Roma caught their third win in a row as they topped Napoli 2-1 in Serie A Round 11 on Saturday. Niccoló Zaniolo wrapped his third seasonal goal to push the Giallorossi ahead before Jordan Veretout could double the lead from the penalty spot. Arkadiusz Milik made it to the scorecard for the fifth time in four games to reduce the gap, but the Partenopei’s chase to the leading Wolves produced no further results.
Goalkeeper Alex Meret prevented his side from suffering a heavier loss with multiple brilliant saves, including a top-class stop on a penalty by Aleksandar Kolarov, thus redeeming himself from his mid-week hesitations against Atalanta.
Carlo Ancelotti and his son Davide – who replaced him on the bench as Carletto was serving a one-match ban – could also console themselves with an encouraging second part of the first half, when Lorenzo Insigne’s repeated scoring chances probably deserved a better outcome. And, of course, with Arkadiusz Milik’s magic moment – having the Pole put together a four-game scoring streak for the first time since he has been wearing an Azzurri jersey.
Roma’s Coach Paulo Fonseca, on the other hand, is the man of the moment along the Tiber banks. He was welcomed in Rome among much skepticism this summer, but has been gradually reshaping the Giallorossi’s identity for the best despite having had to face an unforeseen string of injuries during his initial months in the capital city.
Today, he continued to keep designated captain Alessandro Florenzi on the bench, and lined up Mert Cetin as starting center back to replace disqualified Federico Fazio (not exactly a brilliant performance for the Turkish defender, if truth be told). Gianluca Mancini was still deployed on the midfield line due to the injury-induced shortage of options in the role.
Javier Pastore and Justin Kluivert, two of the most disappointing Giallorossi last year during Eusebio Di Francesco’s tenure, appear transformed by the Portuguese coach’s hand and have become two of his most reliable starters.
A sharp long-range shot by Justin Kluivert was indeed the episode that unlocked the game today, before a good recovery by former Giallorosso Kostas Manolas would stop Javier Pastore’s challenge into Napoli’s box. The home side hit the gas, and their pressure bore fruit in the 19th minute, when Leonardo Spinazzola’s run all along the right flank ended with a golden service for Nicoló Zaniolo.
Roma’s sensation feinted twice before firing the ball past Alex Meret into the top right corner of the goal, winning the Giallorossi a much-deserved lead.
In the 22nd minute, Aleksandar Kolarov challenged again the Neapolitan goalie with a powerful shot from the left side, only to see his conclusion pushed away. Meret did even better two minutes later, when referee Gianluca Rocchi sent the Serbian left-back on the penalty spot.
Rocchi saw José Callejon touching the ball with an arm in his own box, and the VAR confirmed his decision to award a penalty against the Partenopei. Alex Meret however sprang to his right to stop Aleksandar Kolarov’s attempt, winning the second round of his personal battle with the Serbian.
Napoli’s narrow escape from the second goal shook up the Partenopei, who finally started to show themselves around Roma’s area. In the 27th minute, it took a superb clearance by Chris Smalling right on the goal line to neutralize Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s header.
Then, it was Lorenzo Insigne’s turn to test the Giallorossi in two separate occasions. As Turkish center back Mert Cetin struggled to restrain him, Napoli’s captain first fired a long-range shot which ended just a few inches out of target, then saw another conclusion of his parried back by goalkeeper Pau Lopez.
The Azzurri went as far as hitting the post twice in the same offensive action: In the 40th minute, Arkadiusz Milik’s header from point-blank range ended its run on the crossbar, and Piotr Zielinski’s subsequent volley also connected with Pau Lopez’s left post, leaving the score unchanged at half time.
Roma were awarded a new penalty early in the second half when Javier Pastore’s cross from the left side hit Mario Rui’s wide-open stretched arm. The Partenopei attempted some feeble protest, but Gianluca Rocchi’s face was like “come on guys, if THIS one is not a penalty…”
Midfielder Jordan Veretout took the responsibility of burying the spot, and delivered a perfect conclusion to lift Roma up at 2-0, despite Alex Meret correctly reading the direction of the ball once again.
Napoli substitute coach Davide Ancelotti tried to reshuffle his offensive cards, sending in Hirving Lozano and eventually Fernando Llorente to switch to an offensive 4-3-3 module. However, Roma were the ones to come closer to score again as Justin Kluivert hit the crossbar in the 58th minute.
Ten minutes later, the referee stopped the game as Roma supporters were repeatedly heard singing racing chants against the Neapolitans (“Wash them with fire, Vesuvius” – a reproachable antic often heard when the Partenopei play). It took the help of the Wolves’ captain Edin Dzeko, who invited his fans to cheer for the team rather than showing how stupid they can be, to restart the match. Rocchi thanked Dzeko for his help, and so do we.
Arkadiusz Milik halved his side’s gap in the 71st minute, as he caught a suggestion from the right by Hirving Lozano to anticipate a confused Mert Cetin and push the ball in the untended goal. That was, however, Napoli’s last offensive blitz. Roma, on the other hand, had more chances to round the score up.
Javier Pastore was denied a goal by Alex Meret’s prodigious reflexes, though his header will never make it to the football records as the Argentinian was ruled offside. Edin Dzeko also saw his third goal cancelled on grounds of an offside position. Roma went the distance preserving their lead and despite the late expulsion of Mert Cetin, who managed to collect two yellow cards in the space of three minutes.
As they wait for Atalanta to face Cagliari tomorrow, the Giallorossi have temporary lifted themselves up to the third spot in the league table. For Napoli and their manager Carlo Ancelotti, which tomorrow risk plummeting to the seventh place in the rank and have never been quite convincing in their domestic performances so far, the future looks more uncertain.
November 2, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 11
SCORERS: 19′ Zaniolo (R), 55′ Veretout (R, pen.), 72′ Milik (N)
|ROMA (4-2-3-1): Pau Lopez; Spinazzola, Cetin, Smalling, Kolarov; Mancini, Veretout; Zaniolo (81′ Under), Pastore (89′ Santon), Kluivert (77′ Perotti); Dzeko (Fuzato, Mirante, Juan Jesus, Florenzi, Antonucci) Coach: Fonseca|
|NAPOLI (4-4-2): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Callejon (58′ Lozano), Ruiz, Zielinski, Insigne (83′ Younes); Milik, Mertens (65′ Llorente) (Ospina, Karnezis, Luperto, Maksimovic, Tonelli, Hysaj, Elmas, Gaetano) Coach: D. Ancelotti (replacing C. Ancelotti)|
REFEREE: Mr. Rocchi from Florence
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Kluivert, Spinazzola, Under (R), Mario Rui, Milik (N); Red Card: Cetin (R); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 6′