Napoli 4-1 Lazio
3′ De Vrij, 43′ J. Callejón, 54′ Wallace(OG) , 56′ M. Rui, 73′ D. Mertens
Stadio San Paolo, Feb. 10th, 2018
Prior to this match, the past two weeks brought some nerves and confusion to many Napoli fans. The Amin Younes saga of who was thought to be the perfect fit for Sarri fell through, leaving many questions about this situation still unanswered. To make matters worse, Faouzi Ghoulam, eager to get back on the pitch and help his team, re-injured his knee in training, making it likely that he will be out the rest of the season. The news was a huge blow to the fans and the players who saluted the Algerian defender by wearing his jersey backwards during the pregame photo in appreciation of his services.
Maurizio Sarri celebrated his 100th Serie A game as the Napoli coach in style, and after the win yesterday, his record now stands at 71 wins, 18 draws and 11 defeats, scoring 228 goals and conceding 86. The exquisite technician had some big choices to make ahead of this battle as he selected Tonelli to start his first match in over a year with Albiol and Chiriches out, and continued to go with an in-form Mertens, despite a slight ankle knock last game.
As Juventus beat Fiorentina the night before, the pressure began to mount on the chests of Sarri’s players and Napoli fans worldwide. The opening couple minutes of the first half shocked Napoli as Lazio broke the deadlock early on with a dangerous cross from the Neapolitan Ciro Immobile, who found the foot of Stefan de Vrij to poke it past Reina. This was a scenario that Napoli were used to before as Lazio had done this earlier in the season, which gave Sarri’s boys a psychological lift to respond well in the moments to come.
Despite trailing, Napoli continued to attack with some promising chances. Insigne had a glorious chance from the left side as he dangerously curled the ball past the top corner. Moments later the Mertens almost had the crowd at their feet with an audacious effort in chipping the Lazio keeper off his line but found the top of the net. Finally, in the 43rd minute, Jose Callejon with a lovely touch inside the box scored the equalizer off a smart pass from Jorghino’s free-kick to escape the offside trap and give Napoli confidence.
Napoli came out flying in the second half as they would eventually secure a comeback victory and prove to the critics that they are serious Scudetto contenders. Callejon did some damage again with a cross intended for Insigne that the Lazio keeper would have saved but fortunately for Napoli, the ball deflected of Wallace who came sliding in making it 2-1.
The turning point of the match was the moment when Zielinski came on for Marek Hamsik, who had a slight back problem, to reinforce the midfield. The Pol made his presence known, as contributed heavily to the third and fourth goal. Mario Rui found the scoresheet and made it 3-1 in the 56th minute with a long distance strike that took a slight deflection off of Zielinski. Then in the 73rd minute, it was all Zielinski who started a clever Sarrissmo play from midfield, running down the left flank and making a brilliant pass to Mertens who lightly tapped the ball into the back of the net making it 4-1.
The important talking points to take away from this match include Napoli playing with a title winning mentality that has produced some excellent Sarrissimo football. Sarri’s players have still showed their hungry desire to win the Scudetto, despite the heavy losses of Ghoulam, Milik and Albiol. Mertens is been having a great latter half of the season with 5 goals in his last 4 league matches ending a big goal drought.
More credit should also be given to Zielinski who has played exceptionally well and giving his all when called upon from the bench. Also, it will be interesting to see who Sarri selects in his squad for Thursdays Europa League tilt with Leipzig. This comeback win demonstrated the character of the Partenopei to keep fighting until the end.
17 Shots 5
7 Shots on target 1
88% Pass Success 77%
56% Aerial Duel Success 44%
14 Dribbles won 19
15 Tackles 23
68% Possession 32%
By Mark Manganiello Follow @ManganielloMark