Edinson Cavani has gone eight matches without a goalFail to Prepare. Prepare to Fail. Chievo goalkeeper Christian Puggioni wasn't about to let Napoli catch him out. He'd done his homework on Sunday's opponents.
So when referee Gianluca Rocchi pointed to the spot after Chievo centre-back Dario Dainelli brought down Edinson Cavani in the area, he had an idea of where the Napoli striker intended to place his penalty.
"I'd studied this situation with the coaching staff during the week," Puggioni revealed afterwards.
Cavani, they discovered, tended to shoot to the goalkeeper's right. That's where Puggioni would dive. That's where he'd make a decisive save.
"I chose the right corner and it went well," Puggioni smiled. As his Chievo team-mates celebrated with him, Cavani stood, just yards away, hands on his hips, a blank stare on his face.
Had Cavani scored he would have got Napoli back into the game at the Bentegodi. It was the 58th minute. A Boukary Dramé curler from outside the box deigned Goal of the Weekend in Serie A by La Repubblica and yet another strike from Cyril Théréau, his sixth of the season, had established Chievo's 2-0 lead.
Napoli were down. But as Cavani stood over the spot with half an hour still to play they weren't yet out. They would be though once Puggioni managed to parry his shot away.
Cavani has missed from the spot before. Seven of his 22 penalties in Serie A have been unsuccessful. Not even the greatest Matador, it seems, can always escape the bull's horns. The cape of this one is in tatters at the moment, as is his confidence.
So prolific has Cavani been in open play since joining Napoli in 2010 that up until now he has been able shrug off other penalty mishaps. But not this one. Not this time.
Time is one of the things weighing on Cavani's mind. He has now gone 675 minutes without a goal, an eternity considering how prolific he has been at Napoli.
Lest we forget, Cavani broke Antonio Vojak's single season scoring record in his first campaign at the club, a record that had stood for 78 years.
Hitherto his scoring rate had shown no sign of abating.
Cavani has 93 goals already to his name in a Napoli shirt, a number reached so quickly in part because of the eight hat-tricks he's hit over the last two and half seasons. Many forecast that he would comfortably manage to overtake Diego Maradona as the club's all-time top scorer on 115, and do so in half the time it took him to establish that total.
What came so easily to him, however, has suddenly become inexplicably difficult. Cavani has gone six entire games without scoring in Serie A. Seven and a half if you also count his appearances in the Europa League.
Only once since he moved from Uruguay to Italy in the spring of 2007 has he been on a worse run without a goal. That dry patch in his final season at Palermo lasted nine games.
Back then of course, Cavani wasn't the goalscorer he is now. He was still developing and often played second fiddle to Fabrizio Miccoli, who tended to occupy the centre. Cavani got shunted out wide instead. It mustn't be forgotten that, while always viewed as a talent, his 'explosion' at Napoli and transformation into one of the world's most prolific scorers, demonstrated by his average climbing from 0.31 goals per game to 0.72, was something of a surprise.
Mindful of this, some honestly thought Cavani's first season at San Paolo might be a flash in the pan. If not that, then burnout was expected. He'd played the World Cup the summer before, the Copa America the next and the Olympics ahead of this one. And yet he stayed hot. There was no cooling off. Until now.
Cavani's last goal for Napoli was a late winner against Parma on January 27. It closed the gap with Juventus at the top of the table to just three points. Interviewed by La Gazzetta dello Sport the following week, El Matador talked bullishly about ending Napoli's 23-year wait for a third Scudetto.
He spoke of how it was "within our reach" and revealed that there was "a great hunger for success, the same that [Juventus] had last year."
The momentum certainly did seem with Napoli. The two-point penalty levied as part of the Calcioscommesse investigation was overturned. So too were Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava's bans.
Napoli were 15 points better off than at that stage last season. Cavani had scored 18 goals. Marek Hamsik had got nine and had set up 11 for his team-mates. They'd reinforced impressively in the January transfer window too, bringing in Sergio Armero from Udinese, a player well-suited to their style of play, and Rolando from Porto.
