osimhen
Victor Osimhen is refusing to take Napoli's penalties despite Rudi Garcia giving the go-ahead (Credit: Imago)

The 24-year-old has now rejected the opportunity to take the kick in three consecutive games since the offensive Tik-Tok video surfaced, and it remains to be seen if this changes anytime soon.

Tuesday night was a setback for Napoli, but the recent slight improvement in the attacking third offers some hope under Garcia despite initial issues with chance creation.

The Partenopei’s mean non-penalty expected goals (npxG) after their 2-2 draw with Genoa and before facing Braga on matchday one was 1.4. Including the game against the Portuguese outfit, that average xG rose to 1.8 before playing Ancelotti’s troops, and that slight upswing bodes well for the defending Serie A champions.

Rudiger may have had the final laugh against Osimhen, but both sides face off in the group’s penultimate clash at Santiago Bernabeu to possibly decide the winner of Group C.

The bigger the stage for Osimhen, the higher the motivation. Napoli’s number nine is by no means done yet.