Napoli continued their fine form, picking up where they left off in Bologna last week to see off a stubborn Genoa side by two goals to nil in front of a sizzling San Paolo support.
The Scudetto-hopefuls were more than made to work for it though, struggling to really set the tempo in what was a slow and frustrating first-half with chances few and far between. The Rossoblu high-line coped well with the Napoli counter-attack and looked quite comfortable themselves, no doubt highlighted by their impressive spells in possession. Kalidou Koulibaly found himself in all sorts of positions, prominent at either end and glowing in rejuvenation following his country’s AFCON woes. The 25 year-old demonstrating some interesting contributions in both the attacking and defensive phases and reasserting his authority into the Gli Azzurri spine.
A lacklustre first-half was put to bed once Piotr Zielinski struck a sweet low drive from the edge of the box following a poor Genoa clearance, after the ever-present Dries Mertens got in behind. This appeared to spark the fiery and frenetic forward-play we’ve become accustomed to watching this season under the stewardship of Maurizio Sarri, dusting off the home fan’s ‘imposter’ taunts during the interval.
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The visitors responded by handing a debut to one-time QPR man Adel Taarabt, replacing January acquisition Raffaele Palladino much to the latter’s surprise, having undoubtedly been their best player on the night. This change meant Genoa had made all three substitutions before the hour mark, but none were forced through injury.
Moments later it did all come to a close, more magic from Mertens, outrageously shrugging off the much larger Burdisso, he laid it on a plate for substitute Emanuele Giaccherini. His first goal for the club, more than a token of the ‘Sarri way’, and with La Liga giants Real Madrid in sight on a European front, Ciucciarelli fans should go into this one full of intense optimism.
Pepe Reina was able to stay largely untroubled throughout the game and was equal to everything thrown at him. Captain Marek Hamsik was then given a rightful rapturous applause as he left the field. Diego Maradona’s goal record may still be lingering in the back of his mind and he was ultimately unsuccessful in further breaching the Argentine’s tally of 115 (Hamsik stays on 109 goals).