Thursday February 13 2014
Napoli beginning to erupt

Napoli’s convincing victory over Roma is a sign that Rafa Benitez’s team is reaching their potential, says Jeremy Lim

The San Paolo takes no prisoners, particularly one that Diego Maradona invokes a zeal from like a great deity. Napoli rose to the occasion in the Coppa Italia semi-final against Roma, urged on by a rabid crowd. A 3-0 demolition job was just as the hosts’ deserved on Wednesday, victory serving as a fitting tribute to the on-looking Argentine legend, who was barely able to conceal his delight.

Giallorossi Coach Rudi Garcia was thoroughly schooled by Cup king Rafael Benitez on the night, but signs from their first clash in Rome last week had already been ominous. We caught a glimpse of what the real Napoli was capable of then, when they bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to tie proceedings and forever reshape the balance of the encounter. Gervinho ultimately quelled the uprising with the winner as the clock ticked down, but the Partenopei had already laid down the gauntlet ahead of the return leg.

Despite needing only one goal to reach a second Coppa final in two years, Napoli’s nerves showed early on as the weight of the occasion rested on their shoulders. But Roma hesitated to convert early chances in front of goal, and the wily Benitez only saw fit to exploit the visitors’ frailties at the back. Jose Callejon opened the scoring with his team’s first real sight on target, ghosting in to head past former Naples custodian Morgan De Sanctis and sparking wild celebrations from the Vesuviani faithful - little could they have imagined the show had just got on the road.

Stepping fully into stride, Napoli played on with renewed intent and vigour, the like of which few opponents have managed to contain this season. The crowd were not kept waiting to celebrate much longer when new fan favourite Gonzalo Higuain escaped Vasilis Torosidis’ attention to finish from a corner and break Roma’s backs. The stuff of nightmares for Mehdi Benatia’s backline, first at the Olimpico, Higuain again underlined why his outfit had shelled out €37m to sign him the previous summer. Irresistible in attack, the talismanic forward constantly searched out opportunities to add to his tally one minute, while unselfishly laying on chances for his teammates the next.

The subject of heartbreak when Napoli were surreally eliminated in the Champions League group stages, Higuain ensured the only tears he would shed at the end of this match were of joy. By the time Jorginho hammered the final nail into Roma’s coffin, the tide had irreversibly swung Napoli’s way, their tickets back to the Olimpico booked for May - to face Fiorentina in the final. Now factor in the return of influential midfielders Valon Behrami and Marek Hamsik from injury, Dries Mertens’ timely surge into the spotlight as well as the club’s signings in January immediately making their presence felt, and it looks as if Benitez’s troops may well have secured the boost they needed following an indifferent start to 2014.

It must feel back to the drawing board for Garcia, however. So comprehensively outplayed and out-thought, questions will arise whether Roma pack the necessary reserves to reassert themselves this season. The French boss horribly misjudged an already-delicate task of avoiding defeat in Naples, perhaps overreaching with his squad rotation which included the fallacy of thrusting Michel Bastos into defence, but there can be no doubting which side desired victory more over the course of these two semi-final stages.

Napoli are here and now a team on the up. Starting to play with real clout at both ends and reflecting a sense of genuine depth for the first time, the men have done their credentials no harm with their latest performances. Remain in the running for domestic and European silverware like this, and the likes of Higuain and Co. will continue meeting with the approving nods of Maradona.

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Have your say...
Napoli and Roma has good teams. As a Juve fan I hope that they will streghten in the summer with 1 or 2 Tevez-class players and they could take it to the next level. It's the same for Fiorentina and Milan - they have very good offensive players and should they buy stronger defenders they could do better than this season. If this happen I see all of the mentioned teams to go to the knock-out phase in the CL and EL's semi finals. Hope for Juve-Napoli final in EL this year with the Cup for Juve :)
on the 14th February, 2014 at 9:44am
This article talks all kind of rubbish. Napoli are a good team and have some great players emerging. So do Roma. It was a cup tie, and a game of football between two good teams nothing more. Napoli lost to Atalanta the other week, I doubt people think that Atalanta are going to go on to dominate the world? Trying to draw conclusions and making assumptions on one game is a bit pointless - but then again I suppose you have to write about something...
on the 14th February, 2014 at 9:05am
Higuain and Callejon have been amazing, but another who has really impressed is Mertens. Grossly under-rated.
on the 14th February, 2014 at 8:47am
Forza Napoli...the passionate people need this. Make us proud, conquer Europe, Coppa Italia and Seria A Champions will follow....A Blue Collar City with blue collar grit players!
on the 14th February, 2014 at 12:53am
Anonymous your on crack. Superior to us hahahaa that's beyond funny. Roma ran into the bull yesterday baby, you seen almost the best of Napoli and got smacked around badly. And we meet again at the San Paolo, Good Luck pal. And your going to get smacked by Juve too when you play them again. Forza Napule!
on the 13th February, 2014 at 6:04pm
"Giallorossi Coach Rudi Garcia was thoroughly schooled by Cup king Rafael Benitez"

