On a weekend when the Rome derby took place, there was another match that captivated calcio fans across the world.
A later kickoff (20:45 CET) was the norm whenever Roma and Lazio squared off, but due to increasing fan violence, police thought its best to push the game back to 15:00 CET to avoid any conflicts off the pitch. However, the replacement in the latter fixture in its’ place for Matchday 4 fit the bill, so much so that no one was bothered the derby was played earlier that Sunday.
AC Milan welcomed Napoli to the San Siro, a venue they had failed to win in since 1986 when Diego Maradona fever still gripped the city of Naples. Under new coach Rafa Benitez, the Partenopei received a great chance to finally break the 27 years of hurt.
Thanks to Roma’s victory earlier in the day, they were the only team to remain perfect through four games. If Napoli emerged with a win, they would join the Giallorossi at the top of the table. The Azzurri front four boasted the likes Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik form one of the most lethal partnerships in Europe, plus Lorenzo Insigne’s flair along with Jose Callejon’s three goals through three appearances. The last player to have that same record in his first year with the Naples based club was Edinson Cavani.
AC Milan, on the other hand, were still recovering from tons of injuries. Kaka was still unavailable along with Riccardo Montolivo, Stephan El Shaarawy, and Mattia De Sciglio. The good news was that Ignazio Abate was back in defence. Still, with a stagnant Alessandro Matri partnering Mario Balotelli up front and Valter Birsa as the trequartista, there were still reasons for Rossoneri fans to be pessimistic.
The match kicked off and to no one’s surprise, Napoli were the side who dominated in the early going. Hamsik and Higuain came close to opening the scoring, but couldn’t capitalize on the woeful Milan defending. Finally, the visitors found their goal. Insigne’s free kick found Raul Albiol near the back post, who laid it off perfectly for Miguel Britos to tap in. The Partenopei were up 1-0 after just six minutes.
Balotelli knew he had to take matters into his hands. He managed a few decent attempts, but when Napoli’s defenders weren’t shutting him down, Pepe Reina was there to stop the Italian international. The hosts still dominated possession heading into halftime, but didn’t threaten a whole lot in the attacking third, and that was just fine for Benitez’s men.
A few minutes after the restart, Higuain fired a shot so hard at Christian Abbiati that he couldn’t hold onto it and found its way into the net. It was 2-0 within an hour for the visitors, much to the delight of the 5000 traveling supporters from the south.
Milan knew that they had to press even harder if they wanted to salvage anything from the match. A few defensive errors from Napoli allowed the home side to do just that, but couldn’t pounce due to Reina’s outstanding performance on the night.
Balotelli finally managed to catch the back line off guard and won a penalty. Unfortunately for him, Reina came up big and stopped the Italian. It’s Balotelli’s first miss in 22 attempts, it was just that kind of night for Milan.
He eventually found his goal, curling the ball beautifully from outside the box and into the top right corner just seconds after stoppage time began. However, it was all for not as Napoli held on to claim their first victory at the San Siro in 27 years. Supporters rejoiced, but best of all, the Partenopei won their fourth game in as many matches, and there are surely plenty more to come.
Watch the match highlights here:
Other talking points
- As mentioned earlier, the Rome derby was played on Sunday. Roma defeated Lazio for the first time since 2011, taking the match by a 2-0 score line. Federico Balzaretti opened the scoring late before Adem Ljajic doubled the lead from the penalty spot.
- Inter thumped Sassuolo away 7-0 in the earliest Sunday kickoff. It’s the largest away win in Nerazzurri history, but has also sparked more cause for concern for Neroverdi supporters.
- Fernando Llorente started and scored the winner in Juventus’ 2-1 triumph over Hellas Verona on Sunday. The Spaniard was the centre of controversy following Juve’s 1-1 draw to Copenhagen in the Champions League, but thanks to that performance, he hasn’t silenced any of the calls for him to start game in, game out.
- Fiorentina managed to defeat Atalanta 2-0 despite loads of injuries thanks to Matias Fernandez and Giuseppe Rossi strikes. With Europa League to balance, it’ll be tough for the Viola to maintain their winning ways with such a thin squad.
- Michael Agazzi had a game to forget as he allowed Sampdoria to claim a point in a 2-2 draw in Genoa. The visitors were leading 1-0 until a calamitous ending resulted in both teams sharing the points.
Other results: Chievo 2-1 Udinese; Genoa 0-0 Livorno; Bologna 1-2 Torino; Catania 0-0 Parma