Napoli’s one-touch football annihilated Benevento in the two teams’ first ever Serie A regional derby, and earned the Partenopei a quick redeem after their disappointing Champions League debut.
For the first rendezvous in the Italian top tier between two clubs whose cities are only 50 kms afar, Maurizio Sarri insisted with the starting lineup that had unexpectedly lost to Shakhtar Donetsk last Wednesday, in an attempt to prompt a reaction from his players: He was compensated with six goals.
Benevento’s coach Marco Baroni, a former Napoli player himself, had multiple desertions among his lines – including the author of the Giallorossi’s only goal so far, Amato Ciciretti – but his boys’ past performances could make him hope for a different outcome. His side had been showing some good football in these early Serie A rounds, despite collecting three losses and no points. But today Napoli was simply too much.
It didn’t even help for Benevento appealing to Saints, as Italians often do especially in the South, when hoping for some “help from above” to overcome a desperate situation: In a supporter banner that quickly went viral on the Internet before the game, local fans begged San Gennaro – the notorious, well-beloved Patron Saint of Napoli – to remember that he was indeed born in smaller Benevento, and help his birthplace folks. But it seems that San Gennaro preferred to stick to the tradition and favor his adoptive city.
Balance was broken just five minutes into the game, when José Callejon’s run on the right flank ended with a shot that Benevento’s goalie Vid Belec deflected right on Allan Marques’ foot, for an easy tap in. At 14’, Lorenzo Insigne caught a pass by Falouzi Ghoulam, turned, and produced a sublime chip for Napoli’s doubling.
The blue jerseys maintained full control of the match and dispensed beautiful exchanges made of fast one-touch passes, whereas their opponents had serious difficulties even to pass the halfway line when in control of the ball.
At 27’, Insigne again produced a cross for Dries Mertens’ conversion into 3-0, but the way the Belgian eased past Benevento’s center backs clearly showed that today something was not working among Baroni’s lines. Just a few minutes later, Callejon made it four, making the best out of another sharp pass by Ghoulam. All too easy.
Marek Hamsik went close to the fifth goal before half time, when his curl shot was parried by Belec. Among the Napoli stars, the Slovak captain would end up being the only one missing from the scorers’ list.
On his side, coach Baroni sent in midfielder Danilo Cataldi for disappointing Swedish forward Samuel Armenteros, and moved from a 4-4-2 to a more prudent 4-5-1 module in an attempt to stop the pounding. He could still not prevent Dries Mertens from scoring twice more by converting two penalty kicks.
The first penalty was awarded at 63’, when Ramah Chibsah ingenuously pushed down Emanuele Giaccherini in the box. Giaccherini had been sent in a few minutes earlier to concede Lorenzo Insigne a standing ovation from his supporters at Stadio San Paolo.
Two minutes before end game, substitute Adam Ounas opened the umpteenth breach in Benevento’s defense and – quite intentionally – crashed against Gaetano Letizia. This time, conceding a penalty was a strict and unfair decision against poor Witches – but don’t tell Mertens, who was cold enough to convert his second attempt and complete his personal hat trick.
The count of attacking plays for today’s match reads 28-8 for Napoli and is the perfect picture of a game that was never in discussion. Napoli kept pace with Juventus and Inter, and still has a perfect record four games into the season – with an impressive scoring tally of 15 goals.
Whereas for Benevento, it’s clear that they will need to find their points to avoid a quick relegation somewhere else – starting from next Sunday’s match against Crotone.
SCORERS: 3’ Allan; 15’ Insigne; 27’ Mertens; 32’ Callejon; 65’ Mertens (pen.); 90’ Mertens (pen.)
NAPOLI (4-3-3) Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan (73′ Rog), Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon (65′ Ounas), Mertens, Insigne (58′ Giaccherini). (Sepe, Rafael, Maggio, Maksimovic, Chiriches, Mario Rui, Diawara, Zielinski, Milik). Coach: Sarri
BENEVENTO (4-4-2) Belec; Venuti, Antei (33′ Letizia), Lucioni, Di Chiara; Lombardi (77′ Parigini), Chibsah, Viola, Lazaar; Armenteros (55’ Cataldi), Coda. (Brignoli, Piscicelli, Gyamfi, Gravillon, Memushaj, Del Pinto, Kanoutè, Puscas, Brignola). Coach: Baroni
REFEREE: Mr. Irrati from Pistoia (Preti-Paganessi/Martinelli; Manganiello-Marinelli)
NOTES: Spectators: 45000; Yellow Cards: Letizia (B); Extra Time: 2′ 1st half, 0′ 2nd half