It looked like Maurizio Sarri’s players were men on a mission, and indeed they were. After a first half completely dominated by Lazio, the Partenopei were lucky to start the second on even terms, after a late Jose Callejon equaliser. Juventus’ ruthless 2-0 win against Fiorentina away from home on Friday left Napoli with no room for errors, as a wrong step against Simone Inzaghi’s team would’ve shifted the momentum of the Scudetto race in the Old Lady’s favor.
Napoli not only proved to be up to the task, but their response was simply magnificent, as it looked like a completely different team came out in the second half.
Sarri’s men were fast and direct in their ball distribution and their off the ball movements were smart and precise, which resulted in arguably their best half of football since the start of the season. The end result was three more goals scored, the complete demolition of one of Serie A best-drilled sides, as Lazio were helpless and had no answer to the Napoli avalanche, which swept them away in a blink of an eye.
Producing their best football in key moments of the season hasn’t really been Napoli’s strongest weapon in recent years, as they tend to lack the conviction and self-belief when the stakes are so high.
This was certainly not the case at the San Paolo last night and the credit should go to Maurizio Sarri, who managed to transform his side in such an important game. This can be considered a huge improvement, compared to previous seasons, as everybody knows that Napoli are capable of playing such football, but they rarely managed to do it in the big games. This is what great teams do and what Juventus have been doing for the last six years.
The comeback against Lazio would surely increase the self-belief of this Napoli side, which already looks truly capable of matching the Bianconeri’s insane tempo and taking the Scudetto battle to the wire. With their current form, it’s hard to see any of the two teams dropping points in the near future, although Juve’s Champions League obsession is Napoli’s biggest advantage. The Partenopei’s inability to compete on three fronts is actually boosting their Scudetto chances, as despite that everyone in Naples claiming that the club will respect the Europa League, we all know what their main goal is.
Although there are many more more pros than cons for Napoli to take from the Lazio game, there was one major flaw in the Partenopei’s game, as the anonymous display in the first half is something that they cannot afford. This time Sarri’s team was rather lucky not to be a goal or two down at the start of the second half and if a comeback against Lazio at home would’ve arguably been possible even then, such a display would undoubtedly be punished by the Old Lady in Turin.
It seems that Napoli keep switching on and off in certain games. In some of them they were lucky to get away with the the win, in others they turn into Jim Carrey in ‘The Mask’ to show their second face and turn the result in their favour with a stunning combination of pure magic and brilliance.
As things currently stand Napoli are their own biggest enemy, at least until April 22, when they travel to Turin for a direct Scudetto showdown against the Bianconeri. The game is already promising to be a real blockbuster and Napoli cannot afford to show their weaknesses against Juventus. Even their magic mask might not be able to help them then.