Napoli looked to take a full 3 points from a possible relegated side Sassuolo (who they tied 1-1 in their first encounter). To be honest, I was a little worried the same result could of happened because Napoli was coming off a high from winning their Coppa Italia semi-final vs AS Roma 3-0 (same happened when they faced Sassuolo the first time, Napoli just came off winning 2-1 vs BVB in Champions League). Moreover, Benitez had a “short” bench with 3 starters being unavailable due to suspension – Callejon, Inler, Jorginho. Napoli did not let down and won 2-0, with goals from Blerim Dzemaili and Lorenzo Insigne. Although Napoli did not dominate the possession statistic, Napoli dominated the game and scoreline should of been higher.
- Marek Hamsik: Looked to has found his form and starting to look like his former self. He provided both assists for both goals scored. Hamsik also had a gem of an opportunity to finally score a goal, which he seems itching to get, however Pegolo denied him
- Blerim Dzemaili: He got his 5th goal of the season. It was a prototypical type Dzemaili goal. After a great save/cross from Ghoulam, Hamsik deflected the ball outside the box, where Dzemaili volleyed a low ball outside the reach of a diving Pegolo.
- Lorenzo Insigne: One of his better performances all season and finally scored with his “famous” cut to the inside curl around the goalkeeper goal. Very happy to see him finish it. The play to provide Insigne the ball was nice as well, with ball coming over the top from the midfield, which Hamsik chested down and provided a through ball for the cutting Insigne who then did the rest. Also, Insigne had another chance to double his goal tally but his shot just went inches wide of the post.
- Honorable Mentions: Christian Maggio, Gianluca Pegolo, Faouzi Ghoulam
- Paolo Cannavaro: It might have been the nerves or stress of playing his former club, however Napoli took advantage of Cannavaro almost everytime they went one-on-one with him. It is not the Cannavaro Napoli fans would like to remember, however it was the Cannavaro that we saw in the latter stages of his career.
- Higuain Injury: Although the injury did not look serious after taking a knock to the back (from Cannavaro), he had to be substituted off and in my opinion should of been earlier. For the reason being Higuain has had back injuries in the past.
- There was nothing in this match that warrants commentary here
In the end, Napoli got the 3 points needed and kept pace with 2nd place AS Roma. The match was not the most exciting, however it was a comfortable win. Next, Rafa Benitez’s men take on Genoa on February 24 at Stadio San Paolo.
Forza Napoli Sempre!
*** After drawing 0-0 with Swansea, NApoli lost goalkeeper Rafael (who was sensational in the match) for an extended period of time requiring surgery to his knee. Best of luck Rafael ***