The Path To The Coppa Italia Championship, Part Two

Dzei's smile makes this picture. Seriously, look at that happy dude. - Giuseppe Bellini

The journey started out a bumpy one, and after their first two rounds of Coppa Italia play, it wasn't going to get any easier for Napoli.

The Journey Began Here

The victory over Lazio meant that Napoli earned themselves a two-legged semifinal battle, with no easy draws in the pot. Napoli ultimately wound up paired with Roma, taking on Rome's primary club after seeing off Lazio, with a return trip to the Stadio Olimpico and a try at lifting the Coppa Italia trophy on the line.

The first leg was in Rome, and... it didn't start well. Roma scored two in the first half, and never looked to get off the front foot by the time the halftime whistle blew. Gervinho dominated Anthony Reveillere before an injury forced the Frenchman out of the match, but the introduction of Faouzi Ghoulam in just his second Napoli appearance stabilized the defense somewhat and certainly did a lot to quiet Gervinho's threat from the wing. There was no stopping a bomb of a shot from Kevin Strootman though, and Napoli had a lot of work to do in the second half.

Things got started with a bang, though, with Morgan de Sanctis putting in a hilariously calamitous own goal to put his old club on the board. Napoli pushed hard for their equalizer, but the task of holding out Roma kept them from going forward at quite the full intensity we know them to be capable of. Still, Dries Mertens was able to find space in Roma's defense to make a fantastic run, and after faking out De Sanctis he found the back of the net and turned the tie completely on it's head. Even Gervinho's second goal of the match just before injury time wasn't enough to change the fact that, despite being down a goal, Napoli and their two away goals were in complete control of the tie heading back to the San Paolo.

Once the second leg kicked off, it at first appeared as though Roma were the team in control and were pushing hard for an away goal. Once you started to look a little closer, though, it quickly became apparent that while Roma had most of the early possession and were pushing forward more aggressively, they couldn't do anything with the ball in the final third. Every time Gervinho started a run, or Pjanic looked for a through ball, or Destro tried to find space, a Napoli player popped up and stopped the move before it became dangerous.

It suddenly became clear that the concession of the ball early, and allowing Roma to run all over the place, was all in Rafa's plan from the start. After about 25 minutes, Roma started to visibly flag as legs already tired before the match started to give out, and Napoli's fresher legs took the opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and never let up. Jose Callejon struck first, swapping spots with Marek Hamsik to cause chaos along Roma's back line and running through the resulting space to head home a Maggio cross. It was a thing of beauty, and that goal alone was enough to send Napoli through to the final.

The partenopei were far from done, though. Minutes after halftime, Hamsik served up a gorgeous corner that Callejon flicked on to the far post, where Gonzalo Higuain was waiting to nod it home past a helpless de Sanctis. Minutes later, a beautiful Dries Mertens through ball sent Jorginho free on goal after Michel Bastos completely failed to execute an offside trap. Jorginho finished easily past de Sanctis, giving him his first (and so far only) Napoli goal and putting the icing on the cake for the tie.

It was a stunning performance and an amazing result. Hell, Kirsten was so shocked she almost broke her caps lock key. This was truly one of the high points of the season for Napoli and the fans. The job wasn't done, though; Fiorentina had already gotten by Udinese, and would await Napoli in Rome for one last battle.

Sadly, no one knew just how much of a battle that match would turn out to be, long before any players even stepped foot on the pitch. Unrest in Rome sparked in to violence, and multiple Napoli fans were shot before things were brought under control, with one of the victims landing in the hospital in critical condition.

Emotions were high as a result, and the match was delayed while matters of safety for both fans and players were discussed. Fortunately the wounded fan was out of immediate danger before the match finally kicked off, and now is believed to be on a path to a full recovery. We at the Siren's Song wish him and the other people injured before the match a speedy recovery from their injuries.

As for the match itself... you know the story. Lorenzo Insigne scored two amazing goals. Juan Vargas took advantage of a breakdown at the back. The nerves, they set in in a huge way. Things only got worse when Gokhan Inler was sent off for being a gigantic idiot. Then Dries Mertens played the hero and put the match away, and the celebrations began.

This was a win that should be savored for a long time to come. Even the Coppa win two seasons ago doesn't quite compare to the dramatics of this Coppa run. There were some great individual performances, fantastic comebacks, and a whole lot of fight and grinta on display by the squad. The players, staff, and fans should all be tremendously proud of what has been accomplished. Parts of this season have been frustrating as hell, but Napoli have won a trophy, and that heals a lot of wounds.

Forza Napoli sempre.

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