It would be difficult to ask for a better start to the season than Napoli's 3-0 victory over Bologna, although the partenopei could've put two or three more past the inept visitors. Napoli looked a bit shaky for the first twenty minutes or so, misplacing their passes and mistiming their runs. But they shook off the nerves and put in a solid performance, lead by the domination of Marek Hamšík, standing in as captain and looking every inch the leader.
The first half was almost entirely one way traffic. Save for a long range shot from Panagiotis Kone, which awoke Pepe Reina from a lovely little nap, Bologna didn't threaten. They had but one free kick, which caused literal LOLs, and no corners, so Napoli weren't exactly threatened.
The rossoblu, however, may as well not have turned up in Naples. Napoli had their first solid chance in the sixth minute, when Gonzalo Higuaín sent in a great ball to Hamšík. The captain sent it on to José Callejón, whose volley hit the post -- with the Spaniard already celebrating!
Napoli continued piling on the pressure. Hamšík had a half decent chance to start off the campaign, but aimed his header directly at Gianluca Curci. A couple minutes later, Goren Pandev flicked a little backheel down to Hamšík, who sent it on for Callejón. Higuaín was lurking in the middle but just couldn't get his foot on Callejón's ball -- a little sign of early season jitters, soon to be erased.
For in the 32nd minute, the partenopei had their first goal of the season, courtesy of new boy Callejón. The cross came in for Hamšík, but the Slovak's shot was pushed away by Curci. The Bologna keeper should've done better, however, as the ball fell perfectly for Callejón to put it in the back of the net.
New forward Higuaín managed a goal as well, less than ten minutes later, but the Argentine saw his called back when the flag went up.
Napoli did get a second before the halftime whistle, this time courtesy of Captain Marek himself. The normally flawless Hamšík put a few passes out of place today, but there's nothing to complain about when it comes to his scoring. Juan Zúñiga left the Bologna defense for dead, tearing up the left hand side before pulling back to send his pass to Hamsik. The rossoblu were focused on other threats, leaving Marek wide open as he took the ball around Curci and put it into the back of the net.
The partenopei continued their dominance in the second half, with Callejón forcing Curci into a tip-of-the-boot save just moments after the restart. Higuaín's free kick in the 51st minute went just inches wide. Meanwhile, Bologna looked utterly helpless, barely able to touch the ball as Napoli passed around them with ease.
Hamšík's second put to rest any doubts of victory, for even those cunning Bolognese, so good at the comebacks against Napoli, would not be able to score three inside thirty minutes. Pandev laid off the ball to allow the onrushing Hamšík to score from the edge of the box. 3-0. Bologna were through.
Little happened in the last half hour, save for a couple more debuts handed out by Rafa Benítez. Dries Mertens saw his first official action when he came on for Hamšík, with the captain leaving to a standing ovation from the San Paolo crowd (The Belgian also saw his first Napoli goal ruled out as offside, correctly). Then in the 84th minute, young Josip Radošević was given a few minutes of time, although why Rafa felt a defensive midfielder was necessary against this rossoblu side will forever remain a question
Napoli Starting XI: Reina; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Zuniga; Inler, Behrami; Callejón, Hamšík (Mertens 72), Pandev (Insigne 67); Higuaín (Radošević 84)
Bologna Starting XI: Curci; Garics; Antonsson; Natali; Cech; Krhin; Della Rocca; Kone; Diamanti; Christodoulopoulos; Bianchi
Goals: Callejón 32 (N); Hamsik 45, 63 (N)