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Napoli 4-2 Lazio: Napoli try very hard to lose, don't succeed

everyone wants to make love to Pipita
everyone wants to make love to Pipita
Giuseppe Bellini

Despite having a man advantage for the entire second half, Napoli tried very, very hard to lose this match. Fortunately, no one let Gonzalo Higuaín in on the plan. The Argentine scored a hat-trick, netting the final goal in stoppages, and the partenopei keep their nine-point advantage over Fiorentina.

With Marek Hamšík out, Rafa Benítez let Lorenzo Insigne have the armband. That pretty much made every dream the 22-year-old has ever had come true. Insigne embraced the captaincy, running around like a man possessed and providing two assists. He had a go within the first five minutes, shooting just wide, but the little guy was offside anyway.

Higuaín was shown a yellow ten minutes in, purportedly for simulation, although he sure looked as though he got clipped around the ankles. The brutish Lazio continued to abuse Pipita, with Lorik Cana getting a yellow minutes later for tripping him up when he looked to be through on goal.

It seemed as though there was no way the biancocelesti would manage to score - their buildup was wonderful and the pairing of Raúl Albiol and Miguel Britos was terrifying, but Lazio kept applying a woeful sort of finishing to their shots.

Then came Senad Lulić. The Bosnian proved that Albiol was no threat, easily turning him, finding a pocket of space and sending in a low shot. Pepe Reina merely stood by as the ball sailed into the back of the net.

With the way Napoli have been playing recently, it certainly seemed as though the side would be condemned to a loss. In fact, it came as no surprise that it was Felipe Anderson that had the next decent chance at goal, but this time Reina didn't need to move to keep out the shot.

Napoli managed to draw level just before the break with an absolutely lovely goal from Dries Mertens. Drizzle cut inside and let fly from the edge of the area, his shot nestling in just inside the near post.

The second half began with Cana finally getting his marching orders. Higuaín and Mertens played a neat little one-two, but the Albanian brought down Mertens just inside the area. It was Pipita who stepped to the spot. Etrit Berisha chose correctly, but the Argentine had plenty of power behind his shot and put it well out of reach.

Despite having a man and a goal advantage, the scoreline still didn't seem all that comfortable to us Napoli fans. So when Higuaín put in another in the 67th minute, you'd think the pressure would've eased somewhat. It was a lovely goal as well. Insigne sent a long ball over the heads of the Lazio players. Higuaín controlled with his knee, went past Diego Novaretti, and fired into the far corner.

And that's when Lazio started really ramping up their game. Hélder Postiga and Ogenyi Onazi both saw their long-range shots saved from Reina. Then, eight minutes before time, Onazi put in Lazio's second. The Nigerian easily won the ball from Britos to put his shot through Reina's legs.

The visitors' second goal ensured a frantic finish. Postiga put the ball in the back of the net, but it was correctly ruled out - although not before the Napoli fanbase had collective heart attacks and/or punched a bunch of walls. In stoppages (why four minutes? Seriously?) a header from Michaël Ciani had Reina at full stretch to deny the equalizer.

That attempt allowed Napoli to break, with Higuaín sprinting down the pitch to get on the end of the ball from Reina. He rounded Novaretti, chipped in his shot and completed his hat-trick.

Thank goodness.

Napoli: Reina; Henrique, Albiol (Fernández 45), Britos, Ghoulam; Jorginho (Mesto 83) Behrami; Mertens (Callejón 65), Pandev, Insigne; Higuain

Lazio: Berisha; Konko Ciani, Cana, Radu; Ledesma, Onazi, Lulic (Cavanda 74); Candreva, Mauri (Postiga 57), Anderson (Novaretti 63)