…and now it’s eight. Eight wins out of eight games for Napoli, who made full score in Rome for the second time this season. After having thrashed Lazio 4-1 in the 4th Round, the Partenopei beat Roma 1-0 tonight thanks to a lone goal by their home-grown star Lorenzo Insigne.
Juventus’ surprise home loss against Lazio earlier in the day gave Napoli the advantage of knowing that, in case of victory, they would have widened the gap versus the Old Lady, and Insigne and his buddies took full advantage of that.
Napoli currently leads Serie A with 5 points of advantage on the Bianconeri, Lazio, and Inter. The Nerazzurri may reduce the gap to 2 tomorrow if the win their match against Milan, but regardless of the outcome of the Derby della Madonnina, Maurizio Sarri and their boys can no longer keep a low profile: This Napoli is among the top candidates – if not the number one candidate – to win the Scudetto.
The real question among the ranks of President Aurelio De Laurentiis is now how much the European duties will affect Napoli’s perfect run in Serie A, and how much Maurizio Sarri decides to invest in his Champions League campaign – considering that the Partenopei’s only seasonal loss so far came against Shakhtar Donetsk. Napoli’s lineup is rock-solid, but the squad lacks as many quality substitutes as Juventus have. Next Tuesday’s game in Manchester against the Citizens of Jose Guardiola will tell us more about that.
But for now, it’s once again time to celebrate for the blue jerseys, who took home three points as top teams do – capitalizing an early lead, and controlling the game despite suffering a little in the last third of the match. The Romanisti woke up too late, conceded Napoli a full first half where they didn’t manage to shoot a single time at Pepe Reina’s goal. When they finally did, Napoli’s goalie was quick enough to deflect on the post a header by Federico Fazio. Later on in the match, he was lucky when another header by Edin Dzeko hit the crossbar.
The goal that put Napoli ahead at 19’ is once again the result of a perfect combination between coach Sarri’s “little twins” Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens. The Belgian caught a long-range pass in the box to serve Lorenzinho, with the ball flipping on Daniele De Rossi’s foot before giving Napoli’s winger the chance for a lightning shot that left no chance to Alisson Becker.
Watching those two shorties play together and finding each other by heart is pure pleasure for football lovers, the clearest evidence of the perfect machine that Maurizio Sarri managed to build in Napoli. And whereas Insigne was born and raised in the Frattamaggiore suburb of the city, the Belgian is the classic example of a player who just found his edge under the Vesuvius.
Napoli is a complicated place, where wild card players can prosper and express themselves to their best, if they get to tune into the chaotic and passionate atmosphere of the city: “Ciro” Mertens – as Napoli fans affectionately nicknamed him, using one of the most common first names in the city – seems to have managed to do exactly that.
Rome is as passionate as Napoli when it comes to football, and Roma supporters are among the most critical and demanding in Italy: They would surely have expected more from coach Eusebio Di Francesco’s squad tonight, but the second half played by the Giallorossi was encouraging. Roma did manage to keep Napoli under pressure until the very last extra minute, when substitute Cengiz Under failed to convert a cross by Aleksandar Kolarov.
The aggressiveness shown in the last 45 minutes needs to be the starting point for Di Francesco in view of the upcoming Champions League match this Wednesday, when Roma will pay visit to Chelsea in a crucial match for the Giallorossi’s hopes to make it past the group stage.
SCORER: 20’ Insigne
ROMA (4-3-3): Alisson; Bruno Peres, Manolas (59’ Fazio), Juan Jesus, Kolarov; Pellegrini (78’ Gerson), De Rossi, Nainggolan; Florenzi (72’ Under), Dzeko, Perotti. (Skorupski, Lobont, Karsdorp, Nura, Moreno, Gonalons) Coach: Di Francesco
NAPOLI (4-3-3): Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho (73’ Diawara), Hamsik (71’ Zielinski); Callejon (82’ Rog), Mertens, Insigne. (Sepe, Rafael, Maggio, Maksimovic, Chiriches, Mario Rui, Ounas, Giaccherini) Coach: Sarri
REFEREE: Mr. Rocchi from Firenze
NOTES: Yellow Cards: De Rossi, Fazio (R), Jorginho, Ghoulam (N); Extra Time: 1’ 1st Half, 5’ 2nd Half