Napoli StartingXI: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Mario Rui, Lobotka, Fabian, Elmas, Zielinski, Lozano, Mertens.
Salernitana StartingXI: Belec; Delli Carri, Bogdan, Veseli; Kechrida, Schiavone, Di Tacchio, Obi, Gagliolo; Bonazzoli, Vergani
Scorers: Jesus (17’), Bonazzoli (33’) Mertens (45’), Rrahmani (47’), Insigne (53’)
Napoli: 4 Salernitana: 1
Napoli fans were hoping this match against neighbors Salernitana would be a bit easier than their struggle last October. The home side were tiptoeing towards a revival in their form, unbeaten in the new year. Oshimen and Insigne were back on the bench but not ready for the full 90. Salernitana had the opposite of fortunes. Not only had the plucky underdogs gone through a last minute ownership change just to remain in the league but also had 7 players out to covid including captain Frank Ribery who caused such stress in the reverse fixture. The Salerno squad were so depleted that the teenage nephew of the Owner Ievermino was on the bench.
In the first 5 minutes of the match it was clear to see the tactics of the two sides. Napoli, with the superior firepower, would control the tempo of the match. And the depleted Salernitana would defend and hope to pull off a successful counter.
Mario Rui had the first shot on target, his freekick on the edge of the box went over the wall and stung the palms of Belec sending the ball out of play.
It looked like it was going to be a busy day for the away keeper. After a slick 1 touch sequence through the defense, Fabian found himself in some space just outside the box and fired a curling shot towards the goal. It took all of Belecs’ natural ability to keep the ball out.
Juan Jesus believed that he had scored his first proper goal for the club. An incoming cross ricocheted of Elmas into the path of Jesus who rather efficiently slotted the ball into the back of the net. Although initially disallowed by a potential handball, the decision was overruled by var for the breakthrough.
Napoli, guilty of taking the pressure off in previous matches, were determined to turn the screw. Mario Rui found the ball on the sideline and drilled it across the goal which Elmas and Lozano were only fractions off putting away.
Mertens would be the next player to have a crack at the Salernitana goal, after a smart turn and dribble the Belgian fired the ball but could only send it directly at Belec.
Despite all the Napoli dominance, Salernitana would be the next to score. After drawing Rui out of position, former Inter winger Obi was able to run the ball down the sideline and fire the cross into the box where Bonnozoli was waiting to stun the Stadio Maradona into silence with an excellent strikers finish.
Ruiz would pepper the goal with a second curled attempt, which took a similar excellent save to deter him.
But despite Salernitana’s efficient defensive display in the 1st half, they couldn’t deter Napoli’s front three for long. Elmas won the ball just beyond the halfway line and his dribble was only stopped by a foul deep in the 18 yard box. Mertens stood up to take the shot from the penalty spot and slotted the ball away for Napoli’s second.
Napoli would not repeat the same mistake of switching off, getting their third goal just after the break. Another goal from a set piece, Zielinski rose and headed the ball to Mertens on the right, the stiker would fire the ball across the net which Rrahmani managed to deflect home for Napoli’s third.
Salernitana started to crumble after that. Substitute Lorenzo Insigne found space to dribble into the box, and fired into the armpit of the defending Veseli. This was deemed enough for another penalty and the Italian’s second yellow sending him off. Insigne took the penalty and scored his first since his announcement to leave for Toronto.
Napoli took full control in the later stages of the match. The extra man and quality from the bench would help them dictate the match to their liking.
Napoli cruised through the closing stages for a comfortable 4-1 win. Salernitana were never really in contention, even when they equalized. Napoli seemed to be slowly regaining their early season form and beat a team they were expected to. Onto Venezia!