Napoli versus Roma is always an important game, made even more so by Paulo Dybala’s last minute heroics for Juventus at the Olimpico.
La Joya’s late strike gave Juventus an important 1-0 victory over Roma’s city rivals Lazio and really upped the ante for both sides ahead of the clash of Serie A’s most fervent challengers for Juventus’ crown.
The game began at a frantic pace with Diego Perotti missing a gilt-edged chance from an inch perfect cross from Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan. After Perotti’s miss, the Partenopei really kicked into gear with Lorenzo Insigne leaving international team mate Alessandro Florenzi for dead and slotting past Allison to give the Neapolitans an important 1-0 lead.
Napoli’s lead was not to last for long as Roma’s Turkish starlet, Cengiz Under, leveled matters within 90 seconds, his shot deflecting off former Roma full-back Mario Rui over Pepe Reina into the back of Napoli’s net.
The key matchup in the first half of this game was the ongoing battle between Insigne and Florenzi. For much of the game Florenzi was made look poor by his compatriot with Insigne benefitting from a lapse in Florenzi’s concentration to give Napoli the lead. Following Insigne’s opener he could well have scored more but for his wayward shooting as Florenzi was way off the young Neapolitans pace, it is also important to note that he was ably assisted by Brazilian stopper Allison.
Despite Florenzi playing poor in defence for the Giallorossi, it was great offensive play by Florenzi which led to Roma taking a surprise lead into half time. Florenzi broke down the wing providing a tantalizing cross for Dzeko to glance past Reina. Napoli dominated the possession in the first half, but their inability to convert proved costly, as Roma took a 2-1 lead into the half time break.
The second half began with Napoli on top once again as Jorginho, Allan and Piotr Zielinski dominated the midfield battle, overshadowing their Roman Counterparts. Florenzi continued to struggle at right back with Insigne drifting infield shooting wide from range for Sarri’s side.
Insigne clearly had the bit between his teeth, deputising as captain for usual captain Marek Hamsik. On the 65th minute, Marek Hamsik replaced Piotr Zielinski in the Napoli midfield in order to bring about Napoli comeback, but this never materialised. Hamsik’s substitution saw Di Francesco counter Sarri’s move by replacing winger Cengiz Under with Brazilian midfielder, Gerson.
Shortly after Gerson’s introduction Edin Dzeko well and truly turned the game on its head, curling a beautiful effort from outside the box past Reina in the Napoli goal, giving Roma a shock 3-1 lead. Despite being well martialed by Kalidou Koulibaly, Dzeko had proved vital to Roma, scoring twice against the run of play for I Lupi.
In recent weeks, Allison has really shown his worth for Roma and tonight was no exception. With Napoli 3-1 down at the San Paolo, Sarri’s side had to throw caution to the wind and attacked Roma with all their might. Insigne could easily have drawn the game closer were it not for the heroics of Allison in the Roma goal, making an incredible double-save from Napoli’s homegrown hero.
Unbelievably, after Allison’s incredible saves Roma added to their lead with Diego Perotti making up for his early miss slotting past Reina following Napoli’s Mario Rui failing to deal with a hopeful ball into their box.
Dries Mertens scored a beautiful consolation goal for Sarri’s side, scoring from outside the box the reduce the deficit to two goals, but it would prove to be too little too late as the Romans ran out 4-2 winners at the San Paolo, putting enormous pressure on the Neapolitans and also increasing Juventus’ chance of yet another Scudetto.
Coming into this game, both sides had something to prove. For Napoli, they had the opportunity to beat a rival and continue both their dominance over the league and their slender lead over Scudetto rivals Juventus. Sarri has clearly placed his eggs in one basket, going all out for the Scudetto.
On the other hand Roma, and their coach Eusebio Di Francesco, were under severe pressure having underperformed since Christmas. Yet despite Roma’s poor recent form they managed to frustrate the Partenopei and show that their is still some fight left this Giallorossi side.This leaves one to wonder what could have been of Roma’s title challenge had they been more consistent throughout the season. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening for the Giallorosso faithful, placing a severe amount of pressure on former coach Spalletti ahead of the Milan derby.