Near perfect Napoli run riot in sacking of Lazio, play best football of the season.

Near perfect Napoli run riot in sacking of Lazio, play best football of the season. post thumbnail image

Napoli Starting 11: Ospina, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Mario Rui, Lobotka, Fabian, Lozano, Zielinski, Insigne, Mertens.

Lazio Starting 11: Reina, Patric, Ramos, Acerbi, Hysaj, Milinkovic-Savic, Cataldi, Alberto, Anderson, Immobile, Pedro

Napoli 4                  Lazio

Scorers: 

Zielinski (7’) Mertens (10’, 29’) Ruiz (85)

After Milans 2nd defeat at home, Spallettii’s men knew the importance of their task this evening. A win against sixth place Lazio would ensure breathing room between Milan and the rising Inter. It would be no easy feat ,after a disappointing loss in the Europa league, they would be facing one of Serie A’s premiere strikers Ciro Immobile. But perhaps more importantly was the loss of their own star Victor Oshimen, who would be out for 3 months with a fractured skull. 

Tonight would also  feature the return of coach Maurizio Sarri, who’s charismatic football philosophy flourished and thrived at the Stadio Maradona many years. He brought with him former Napoli stalwarts, Pepe Reina and Elseid Hysaj,along with the usual suspects of Immobile, Alberto and Anderson. Napoli came into this lacking the aforementioned Oshimen but also missed Anguissa, Politano and Ounas. Demme was only deemed fit enough for the bench, which meant a rare start in the league for Lobotka and Mertens. The latters’ goalscoring talents were developed by Sarri, now he was going to reprise that centre forward role against him.

It was the first year anniversary of the iconic Maradaona’s death, a statue was unveiled of the Napoli figurehead before the match got underway.

Napoli would get the ball rolling almost immediately with a goal from Zielinski. In the 5th minute, Lozano drilled the ball into the box, Lazio Midfielder Cataldi failed to clear the ball which fell to Zielinski who fired it home.

As if possessed to perform with Diego looking on, the Azzurri quickly scored their second. Following a fluid one touch passing move from seemingly the entire squad, Insigne found Mertens who rolled back the years causing Lazio defenders to stumble and fall before faking his shot to pass another before firing into the back of the net. 

Lazio’s first real opportunity came from Immobile who dribbled the ball to the Napoli goal, but his angle was too sharp to properly work Ospina, and earned his team their first corner. 

Ospina would work alot harder with Lazio’s second shot, a first time volley from Luis Alberto destined for the top corner, which took a flying fingertip save to keep out. Lazio would press their advantage striking the cross bar from the ensuing corner. 

The game seemed to fling open, both teams intent on attacking football, leaving lots of space for attackers to run into. 

Unfettered by Lazio pressure, Mertents scored his second excellent goal of the night. After working the ball out to Lozano once again, the Mexican found Mertens in space just out of the box who took everyone by surprise with a looping first time shot over Reina and into the goal, Napoli were playing their best football of the season. 

The second half started off a lot quieter than the first in terms of goals, but Napoli certainly kept the pressure on Lazio, making sure they kept the pressure up, especially present in the front three who probably should have created more goal scoring opportunities for the side. 

But Napoli as a whole seemed to be cruising along. Lobotka, who hadn’t started a Serie A march since August was controlling the midfield, resembling a prime Jorginho, escaping pressure and keeping the attack ticking over. 

Rui’s curving shot from the left was one of the clearer chances Napoli had, but Reina managed to parry the ball away. 

Lazio seemed to be gathering more steam as the 2nd half went on, with Immobile a hair away from an excellent Lazzari cross. But this increased momentum came with a price Napoli began to find more space in behind to run into. 

Napoli’s reaction to their difficult week had been immense. Gone was the team who was undone by Inter and Spartak Moscow, here was a team full of invention, energy and solidity. The only response a team fighting for a Scudetto should have in the face of adversity. 

The magical performance was capped off by  the only goal that Ruiz knew how to score: a long range screamer. Taking the ball 25 yards out, he curled the ball with his left into the back of the net. Poor Pepe Reina was helpless, as he has been all game. 

That would be all and Napoli finally found themselves ahead on points against Milan. The Partonepei had put their challenge down that they were here to stay at the top of the table.