Coming off a mid-week Champions League win, Napoli were looking to keep momentum going with a win at home versus Torino. Napoli were victorious by a score of 2-0 with both goals coming from Gonzalo Higuaín, which were both taken from the penalty spot. Although Torino and other Serie A fans felt that the two spot kicks awarded to Napoli were controversial (I would agree with the second one), they can have few complaints about the result as Napoli dominated from the start and deservedly picked up their seventh win in nine league games to keep the pressure on leaders Roma and their 100%, Serie A record start. The scoreline at the end of this match should have been much more comfortable seeing as Napoli wasted many great opportunities.
- Gonzalo Higuain: He converted both times from the penalty spot in emphatic fashion, whilst also having some other scoring opportunties during the match but still seems to be finding his fitness level. I believe Napoli fans are going to see even more from Higuain when his form and fitness are at their peak.
- Dries Mertens: His best game as a Napoli player was against Marseille but he continued his great play on Sunday versus Torino. He showed off his speed, ball control and passing skills while he was on the field. It was indeed his quickness and ball control which allowed Napoli to draw it’s first penalty, with contact being made as he turned inside the box. All game, Napoli fans saw the confidence which Mertens is starting to gain in his play. Most of the time when Mertens had the ball at his feet a scoring chance would follow. He is making it extremely difficult for Rafa Benitez to leave him out.
- Clean Sheet: Although Pepe Reina was not exactly over-worked, he did make some key saves. However, for me, the most important thing was Napoli not conceding a late goal to make the game any more nervy than it needed to be. This team has done this a few times already during the season. Although the opponents were not a powerhouse, keeping them off the score sheet was ideal.
- Honorable Mentions: Marek Hamsik
- Torino Passing: Torino did not play it’s most impressive game (missing key players due to injury and suspensions) but their passing was truly awful. They allowed Napoli to counter attack and create numerous scoring opportunities due to their lack of accuracy and sometimes even power in their distribution
- 2nd Penalty Call: The controversial call that allowed Napoli to take a two goal, was talked, written and tweeted about endlessly after it occured. Was it a straight handball in the box? NO. Was it intentional? NO. Would it be called if there was video replay? Probably not. However, for me it was more of an issue as to how the Torino defender positioned his body in front of the ball, waived one arm upwards (left) whilst his right arm was not fully pressed against his chest which left a degree of doubt in the referee’s mind. In my opinion, the real foul was on Marek Hamsik, when Raul Albiol headed the ball back towards goal, Hamsik was bear-hugged and dropped to the ground by a Torino defender, WWE style.
- Finishing from Open Play: As mentioned above, Napoli should have put this game out of reach with a scoreline of four or five nil. Lorenzo Insigne missed a golden opportunity (as disccused below) and took 2-3 shots at target when he should have passed, Hamsik scuffed at a clear opportunity and Jose Callejon missed a breakaway amongst numerous other chances. Napoli need to finish these chances off to put games out of reach of opponents.
- Lorenzo Insigne Miss/Torino Goalkeeper: Insigne missed a great chance to put Napoli 3-0 ahead, when Torino’s goalkeeper, Daniele Padelli ventured outside the box and completely missed played the ball. When the ball got past the keeper, Insigne had to simply smash the ball with his left foot into the open net, however he decided to take the ball onto his right-foot before trying to chip it over the two retreating defenders and into the net. This attempt failed as the Torino defender deflected the ball out of play for just a corner.
- Pablo Armero Crossing: Coming off a decent game versus Marseille, I expected a better performance against a weaker side. However, it was in fact far from it especially his deliveries into the box. Most, if not all, of his crosses were either deflected, over or under hit or completely off his intended target. With Juan Zuniga missing significant time, Armero needs to play more consitently and provide much better service to keep his starting berth.
Napoli have a big match on Wednesday, October 30th versus Fiorentina at Stadio Artemio Franchi. For Napoli, getting points on the road versus a tough squad (Fiorentina only trail Napoli by four points) is important for their continued chase of the Scudetto, especially with the fantastic run of 9 consecutive victories which Roma is currently on, Juventus keeping pace and Inter Milan also doing well.
*** Special Note to AS Roma, they are on a historical run having won all nine of their opening matches and conceding only ONE goal! As a Napoli fan, I hope this run ends sooner rather than later (for example losing on Thursday) but for the emergence of Serie A, I hope it continues to raise awarness to all soccer fans that Serie A is back and back with a vengence. ***
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