An even game swung Napoli's way from a couple of direct crosses into the box. I doubt that was Rafa's game plan. So for me, to give Benetiz, or any coach for that matter the plaudits is absolute rubbish. A coaches job is to motivate and let the player get on with it, simple as that.

As a Napoli fan I'm delighted, and even more so with Maradona in the stands to see it!
on the 13th February, 2014 at 6:01pm
That last night was Napoli at its best of potential. It's frustrating not to see them play like that consistently but the bigger the game the better we are.Bottom line we play European football and Roma don't which if they did they would not sitting in the second spot of the league right now, but credit to them though they will be next season. We can play with the best of teams in Europe if we play like that.We proved it in the champions League. A few nice signings In the summer were complete.
on the 13th February, 2014 at 5:52pm
Roma "dominated" the first half? Roma the "superior team"? I'm not sure what game you were watching, but it wasn't this one. Roma had a couple chances in the first half, but were outplayed the entire game. Napoli are hitting on all cylinders, finally. And that spells bad news for an overachieving Roma squad with no depth. There's no doubt that Napoli will hold the second spot in the table at the end of the season.
on the 13th February, 2014 at 4:49pm
I think Roma played slightly better the 1st half but were thoroughly defeated in the second half. If you ask me this is a reversal of the fixture between Napoli and Roma in the league. Napoli controlled possession and were only defeated by 1. a penalty kick and 2. a free kick from Pjanic, neither of those goals came from open play. these teams are clearly very evenly matched however the improvement in Napoli's midfield (i.e. Jorginho) has clearly (to quote Rafa) balanced the team. Forza Napoli!
on the 13th February, 2014 at 4:39pm
Well done to Napoli but last nights score was flattering to say the least. Roma absolutely dominated proceedings the entire first half and should have had at least 1 goal before HT. Second half Roma were caught napping like they were in Turin. Same old story, poor finishing has cost them dear, if Destro had his shooting boots on last night, Roma were in the final.

Roma are overall the superior team as the league stands and with a game in hand. Rudi 2 - 1 Rafa. Roma will win the league game
on the 13th February, 2014 at 3:57pm
Hopefully Juve and Napoli will both get to europa final, which will benefit us as they will play on a thursday and sunday so will be more tired despite their strength in depth. I am proud of my team this season we have been fantastic, very upset about last night but that shouldnt take away from our general superb performances this season. Last night was a great advert for italian football. Forza Roma
on the 13th February, 2014 at 2:31pm
As a big roma fan very disappointed with last nights result. We wasted too many chances in both games and like Garcia said we made too many mistakes. Well done to Napoli, I was impressed with Jorginho last night I hope Cesare calls him soon. We are still having a great season if we win parma game in hand we are 6 behind Juve, all to play for. We must beat Samp on sunday after our last 2 poor results to get our confidence back up. Also I thought the red card last night to Strottman was a joke.
on the 13th February, 2014 at 2:27pm
Hang on a minute, are we talking about the same Napoli that got thumped 3-0 by Atalanta a few weeks ago?
on the 13th February, 2014 at 1:12pm
On another day, Roma could easily have through; they missed big chances at key moments. Napoli are looking good now, more settled and cohesive. Jorginho has made a big difference, as has Hamsik's return from injury. Inler, Jorginho, & Hamsik are solid combination. I like Pandev, but feel that Napoli look more open & vulnerable when he plays in the hole. In the style of Benitez, I would say that they are now at +80%. I hope that they carry this form into the EL!
on the 13th February, 2014 at 12:40pm

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