This post came a little late due to the fact I did not want to write it (joke). Napoli went into Roma to face a red hot 7-0 squad. The task became even more difficult with Juan Zuniga missing and Gonzalo Higuain not starting either. Two goals from Miralem Pjanić, both from set pieces; a free-kick and a penalty kick kept Roma perfect for the season and five points clear of second place. Although Napoli lost, the game was not as bad as most critics made it out to seem (@Marco_Masucci) as the goals came from set-pieces, whilst Napoli had their chances but were sloppy in possession, turning over the ball.
- As Roma: Need to give credit when credit is due and Roma look awesome. They are playing extremely well and move as a unit both up and down the pitch. The midfield duo of Kevin Strootman and Daniele De Rossi are a force and in my opinion the signing of Strootman is one of the best of the summer, whilst De Rossi has been playing at another level. De Rossi also made a goal-line clearance to keep the game level and changed the course of the match.
- Miralem Pjanic: His free-kick goal scored at the end of the first half was pure class. It went up and over the wall leaving no chance to the diving Pepe Reina. Although his second goal was from the penalty spot, Pjanic showed poise and confidence to score his second of the game. A crazy week for him, seeing as Bosnia secured it’s spot at the World Cup for the first time in their history.
- Lorenzo Insigne: Perhaps the only bright spot of the Napoli side was Insigne. He provided a great ball to spring Goran Pandev on a breakaway vs. former Napoli team-mate Morgan De Sanctis, but shot straight at him. The other real chance Napoli had came when Insigne got free from Maicon on the turn inside the box, beat De Sanctis with his shot but unfortunately hit the post. I would also like to give full credit to Insigne because on this play he could have easily fell to the ground to get Napoli awarded a penalty, he did not (in hindsight maybe he should have as it could’ve changed the match.)
- Honorable Mentions: Marco Borriello, Gervinho, Morgan De Sanctis
- Paolo Cannavaro: It was just not for him on this night. He conceded the foul/free-kick at the end of the first half (did not deserve the yellow – harsh), which Pjanic converted. Then in the second half got into a tangle with Marco Borriello in the box that lead to the penalty kick. Cannavaro got his second yellow of the match and was subsequently sent off leaving Napoli with 10-men. Reading on twitter that Napoli tifosi blame Cannavaro for the loss, is ridiculous. Firstly, it is a team game and second, the first yellow card he received, as mentioned, was harsh and Pjanic had to score from the free-kick (which is not a given) the penalty which was awarded.
- Goran Pandev: He had to finish. Enough said.
- Marek Hamsik: Will the real Hamsik, please stand up! He has been out of sorts since the game vs. AC Milan. For Napoli to achieve success, it is essential that Hamsik plays well. Every team needs a focal point and in my opinion, for Napoli it is Hamsik.
- Injuries: The game had the making of a real classic, unfortunately injuries before and during the game made the battle for first lose a little of it’s glamour. Juan Zuniga missed the game due to knee surgery and Higuain did not recuperate sufficiently from an injury sustained previously. Then during the game Roma was forced to sub off Francesco Totti due to injury and Napoli was forced to sub Britos due to injury as well.
- Territorial Chants: This continues to spread accross Serie A like wild fire as the fines/penalties vs Serie A teams are just making the “Ultras” of every club even more united. To be honest, territorial chants are an issue but they have been part of the game for so long. I believe racist chants (even though some of the Territorial Chants can be viewed as racism) toward players are far worse and should be heavily penalised.
In the end, Napoli were outplayed by a well-run and tactically sound team – they have the best midfield in Serie A at this point. There is a reason Roma have only conceded ONE goal after eight games and have themselves scored 22. As it stands Roma are statistically the best team in Europe. Napoli need to turn the page quickly seeing as they have their Champions League away match vs Marseille on Tuesday October 22***. Then Napoli are back at home vs. Torino.
*** Napoli won their away match versus Marseille 2-1, with goals from Jose Callejon and Duvan Zapata.
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