Napoli Put Five Past Lazio to Continue Dreaming of Champions League

Napoli’s message to their Champions League contenders was loud and clear: Gennaro Gattuso’s boys will fight for a spot into the top European competition until the end as the five goals they scored to Lazio on Thursday night put them two points behind fourth-placed Juventus.

The Partenopei‘s run of form could make the difference in the end, considering they have played all their direct rivals and seem to have an easier calendar than their contenders on paper.

Lazio were brutally hammered at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium but still have one game in hand. Should they win their catch-up match against Torino, they will be four points from the last Champions League spot available. It is not over for the Biancocelesti either, though tonight’s setback may take a heavy toll on their morale.   

The match at the Maradona took a clear direction after four minutes already, the consequence of an episode that could have set Lazio off to a good start but rather benefited Napoli. Manuel Lazzari dashed into the Partneopei‘s area and was pushed down by Elseid Hysaj. It looked like a penalty for the visitors but the VAR painted a different picture.

Referee Marco Di Bello pressed the rewind button and noticed that, right before Hysaj’s challenge, there had been a foul into Lazio’s box, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic hitting Kostas Manolas. Di Bello thus awarded a penalty to the Azzurri and waved a yellow card at the Serbian. From the spot, Captain Lorenzo Insigne made no mistake and drew Napoli ahead.

One soon became two for the home side as Matteo Politano caught Pepe Reina by surprise on the near post with a sharp shot from the edge of the box.

Lazio were stunned but managed to organize a counter-offensive and took control of the operations for the remainder of the first half, which turned into a nervous affair with several players booked on either side. The Biancocelesti‘s good intentions, however, crashed into Napoli’s goal posts, which saved Alex Meret from a deadly Joaquin Correa conclusion. At half time, it was still 2-0 for the Partenopei.   

Napoli had their third eight minutes into the second period, as Insigne concluded a brilliant give-and-go with Hysaj with a stunning right-foot curl that added to Reina and Lazio’s woes. It was his second goal of the night and an overly important one, as he allowed him to leapfrog a certain Diego Maradona in the all-time goalscorers ranking with the Napoli jersey.

Dries Mertens joined the party 12 minutes later, emulating his teammate with an equally beautiful curling effort for which Reina had no answer, making the best out of a Piotr Zielinski cross.

At that point, Napoli hit the brakes and allowed the visitors to perform a mini-comeback. Ciro Immobile scored one for the honor and to continue chasing Cristiano Ronaldo in the Serie A top-scorers ranking, then Milinkovic-Savic whipped the ball into the back of the net from a free-kick to make the Biancocelesti‘s defeat less painful. 

But, before Lo Bello’s final whistle, there was still time for Victor Osimhen to score his sixth seasonal goal. The Nigerian giant received the ball from Hirving Lozano and made it five for the Azzurri with a fine right foot shot.

So, it was one of those days for Napoli – one of those dominating performances that Gennaro Gattuso’s side put together many times this season. Had the Partenopei not been so inconsistent, perhaps they wouldn’t be still scrambling to grab the last Champions League spot with just six games to go.



April 22, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 32

SCORERS: 7′ Insigne (N, pen.), 12′ Politano (N), 53′ Insigne (N), 65′ Mertens (N), 70′ Immobile (L), 74′ Milinkovic-Savic (L), 80′ Osimhen (N)

NAPOLI (4-2-3-1)Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas (71′ Rahmani), Koulibaly, Hysaj; Fabian Ruiz, Bakayoko (89′ Lobotka); Politano (72′ Lozano), Zielinski (82′ Elmas), Insigne; Mertens (72′ Osimhen) (Contini, Idasiak, Zedadka, Maksimovic, Mario Rui, Petagna) Coach: Gattuso
LAZIO (3-4-2-1): Reina; Marusic, Acerbi, Radu; Lazzari, Milinkovic (83′ Akpa Akpro), Lucas Leiva (58′ Cataldi), Luis Alberto (64′ A. Pereira), Fares (65′ Lulic); Correa, Immobile (83′ Muriqi) (Strakosha, Alia, Musacchio, Hoedt, Patric, Parolo, Caicedo) Coach: Farris (replacing S. Inzaghi)

REFEREE: Mr. Di Bello from Brindisi
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Manolas, Fabian Ruiz, Mertens, Di Lorenzo (N), Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva, Immobile, A. Pereira (L); Extra Time: 1st Half 4′, 2nd Half 3′