At the Stadio San Paolo earlier this week, in front of a thunderous support, Napoli made their grand entrance onto the European stage, as they defeated Villareal 2-0 in their first home match in the Champions League. Perhaps it is almost time for the football world to stand up and take notice of Napoli.
The Azzurri took the lead in the 14th minute on a goal from Marek Hamsik. Ezequiel Lavezzi played a perfect cross to Hamsik who finished expertly. Three minutes later, Edinson Cavani scored a penalty to give the home side a two goal cushion. From that point on, Napoli protected the lead while playing their now familiar and often deadly counter-attacking game.
It is hard not to shower praise on Napoli for this win, and their performance so far in this season. While it is true Villareal had the lion’s share of possession, and had their chances to get something out of this match, Napoli are the new boys in this club and certainly deserve credit for a job well done.
Walter Mazzarri’s men had stuttered a bit in Serie A leading up to this match, dropping points to Chievo and Fiorentina. But the win against Villareal was perhaps the biggest for the club in nearly a generation. It gives them a three point cushion in the group, and with the level of competition they face that cushion can prove immensely important. Not since the glorious Maradona era has the San Paolo seen such a classy and capable team.
Before the season, I expressed a concern over the dreaded “European Hangover” for Napoli this season. The team has a post-european match-day schedule that is nothing short of brutal, and this weekend is no exception. Last time they played in Europe they faced reigning Serie A champions AC Milan and past the test with flying colors, scoring a 3-1 win. This week, however, they travel to the San Siro to face Inter Milan. It is Napoli’s chance to get one up on their doubters