Assi di Coppe: Napoli, Three Goals to Forget Shakhtar

Maurizio Sarri’s offensive trident did once again its part in a roaring San Paolo Stadium tonight, as Napoli overcame Feyenoord by 3-1 to pick themselves up in their Champions League run, after having unexpectedly succumbed to Shakhtar Donetsk in the opening match two weeks ago.

Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, and José Callejon scored one goal apiece and dispensed each other courtesies and assists, exchanging roles and parts in the three winning occasions: My turn, your turn. Mertens bowing at Faouzi Ghoulam after receiving the pass for his 2-0 goal, Callejon bowing at the stands following the final scoring: Napoletani had fun, both on the pitch and on the bleachers, and showed that the Team spirit is strong – as a funny and touching moment exemplified only 6 minutes into the game:

Following the 1-0 scoring, Insigne run to his bench to grab an Arkadiusz Milk jersey and dedicate the goal to his unfortunate teammate – who will be missing the whole season due to a new terrible injury to his knee cruciate ligament. Too bad that Insigne initially got by mistake a jersey belonging to Piotr Zielinski, whom on the contrary is in a pretty good shape, and was also sent in later in the game…
Milik’s injury is indeed the only dark spot on Napoli’s extraordinary start of the season, where the team has been performing clockwork.

Lorenzo Insigne celebrates by showing his injured teammate Arkadiusz Milik’s shirt

Coach Sarri’s squad is the one that changed less in Serie A during last Summer’s transfer market, with basically no change in the starting lineup: Results so far seem to be showing that Sarri’s – and contested President Aurelio De Laurentiis’ strategy is the right one. Napoli works like a perfectly oiled machine, in which tonight even goalkeeper Juan Manuel Reina shone, stopping a penalty kick, and capitulating only during extra time for Feyenoord’s only goal. The way the Spaniard goalie reproached his defenders at their loss of concentration which led to Sofyan Amrabat’s scoring says much about the Neapolitans hunger for win: Six wins out of six Serie A games don’t happen by chance.

This round’s success, it needs to be said, was indeed made easier by the opponents’ scarce resistance. The Dutch champions confirmed all the doubts emerged in their losing debut against Manchester City, and couldn’t bring to the table much more than some sterile ball possession – which vanished as soon as the ball reached their inconsistent offensive line: Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s side pretty much exemplified the dark ages that Dutch football is going through.

Individual mistakes made it even easier for the Partenopei to grab some fundamental three points and place themselves behind Manchester City in Group F. While Insigne quickly found the key to unlock the match – with his crosses from the left flank continuously putting the Dutch defense in alarm, his first goal was propitiated by a ball loss by Amrabat. For Lorenzinho was indeed easy to produce a precise right foot shot that went past Feyenoord’s goalie Brad Jones. The Australian keeper had to work overtime to prevent the gap from increasing before half time, when he left the line to stop a dangerous advance by José Callejon.

Lorenzo Insigne’s shot that gave Partenopei the lead

But it was only a matter of time for Napoli to double their lead: three minutes into the second half, defender Kevin Diks operated a reckless pass back, that Ghoulam intercepted to serve Mertens an easy chance to score.

The Belgian forward turned into an assist man at 69’, when Renato Tapia had the great idea to clear the ball from his defensive half with a pirouette (…seriously, with your team losing by 0-2?) that failed miserably. Mertens delivered a golden ball to Callejon, who only needed to push it past Jones for the blue jerseys to make it three.

The late goal from Feyenoord made Napoli’s triumph only slightly less sweet, but it did prompt Maurizio Sarri’s anger – as the coach reported to be “more pissed off at the way we conceded one goal, than happy for our performance” in his post-match interview. Fair enough, but Napoli can look forward to the upcoming October 17th showdown against Manchester City straight head. The Citizens won 2-0 against Shakhtar tonight, so coming back from Manchester with some points would enable Insigne and his mates to face the decisive home retour matches with the British and Ukrainian sides from a much better position.

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