Maurizio Sarri hailed Napoli “grit and determination” to fight back and beat Sampdoria 2-1. “Lorenzo Tonelli was patient and so were we.”
The Partenopei had gone behind to an Elseid Hysaj own goal when Matias Silvestre was sent off, sparking a late comeback with Manolo Gabbiadini and Tonelli
“It was a situation that could’ve put us under huge pressure and we lost an extraordinary number of passes in the first half. We were slow and allowed Sampdoria to close us down, mainly because the pitch wasn’t allowing our usual quick passes,” the Coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“We also did some very hard training over the last 10 days and so weren’t very sharp. I will say this team and its style of football needs a different pitch to do its best.”
Tonelli made his debut six months after his €10m move from Empoli and scored the 95th-minute winner.
“The lad was patient and so were we, because at times he just couldn’t train at all, but over the last two months he made huge leaps forward. I thought it right to give him an opportunity considering the situation and he was in good shape physically at last. I’d been thinking about it for a couple of games and this was the right moment.
“We didn’t play great football, but we brought in other qualities like grit and determination to get the points in another way to what we usually do.
“I liked that psychologically the team was able to fight for the victory without being able to rely on its usual style.
“We took risks too, as at the end we had four strikers on simultaneously, but remained organised and tried to turn the situation around by playing football. Winter breaks are dangerous and we need to improve our maturity in that sense too.”
Sampdoria were furious at the contentious second yellow card for Matias Silvestre, who did not seem to touch Pepe Reina.
“I am an argumentative person by nature, so I understand both sides. There was an attitude from our opponents that the referee should’ve clamped down on a lot earlier, while Dries Mertens was brought down in the penalty area and we got nothing for that, so nobody was happy with the officiating.”