Napoli keep the pressure on AC Milan as Roma are defeated at home in Serie A for the first time since April 2010.
|(Picture from of Eurosport)
In a top-of-the-table clash Napoli stifled most Roma of Roma’s play (they had the majority of possession but were limited to just six shots) and attacked with great power throughout the match, and it was of course the front three of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik and Cavani who caused Roma problems all game.
A frantic first half produced few chances for either side, although Mirko Vucinic found himself one-on-one with Morgan De Sanctis with 15 minutes gone, only to see his shot comfortably saved by the Napoli ‘keeper.
The ‘Derby of the Sun’ inevitably saw some tasty instances, with Roma centre-back Marco Cassetti clashing with Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi in an off-the-ball incident on the halfway line, with both players booked for the confrontation. Former-Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena then seemed to be struck in the face by Marek Hamsik near the touchline as things began to get heated inside the Stadio Olimpico.
Roma may have slightly shaded the first half possession but it was Napoli who had the most efforts on goal, with top goalscorer Cavani firing wide from 30 yards and Christian Maggio curling a shot over the bar from just outside the area. Just minutes before Cavani’s effort, the Uruguayan forward came just centre-metres away from giving Walter Mazzarri’s side the lead after a low cross just eluded the toe of the 23-year-old on loan from Palermo.
Cavani, though, didn’t have to wait too long after half-time to add to his campaign tally as Lavezzi was brought down by Juan inside the area. The Brazilian centre-back was duly booked and Cavani converted his second penalty in the league this season. The goal caused great controversy, though, as Cavani tapped in from a yard out after hitting both posts. Roma ‘keeper Julio Sergio argued furiously that, because Cavani had touched the ball before any other player, the goal should not have counted. The referee, with the help of his assistant, seemed to rule that the original penalty had in fact crossed the line.
Another big refereeing decision was made just after the hour mark, with Mauro Bergonzi ruling Cumilo Zuniga to be offside after his pass was deflected into the net.
Roma’s flat 4-4-2 was simply not working against the cohesive 3-4-3 system that Napoli have utilised so well this season, and Claudio Ranieri waited until the 75th minute to bring Francesco Totti on for Vucinic. The game, however, could have been all over as Roma’s talisman prepared to come on as Lavezzi found himself onside with only the ‘keeper to beat, 20 yards from goal. The Argentine striker couldn’t beat Sergio, but the defensive frailties of Roma were again clear for all to see.
Cavani doubled Napoli’s lead with seven minutes to go, finishing well after Paolo Cannavaro put in a perfect cross from the right-wing as the defender stormed forward from the back. The three Napoli defenders – Hugo Campagnaro, Salvatore Aronica and Cannavaro – were again superb all evening as Napoli secured their 9th clean sheet in 11 games.
Napoli now lie three points behind leaders AC Milan (who thrashed Parma 4-0 at home earlier today), with Inter Milan now eight points off the top with two games in hand. Leonardo’s side face Juventus tomorrow, and The Old Lady will be glad to see Roma defeated at home as Luigi Delneri’s side could now go ahead of them and leap into 5th place.