Instead of pushing on, however, Napoli have stuttered and fallen away. Since Cavani's last goal they have won one, drawn four - including a supposed title decider with Juventus at San Paolo - and lost one in Serie A. Viktoria Plzen dumped them out of the Europa League 5-0 on aggregate too.
Juventus in the meantime have extended their lead at the top of the table to nine points, the biggest advantage they've enjoyed all season, while also progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Everything has unravelled for Napoli and rather than catch Juve, their objective now is to ensure they're not caught by a resurgent Milan.
So what happened? Did Napoli choke? Are they so dependent on Cavani that whenever he slumps they slump too? There's certainly some truth to each of those arguments. Too often under coach Walter Mazzarri, Napoli haven't risen to the big occasion. Last season's triumph in the Coppa Italia is an exception. Decisions, like those in the Italian Super Cup at the beginning of this campaign, haven't always gone their way either.
Cavani's goals are obviously of huge importance to Napoli too. You can't say however that this team has ever been one-dimensional under Mazzarri. They've found other ways to beat opponents in the past and are a collective in the truest sense of the word. The group as a whole isn't functioning at the moment. Blame should be shared rather than laid solely on Cavani's shoulders.
A stronger hand from goalkeeper Morgan de Sanctis would have stopped Thereau from scoring on Sunday. Rolando has never played in a back-three before and is struggling to adapt. Armero is finding the movements of Napoli's 3-4-1-2 different to Udinese's. Gokhan Inler is no longer pulling the strings as well as he did earlier in the season. Hamsik is in just as much a rut as Cavani. Goran Pandev isn't relieving him of the goalscoring burden either while Lorenzo Insigne has as yet only shown flickers of his talent, as you might expect from a kid playing in his first full season in Serie A.
Suggestions that Cavani has had his head swayed by transfer speculation doesn't fit with his character either. He's one of the few players whose professionalism can never be doubted even if he has begun to entertain questions about his future. His spirit of self-sacrifice and willingness to track back to play as an auxiliary full-back rather than stay in the box has been cited as one of the reasons behind this goal-drought.
More likely to be playing on Cavani's mind is how his young family are. His wife went back to Uruguay and gave birth to their second child Lucas last week. Being away from them at this moment can't be easy. Cavani isn't a robot. He's only human and you could understand if his thoughts were with them rather than exclusively on football.
Runs like this happen to the best of players. Robin van Persie has scored just once in his last eight games. No one is saying that either him or Cavani are in the midst of the sort of downturn Fernando Torres experienced following his move to Chelsea. You'd expect them to come through the other side sooner rather than later.
Whatever happens, it feels like a cycle is coming to an end at Napoli. Mazzarri set the tone at the beginning of the season by revealing that he planned to let his contract run down and expire this summer.
On the one hand, he wanted to give a sense of finality to this season, to make the players think it was now or never. On the other, he was following the logic of the great Hungarian coach Bela Guttmann who always said that the third year is fatal, as the players are by then tired of your methods and stop responding. Oh, and he fancies a Pep Guardiola-like sabbatical too.
Then there's Cavani. He has expressed his wish to win something before he leaves Napoli. That something isn't the Coppa Italia which he lifted last season, but the Scudetto. It now appears unlikely that it will happen this year. Does he stay to realise that dream? Or does he go?
He certainly has a decision to make in the summer. Even though he signed a new contract until 2017 only six months ago, one that includes a €63m buy-out clause, there's a sense, regardless of whether Napoli qualify for the Champions League again, that it's time for him to move on.
"A lot will depend on the offer the president makes me at the end of the season," Cavani told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The president is prepared to pull out all the stops.
"I don't need the money," Aurelio De Laurentiis insists. "I need Cavani."
He's not grandstanding. Napoli's most recent set of accounts reveal they are in the black for a sixth year in a row. They don't have to sell, but they do have to convince Cavani to stay.
De Laurentiis has confidence in his powers of persuasion. Still there was more than a hint of succession planning in the way Napoli inquired about Sampdoria's Mauro Icardi in January.
If Cavani does leave, one thing's for sure: whoever picks up El Matador's Montera hat and magenta and gold cape will also have considerably large boots to fill.
James Horncastle will be blogging for us on all matters Serie A throughout the season. He contributes to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, The Blizzard and Champions magazine amongst others.