Although Napoli leveled the score at 1-1 just before halftime on Saturday night without him in the game, it was Piotr Zielinski’s substitution that carried the Partenopei’s second half masterclass performance against Lazio.
The Stadio San Paolo side trailed very early on in the clash with the visitors leading 1-0 only three minutes into the match. The Serie A’s top goalscorer Ciro Immobile whipped a cross into the box and an out-stretched Stefan de Vrij was able to slightly deflect the ball into the net.
Napoli struggled to move the ball crisply and create many clear chances in the first half with Lazio defending the home side brilliantly all over the field. Each time a Napoli player received the ball, it seemed there were three or four Lazio players surrounding him. However, the Azzurri’s defense held the visitors to one goal and the club equalized late in the half.
Despite the struggles, it took one moment of brilliance from Jorginho who picked out an unmarked Jose Callejon in the box with an incredible lob pass, and the Spaniard finished it off in front of goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha with two minutes to spare in the half. The first half display alluded to another tough 45 minutes for Napoli after the break, however the match turned out to be a tale of two halves.
Piotr Zielinski came on to start the half for captain Marek Hamsik who was subbed off with a suspected back injury. Little did Napoli know, they would be wishing the Polish midfielder had started from the beginning.
The 23-year-old made an instant impact in order to contribute to Napoli’s second-half domination. In 45 minutes, “Zielu” as the Partenopei like to call him, had 6o touches on the ball and almost all were important. Zielinski weaved his way in and out of tight spaces on the pitch connecting with his teammates. The Polish international also happened to be in the right place at the right time.
After Wallace’s own goal put Napoli 2-1, left-back Mario Rui scored to put Napoli up 3-1. Although Rui was credited with the goal, it was a deflection off Zielinski that helped the ball into the net.
Zielinski’s contributions weren’t all luck-based though. He finished with a 96 percent pass success rate by completing 49 of 51 pass attempts; the most memorable of those passes came on the sequence that lead to Dries Mertens’ goal to seal the game at 4-1.
Jorginho, Lorenzo Insigne and Zielinski were passing together in a triangle near the midfield line. Insigne passed to Zielinski who in turn back-heeled the ball to Jorginho and then bursted forward. Jorginho saw his run and lobbed it forward to Zielinski who dribbled his way into Lazio’s box and flicked it forward to Mertens who finished it off. The assist capped off what can be a goal-of-the-season candidate across the Serie A.
It remains to be seen if Zielinski’s performance has warranted him more starts going forward, but it showed what he’s capable of doing on the field. The midfielder was simply impeccable on Saturday and he earned himself “Man of the Match” honors.