Napoli Edge Towards Champions League with Udinese Demolition

In the curtain raiser of Serie A round 36, Napoli hosted Udinese at the Stadio Maradona. Whilst the visitors are almost in vacation-mode – laying in the middle of the table with no particular goal in mind – the Partenopei are involved in a thrilling battle to secure a spot in next season’s edition of the Champions League.

The hosts had the upper hand throughout the match, and took a deserved 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to goals from Piotr Zielinski and Fabian Ruiz, but Stefano Okaka pulled one back for the Bianconeri. However, The southerners flexed their muscle in the second half, adding three more goals, and ended the match in a 5-1 routing.

Gennaro Gattuso opted for his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with the in-form Victor Osimhen leading the attack, supported by Hirving Lozano, Zielinski and captain Lorenzo Insigne. Tiémoué Bakayako and Fabian took the double pivot roles.

On the other hand, Luca Gotti adopted his traditional 3-5-1-1 lineup. Okaka acted as the lone striker, with Roberto Pereyra playing in the hole. The Zebrette midfield was composed of Wallace, Jean-Victor Makengo and the fabulous Rodrigo De Paul.

Napoli dominated the match from the get-go, choking Udinese inside their own areas. Insigne was the first to test Juan Musso, trying his luck from distance, but the Argentine goalkeeper parried it away.

Few minutes later, a cross found Osimhen inside the box, and the Nigerian headed it down to Giovanni Di Lorenzo, but the right-back’s shot went wide despite having the goal at his mercy.

Nonetheless, after almost half an hour, the Azzurri got their opening goal thanks to the combination of Osimhen and Zielinski. The Pole headed the ball towards the former Lille man who put himself through on goal with a brilliant first touch, but his shot was somehow saved by Musso. However, Zielinski was in the right place to pounce on the rebound.

The attacking midfielder went on with his punishment of his former club, as just a few minutes later, he fed Fabian on the edge of the box, and the Spaniard sent a spectacular curler towards the top far corner. Musso did his best to reach it, but it was too good for the Zebrette shot-stopper, as the Partenopei doubled their lead.

Nevertheless, just when Napoli thought they were heading towards a comfortable victory, Udinese got one back before half-time. Okaka managed to fend off Kostas Manolas to receive De Paul’s pass. The Italian striker turned with the ball and unleashed a low drive towards the far corner that left no chance for Alex Meret.

After the interval, Lozano seemed to be eager on scoring a goal, but his shot went just above the woodwork. Few minutes later, a terrible pass from Musso gifted the Mexican a golden opportunity, as he ran straight towards goal and coolly finished himself to make it 3-1.

Substitute Ouwejan tried to grab another one for Udinese, but his shot missed the goal, and Napoli soon found their fourth of the night. Zielinski’s corner was headed by Manolas to the middle of the goal, but Musso failed to clear the ball, as Di Lorenzo scored with an easy rebound.

Napoli weren’t done yet as their captain terrorized Udinese with a fifth goal. The Zebrette’s defense tried to clear Matteo Politano’s ball, but it reached Insigne at the edge of the box, as he controlled it with his chest and unleashed a low shot that went past the Argentine keeper.

With this victory, Gattuso’s men are now temporary four points ahead of Juventus, as their path towards the Champions League seems to be more concrete than ever.

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May 11, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 36

SCORERS: 28′ Zielinski (N), 31′ Fabian Ruiz (N), 41′ Okaka (U), 56′ Lozano (N), 66′ Di Lorenzo (N), 91′ Inisgne (N)

NAPOLI (4-2-3-1): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Rrahmani, Hysaj (84′ Mario Rui); Fabian Ruiz, Bakayoko (84′ Demme); Lozano (76′ Politano), Zielinski (76′ Elmas), L. Insigne; Osimhen (71′ Mertens) (Contini, Ospina, Zedadka, Petagna, Costanzo, D’Agostino, Labriola) Coach: Gattuso
UDINESE (3-5-1-1): Musso; Becao (64′ Ouwejan), Bonifazi, Zeegelaar (76′ Samir); Molina, De Paul, Walace (54′ Forestieri), Makengo (86′ Palumbo), Stryger Larsen; Pereyra; Okaka (76′ Micin) (Gasparini, Scuffet, Llorente, De Maio) Coach: Gotti

REFEREE: Mr. Calvarese from Teramo
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Bonifazi (U); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 2′