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Napoli 3, Cagliari 0: THE CHAAAAAAMPIOOOOOOONS

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Because all that matters is that Napoli are officially in next season's Champions League.

Happy birthday, Dries!
Happy birthday, Dries!
Giuseppe Bellini

Marek looked injured. Napoli didn't play all that well, but scored three goals anyways. Cagliari played worse and got blown off the pitch. Who cares? Third place is secure thanks to Sassuolo. Nothing else matters.

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Napoli 3 Mertens 33' (pen.), Pandev 43', Dzemaili 57'
Cagliari 0

Since the match wasn't really all that interesting aside from the scoreline, it's recipe time!

A good Indian style curry seems like an easy thing to make, but it's so easy to get the flavor wrong and ruin the whole thing. Plus, it's a dish that requires a lot of patience, as to get the right consistency and bring out the full flavor, it requires slowly simmering for several hours before it's ready.

Start with putting some olive oil in to a good heavy saucepan. While that's warming up a bit, cut up a large onion. I recommend long slices for one half and rough chunks for the other, to give a little visual variety. Once that's done and the pan is warm, toss in the garlic with some minced onion and start sauteing those suckers.

This is where I recommend you start seasoning. Some think it's best to cook the onions and garlic on their own, but I've always thought some of the spice flavors sing a bit better if you add some of it to the onions while they saute. Add in some good orange or yellow curry powder, some turmeric, and a little bit of powdered ginger. I usually do about a 5/1 ratio of curry to turmeric, but you can adjust that to your own taste.

While that does it's thing, start cutting your meat of choice. I usually make it with chicken, but lamb works very well. You can use beef, but it's not exactly traditionally Indian. Think stew meat as far as piece size goes. Toss it in with the onions and add more seasoning. I usually add some garam masala and cumin at this point as well. Some like adding cardamom, but I'm not really a fan.

Once the chicken is mostly cooked, pop open a can of coconut milk. You can use regular milk as well (the closer to whole the better), but the flavor of coconut milk works so much better it's not even funny. Stir it in with the chicken, onions, and garlic that you have cooking, then add a whole bunch more of the spices you've used so far.

You should also add in something that's going to sound a little weird, but bear with me. Shake in some fish sauce. I know, I know. Bear with me. The bottle will literally say "fish sauce" on it. It smells a little weird, and if you try a bit of it straight, it tastes like crap. But if you add a little bit of it in to the curry (we're talking 1/4 of a teaspoon or so), the flavors of everything else just POP in the end. I swear, it works.

Once the fish sauce is in, let the mixture heat up a bit, then turn the heat down to no more than medium-low, cover and let it simmer. This would be a good time to dice up some carrots and cauliflower and add them in before too long. Some potatoes too, depending on what you're serving the curry with.

Now, it's time to wait. This should really simmer for at least 3-4 hours before serving, but if you can give it longer, do it. Don't mess with it too much, just stir a little every now and then.

While we wait, let's talk sides. Rice is the easy and obvious answer, and it's hard to go wrong there. What also works well, though, is some chunky curried mashed potatoes.

They're easy. Cut up the potatoes you're going to use. I recommend reds or golds. Leave the skin ON, just cut off the ends and any other bits that need removing before dicing. Toss 'em in an empty pot, and generously coat them with some curry powder before adding the water and sticking it on the stove to boil for awhile.

Once they're ready to mash, drain them and put them in a bowl and do your first couple of quick mashes to break them up a bit. Then salt it, add in parsley if you want (I like to, but it's totally optional. Parsley is mostly for appearance when it's used), and instead of adding milk and butter, use sour cream. The flavor works a bit better with the curry, and it adds more body to the potatoes. You don't want them super-creamy for something like this, rather something firm with some real "oomph" to it.

Once everything is ready, put some of your mashed potatoes in a bowl, spoon a generous helping of curry on top, and dig in. I recommend serving with a nice hearty bread as well; the bread recipe I wrote about after the Torino match works excellently.

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As to the match itself, there's not much to say. Neither side started well. Marek Hamsik looked injured, and continued to look injured for all 90 minutes (thanks for that, Rafa). Goran Pandev earned a penalty for what seems like the umpteenth time this season when he was hauled down in the box by Daniele Conti and Davide Astori (who had a terrible match, by the way). Dries Mertens, birthday boy, finished it easily for his ninth league goal of the season.

Just before the half, a hilariously poor clearance by Astori gifted Jose Callejon the ball in front of goal, but he had to cross instead of shoot because he was busy losing his balance and falling over. Pandev had to dive and slide to get to the ball, but he was just able to push it past Marco Silvestri and in to the back of the net.

Speaking of Silvestri, he would be sent off less than ten minutes in to the second half after he grabbed Pandev's foot when the Macedonian was running clear after rounding, you guessed it, Astori in the box. Despite moving around like he had a dead leg, Hamsik was given the chance to convert this penalty and fooled Vlada Avramov on which way he went... but clanged his shot off the crossbar. Poor Marekiaro looked crestfallen as the ball whizzed back by him.

A third goal wouldn't evade Napoli for long, though. They pressed hard with a man advantage and a loose ball in the box came to Marek, who looked certain to score... but Blerim Dzemaili, who'd had two excellent shots saved in the first half, nipped the ball from his captain and put it in the back of the net himself, scoring his sixth of the season.

There isn't much else to say from there. Cagliari dropped in to a defensive shell, looking to avoid conceding again at all costs, which they were able to do. Napoli did have a few more chances, but bad finishing and bad luck conspired to keep them out. Duvan Zapata and Josip Radosevic got some playing time, which was good to see. Hopefully they get more in the last two matches.

Also, Pepe Reina was removed at half time with what was reported as a minor thigh injury. Roberto Colombo came on, but barely had any work to do as Cagliari were quickly blown out of the match.

Napoli are back in the Champions League, third place is secure, and the last two matches of the season look pretty darn winnable. Life isn't so bad right now.

Napoli: Reina (Colombo 45'); Mesto, Fernandez, Britos, Ghoulam; Inler (Zapata 63'), Dzemaili; Mertens, Hamsik, Callejòn; Pandev (Radosevic 74')

Cagliari: Silvestri, Pisano (Perico 74'), Rossettini, Astori, Avelar, Dessena, Conti, Eriksson, Ibraimi (Avramov 55'), Sau (Avelar 63'), Ibarbo