Taking a page out of Roberto Mancini’s coaching book for Italy in Euro 2020, Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti unleashed his Napoli dervish yesterday on an unsuspecting Liverpool and crushed the visitors 4-1 in their UEFA Champions League match at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
The hosts played an up-tempo, high pressing, offensive match that capitalized on their ball handling and speed. Much like the national team did in Euro 2020, Napoli overwhelmed their opponents early and just kept the pressure through most of the game. Napoli scored at the fifth minute (Piotr Zielinski via penalty) and had a poorly taken penalty by Victor Osimeh saved at the 18th minute.
Then, Gli Azzurri (yes, the same nickname as the national team) doubled their lead at the 31st minute via Cameroonian national team star Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s exquisite finish to a Khvicha Kvaratskhelia-Anguissa-Zielinski-Anguissa quick-pass combination that bamboozled their opponent’s defense into static onlookers and left the Napoli midfielder in one-on-one with Liverpool keeper Allison.
In the 44th minute, Napoli tripled with substitute Giovanni Simeone tapping in at the far post off another wonderful Anguissa-Kvaratskhelia play that left the winger fighting for possession and winning on one wing and crossing fully to the other side for Simeone to easily score.
If you count the penalty and two “impossible to miss but missed” Napoli opportunities the hosts should have reached half-time with a 6-0 lead!
Intriguingly, Napoli’s 27-man squad counts with only 9 Italians and the combination of their starting line-up and substitutes for this Champions League match (they used five subs) came to sixteen players of which only four were Italians.
As the second half began, so did Napoli’s steamroller. Two minutes in, a brilliant breakaway completed the host’s scoring. Anguissa, playing the game of his life, put a superb through ball into the stride of the streaking Simeone who sent it across to Zielinski who fired, only to have the onrushing Allison save the shot. But the rebound came right back to Zielinski who dinked Allison for the score. Napoli 4—0 Liverpool!
Two minutes later, the game’s Liverpool MVP, Luis Diaz, scored a consolation curler, a golazo from the edge of the box to pull one back for the visitors. But even that early (49th) in the second half, it was truly way too little and way too late.
Unfortunately for Liverpool fans, this was a match where the Reds showed up but seemed much more a part of the scenery than the action on the turf. For Napoli fans, this was a performance for the ages, one to relish alongside their current second place standing in Serie A while their leading team also leads the league’s scoring.
Photo: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa—Shutterstock ID: 2046317336 -by Ettore Griffoni