Napoli 1, Lazio 0: Coppa Progress

Giuseppe Bellini

A hard-to watch match ended in victory for the Partenopei, and came with a revelatory performance from their newest player.

It wasn't pretty, but it was enough. A stellar performance from Jorginho and a late goal from Gonzalo Higuain was enough to see off Lazio in the quarter final, and now Napoli are through to the semis. Let's just ignore the rest of the match, though, eh?

ssc napoli blog sbn

Napoli 1 Higuain 82'
Lazio 0

The first half was... something. It was there. Lazio mostly stayed back, though they did threaten a few times on the counter. Their only registered shot in the first half was a Christian Ledesma "effort" from the center circle when he noticed that Pepe Reina was well off his line, but he over-hit it and it sailed well over the goal.

The fifteenth minute saw an event that would have repercussions through the rest of the match. While going up for a ball against Lazio's Michael Ciani, Gonzalo Higuain took a shot to his back and came down in obvious pain. It was very clear for the remainder of the match that Higuain was not quite right, as he frequently was not moving well and couldn't get to several balls he normally would latch on to easily.

That would show through on a number of chances through the first half, with Higuain unable to get on the end of several excellent crosses from Jose Callejon. With Napoli unable to create many chances in the first half, that issue was a major one for the side.

At least one thing went well in the first half, though: Jorginho made his starting debut, and oh man was it fun to watch. He scampered all over the pitch, showing fluid passing and an eye for finding the attacking mids in space, particularly Callejon. He combined well with the Spaniard on a number of occasions all night long, and caused some problems for Lazio with a couple of sharp shots from outside the box, including one that kissed off the post.

The second half saw some better attacking play from Napoli, but by then Lazio had packed the box so thoroughly that it didn't matter. Napoli had chance after chance get blocked or cut off or otherwise go wasting, and they were even denied a clear penalty when Ciani took Higuain down in the box and nothing was called.

Finally, blissfully, Napoli broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute. Christian Maggio drove in to the box and tried a shot, but it was immediately blocked. The rebound fell to Goran Pandev, introduced for Hamsik minutes earlier, and the ball kind of pinged away from him and straight to an onrushing Callejon. His shot took a ridiculous deflection off Higuain, who managed to deflect it past Lazio's keeper and in to the back of the net.

The sense of relief that the goal created was almost palpable, and Napoli immediately started pressing for another. It wouldn't come, but they were able to pin back Lazio's efforts to push forward for an equalizer, and that was that.

Napoli are through to the semis, and have a chance at another Coppa Italia trophy in sight. Jorginho was excellent tonight, and we also saw Raul Albiol and Gokhan Inler improve dramatically on recent performances. Now, the squad turns their attention to the league and Atalanta on Sunday. Hopefully this is used as a momentum-builder and will kick off a charge past Roma in the table.

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