Napoli vs Sassuolo 2-0: Osimhen ‘Unmasks’ Neroverdi Defensive Woes

High-flying Serie A holders Napoli put lowly Sassuolo to the sword in their opening home game of the 2023/24 season. Goals on either side of halftime fired Partenopei to a routine 2-0 victory at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Sunday night.

Napoli came from behind to beat newly-promoted Frosinone 3-1 at the start of their Scudetto defense last week. Victor Osimhen’s brace inspired the reigning champions to a cruising victory on Rudi Garcia’s touchline debut. The free-scoring Nigerian striker picked up where he left off on Sunday night.

Giacomo Raspadori came close to breaking the deadlock in the third minute. But his thunderous half-volley from point-blank rattled off the near post. Despite weathering an early storm, Sassuolo found themselves 1-0 down after the opening half an hour of play. Osimhen scored his third goal in two Serie A matches to put Napoli in front.

Referee Antonio Giua refused to point to the spot after Matteo Politano hit the ground inside Sassuolo’s 18-yard box. However, after reviewing the situation with VAR, he awarded a penalty kick to Napoli. Osimhen was relentless from the spot to give Garcia’s team a well-deserved lead. Partenopei deserved nothing less for their electrifying start.

But for some reason, Napoli settled for a slender lead. They abandoned their attacking ambitions for the remainder of the first half. While Sassuolo found clear-cut chances at a premium, they almost punished their hosts for a lackadaisical attitude from a corner kick. Ruan was the highest jumper in the box, but his powerful header flew narrowly wide. 

Alessio Dionisi’s side showed signs of life late in the first half but still entered halftime on the back foot. But Sassuolo had a meltdown at the start of the season. Maxime Lopez received a straight red only seven minutes after the break, leaving his teammates without a chance of pulling off a comeback.

Things soon went from bad to worse as Napoli had another opportunity from the spot. Osimhen didn’t take responsibility this time, giving Raspadori a chance to get off the mark. The former Sassuolo forward skied the ball over the crossbar to offer the visitors hope something to cherish in an otherwise dismal encounter.

There was no way back when Giovanni Di Lorenzo put Napoli 2-0 up only four minutes after Raspadori’s miss. The captain broke one-on-one with Andrea Consigli after picking up a delightful pass from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and defeated the Sassuolo keeper with a composed finish.

Napoli had numerous openings to triple their lead and reach a three-goal landmark, as they did at Frosinone, but Consigli was alert to the danger. It didn’t help Sassuolo avoid a second consecutive loss at the start of the new Serie A season. Meanwhile, Garcia’s men head into the next round’s clash against out-of-sorts Lazio in high spirits.

Sassuolo’s sixth consecutive Serie A meeting with Napoli without a victory exposed many frailties within Dionisi’s ranks. Nailed to the bottom of the table as one of only three goalless sides, they’ll be looking to bounce back against early surprise package Hellas Verona next week.

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