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

The Time Is Napoli!

Italy’s two premier sides went head to head in the peninsula’s showcase match of Week 2. Both the Partenepoi and Rossoneri earned respectable draws against hotly fancied opposition in Manchester City and Barcelona respectively midweek, were coming into the Sao Paolo clash with injury concerns. The home-side’s charismatic forward Ezequiel Lavezzi was deemed fit enough to start whilst Alberto Aquilani made his first full start for the Italian Champions in the place of Kevin Prince Boateng.  Summer signing Stephen El – Sharaawy was on the bench.

The Rossoneri assumed dominance from the kick-off with Ignazio Abate continuing his impressive rise from outside forward to outside contender for Ukraine next summer with some charging runs. However the key problem from last season continued as Napoli were more than prepared to play on the break with an inspired Gokhan Inler snapping away at the heels of Milan’s slow and uncreative midfield.

The away side’s lethargic control shifted  in the 11th minute as Clarence Seedorf skipped away from his marker and sprayed the ball to the right hand side for Antonio Cassano. The Italian international was involved with both Milan’s goals last weekend and continued his impressive start to the season with a clipped ball over that Aquilani headed powerfully into the top corner from the edge of the box!

The crowd weren’t stunned into silence for long though as Napoli scored with the very next run of play! Daniele Bonera conceded a pointless freekick  in a dangerous position that  Ezequiel Lavezzi subsequently whipped in devilishly and within a blink of an eye Christian Maggio headed the ball across the box for Edison Cavani to volley instantly through Abbiati’s legs, game on.

Milan tried to reassume control of the match but Napoli were more than happy to allow them the ball in and around the box before breaking with dynamism and menace. This energy and purpose has become a characteristic of the home side under  Walter Mazzarri and showed up Milan’s shortcomings in the 34th minute when Gargano – hardly the most athletic player – ran straight through the middle  leaving Mark van Bommel to chase a shadow  and fed Cavani on the left hand side of the box to smash home the ball emphatically. It seemed as if the Uruguayan was shaping up to curl it into the far post but he beat Christian Abbiati –who must take fault for both goals- at his near post.

Aquilani ought to have brought the scores level before the half time whistle as he ran beyond the defensive line to be left one on one with the goalkeeper but didn’t do enough with his shot and Morgan De Sanctis saved it with his legs.

No changes in personnel in the second half and Napoli continued to soak up the pressure and charge forward at speed whereas at the other end of the pitch Cassano and Pato looked starved of the ball and somewhat disinterested. Abbiati reacted quickest off his line to take the ball away from Marek Hamsik but moments later Cavani completed a hat-trick with a Batistuta-esque snap-volley. It’s the 24 year olds fourth hat-trick for Napoli with the others coming against Juventus, Lazio and Sampdoria.

The home side were carving through Milan’s midfield at will now with the likes of Maggio and Hamsik making the senior players such as Van Bommel and Seedorf look like they were playing in quicksand. Meanwhile Pato fresh full of confidence after his fine performance at the Camp Nou was resorting to simulation as he was being left isolated and trying to do too much on his own.  Tempers were flaring elsewhere too, as the usually cool as a cucumber Alessandro Nesta lost his composure after being scythed down by Aronica from behind.

Allegri turned to Luca Antonini and Urby Emanuelson to add some fresh ideas whilst Dzemalili was brought in by Mazzari for an anonymous Hamsik to tighten up the midfield and see them home. In the 70th minute Milan got behind Napoli’s backline for once as Seedorf’s sliderule pass was chipped back into the dangerzone by Antonio Cassano, but with De Sanctis stranded, Pato mistimed his jump and headed the ball harmlessly over.

In contrast to Milan’s laborious build up, Napoli effortlessly tip-tapped their way to create an opening for Djemalili, but the substitutions shot from just outside the box flashed wide. In a last attempt to salvage something from the match, Allegri gambled on the unknown quantity Stephen El Sharaawy. The former Genoa teen cost the Italian Champions 6.5 million pounds in the summer and he replaced Alberto Aquilani for only his fifth game in Serie A.

Napoli could have secured the points with ten minutes to go but Lavezzi chose the selfish option and shot wide from the right, rather than rolling across the box for Dzemalili after another clinical counter-attack.  For the first time in the match Napoli were looking out of their comfort zone now and Juan Zuniga cleared acrobatically after Pato’s instant control out of the air left him the firm favourite to set up a nervy end to the game.  The backline steadily began to creep deeper and deeper now as Pato, Cassano and El Sharaawy all had shots blocked by desperate defenders.

In the end though the victory was both deserved and comfortable. Napoli’s performance was accomplished and highlighted everything positive about them; solid defending, athletic midfielders and Edinson Cavani’s ruthless finishing. On the other hand Milan’s showing emphasized all their issues; lack of creativity, tired old legs and Antonio Cassano’s toothless attacking .

Qasa Alom

Broadcast Journalist. Writer for Serieaweekly, subtitled online or anyone else daft enough to want me. These are my thoughts (even the clever ones)

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