Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Napoli Blogger On September - 16 - 2011

Napoli Notizie - A Partenopei Party In Manchester

Let me take you back to November 4th 2010. Napoli played Liverpool at Anfield. Napoli were 1-0 ahead thanks to an Ezequiel Lavezzi goal after 28 minutes and remained ahead with 15 minutes to play. Napoli fell apart to lose 3-1. The Partenopei could not cope with the Premier League sides ability to increasing the intensity as they sought to level and eventually win the game.

Fast forward to September 14th 2011 and the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and Napoli again were again 1-0 ahead, this time against free spending and superstar laden Manchester City. This time the result was very different.

Napoli’s Champions League debut was an entertaining affair between two sides who had been through the mill in recent times. This was something of a coming of age tale for both sides but Manchester City were clearly the favourites, so much so you could bet on Napoli to beat City at odds of 14/1 and for the first 20 minutes of the match it looked like it was going to be a long evening but Napoli weathered the early storm with some dogged defending a little bit of luck.

Napoli were set up to play on the counter attack but with a back three which included Salvatore Aronica could it hold out? It did and Napoli began to gain confidence. Indeed it was ‘Pocho Lavezzi who hit the bar midway through the first half to give Manchester City a scare. Of course City were the superior side and they dominated possession also hitting the bar through Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko firing just wide off the far post but Napoli managed to get to half time level unharmed.

The second half saw Napoli become far more ambitions as City became more frustrated at Napoli tactical master plan. Walter Mazzarri even saw fit to replace Lavezzi who picked up an ankle knock with a midfielder in Blerim Dzemaili and not the more obvious replacement of Mario Santana. This changed Napoli to a 5-3-2/3-5-2 formation, the three central midfielders, Gokhan Inler, Walter Gargano and Dzemaili began to cause City serious problems in the centre of the pitch as Samir Nasri was nullified. Gareth Barry became redundant as Napoli outnumbered City in the centre.

Napoli then began to create some excellent chances. City can not say they were not warned of the threat. Marek Hamsik had a goal bound shot cleared on the line magnificently by Vincent Company and another shot deflected for a corner. Shortly after Napoli’s efforts paid off as Christian Maggio broke free after Gareth Barry lost control in the Napoli half of the pitch, Maggio set up Edinson Cavani who was free to his right to slide the ball past Joe Hart in the Manchester Goal. It was a deserved lead based on the Napoli performance in the second half. It was clear in the 15 minutes leading up to the goal that the Napoli players believed they could perform at this level.

Manchester City stepped up another level and the ghosts of Anfield from last year looked like they were retuning when former Lazio man Alezander Kolarov fired in a free kick to set up a grand stand finish…with 15 minutes to play as against Liverpool the year before. Unlike last years game, Napoli were able to deal with the extra intensity Manchester played with and obtained the precious and hard earned point many thought was unobtainable.

This was a team effort, every man in the grey shirt of Napoli performed to a level I have never seen before. Juan Zuniga was a real thorn on the left side. Salvatore Aronica was a rock at the back, Walter Gargano was peerless in the centre of the pitch and the front three were as dangerous as ever.

A special mention for Walter Mazzarri who constantly learns from his mistakes. Last year in Liverpool he was unprepared for the number of gears English sides can go through when they need to. This time round he gave the side clear and specific instructions. Defend with concentration and make the most of the ball when you have and it paid off.

Yes, it is only one Champions League game and yes Manchester City were a little nervous but this was a City side which had been ripping up the Premier League in England and this was only Napoli’s second game of the season. For a team ranked as 4th best team in the group, Napoli proved to fans, to the neutrals, the mainstream media and most of all the players proved to themselves that they belong at this level.

Lets not get carried away though. In reality Napoli are playing for third in this group, but they have a point, a valuable away point and as the great manager Sir Alex Ferguson always says, 10 points usually gets you through. If true then Napoli only have to win the three home games, easier said than done…..

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