Wow. So. Some of that match between Napoli and Atalanta was rather painful, wasn't it? For instance, it was really uncomfortable just to watch the bright yellow Atalanta kits clash with those horrible Napoli camo kits. It also wasn't very much fun watching Goran Pandev and Blerim Dzemaili try desperately to get the ball in the back of the net, wanting so badly to impress Rafa Benitez and earn a place in the regular starting XI. And if Pepe Reina ever nearly concedes a goal again because he decides to take about five minutes to kick the ball away from the net, well, I just may have a heart attack.
All in all, though, this win did much to reinforce what we already know about this Napoli side. The midfield is best constructed around Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami, while Dzemaili is a great option off the bench. Pablo Armero and Juan Zuniga may both be from the same country, but Zuniga is a much more essential component of the partenopei machine. Giandomenico Mesto never should've been considered an adequate back up defender.
And, most of all, Marek Hamsik is essential.
Yes, yes, you'll get tired of hearing it. But do you honestly think it was a coincidence that Hamsik replaced Pandev in the 66th minute, and Gonzalo Higuain scored five minutes later? It was Marek that began the move, picking up the ball from Armero and forcing his way into the area before laying off to allow Higuain to sink the shot.
Marek Marek Marek.
I've yet to figure out a way to credit Hamsik with Napoli's second goal, but let me sleep on it and I'll get back to you. The name on the scoresheet for this one was another substitute, Jose Callejon -- his third in three games. And Dzemaili managed to give a little shine to his performance with his assist, a sexy little backheel off a pass from Lorenzo Insigne.
It may not have been the prettiest game of football. It may have been rather frustrating at times. But this match against Atalanta marks the start of an incredibly tough two weeks, and it was essential that Napoli took all three points at the San Paolo.
Now let's all get some sleep -- it won't be long until we're losing it fretting over the first Champions League match of the year.