Napoli came into this match versus Torino needing to respond very well to last week’s draw against Fiorentina. This was a must win game for the Partenopei as they looked to retain first place after an Inter loss to Undinese. A win would silence the ongoing media criticism over the past few matches, and get the boys back on track. Safe to say, they answered the call.
Moments after the opening whistle, Koulibaly drew first blood, scoring in the 4th minute. A header off a corner kick by the Senegalese man went in short side, leaving Sirigu with no chance to save it. This was key for the team going forward throughout the match as it directly instilled confidence amongst Sarri’s players. This was Napoli’s 6th goal from a corner this season, currently top in Serie A.
Many fans were surprised with Sarri’s opting not to start Insigne in this one, who just returned from injury, but served to be the correct choice in the end. Zielinski performed much better than last weekend. The polish international was more actively engaged on the offensive plays and seemed more comfortable in Insigne’s role, capitalizing on a splendid goal in the 25th minute from a Jorginho through ball that split the Torino defense apart. That being said, Lorenzo Insigne was urging to get back into action and replaced Zielinski in the 70th minute. The Neapolitan showed many signs of recovery picking up where he left off before his injury, sprinting on the attack and creating many offensive opportunities with Mertens and Callejon.
This match marked a special moment in Napoli history as Marek Hamsik’s goal in the 30th minute tied Maradona’s tally of 115 goals with the Azzurri shirt. Not only was this a massive accomplishment for the skipper but his play on the field made him the man of the match. He showed his regular playing style again by being sufficiently involved on both defensive and attacking plays, providing a much needed boost to the midfield play. Going forward, when will Marek pass Maradona? Christmas is coming after all….
This was a big character win for the Partenopei putting their past slumps behind and revealing their true ambitions in challenging for the Scudetto as they regained first place in Serie A. Moreover, this was a match that was a pleasure to watch. The beautiful Sarrisimo football that fans are used to seeing was in full force as Napoli kept 61 % possession of the ball. The team created many link-up plays to their attacking trio from interchangeable triangle passes between the backline, midfield and forwards; making this an exciting and fantastic game for the eyes of the Napoli faithful. Their next fixture is next Tuesday against Udinese in a Coppa Italia matchup. It will remain to be see whether Sarri will remain with the same XI or start Insigne and slot Diawara or Jorghino to give a rest to the midfield.
By Mark Manganiello Follow @ManganielloMark