Despite going into half time behind, Napoli secured another victory on Friday, as they overcame Brescia 2-1 at the Stadio Mario Rigamonti in Serie A.
Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty and a fine Fabian Ruiz strike cancelled out Jhon Chancellor’s header for Brescia and sealed a fourth league win in five games.
After a hugely underwhelming start to the season, Partenopei fans can start to look ahead to a positive run-in, with the introduction of Gennaro Gattuso as coach seeing the club challenge for Europe.
Gattuso gets Napoli going
Brought in as a replacement for Carlo Ancelotti in December, Gattuso has slowly but surely turned Napoli around. Gone are the stalemates that littered the final weeks of Ancelotti’s tenure, with the Azzurri now able to turn a single point into three.
A resolute defence has seen them concede just eight goals in their last nine matches in all competitions, whilst Lecce remain the only team to secure a victory over Gattuso’s men in the past month.
Victories over Juventus in Serie A, as well as over Lazio and Inter en route to a first leg lead in the Coppa Italia Semi-Final suggests the former AC Milan coach has got his team firing again.
Roma back in Partenopei’s sights
Having been out of the reckoning for so long this season, Napoli are suddenly back in the mix for a European qualification spot. Whilst the Champions League may be edging beyond them, the Europa League is their for the taking.
As Cagliari have faltered and Milan struggle for consistency, Napoli have been able to climb rapidly up the table and are currently contending with the Rossoneri and surprise packages Hellas Verona and Parma.
Yet, greater ambition ought to see them target Roma, who are in wretched form and could soon concede fifth-place. Having been so far out of the equation at one point, Napoli are now only three points behind their rivals from the capital and Friday’s victory heaps the pressure on the notoriously flaky Giallorossi.
Mertens made to wait
An illustrious career in Naples has seen Belgian forward Dries Mertens overtake Diego Maradona in the club’s scoring charts, and now he has closed to within one of equalling record holder Marek Hamsik.
It took less than two minutes for the former PSV man to find his first sight of goal, with only the crossbar denying him a 121st strike for the club, and with it a place in the history books.
In the second half Mertens raced clear and coolly slotted home, but once again fine margins denied him his moment of glory, with the offside flag ruling out the goal. Substituted midway through the second period, he may well get another chance to break the record when Barcelona come to town in the Champions League on Tuesday.