Napoli needed to absolute hide Cesena in this first match of 2015, and hide them they did. The final scoreline was 4-1 in Napoli's favor, but between the quality of the performance and the sheer relief of seeing them dominate a side that they should dominate, and there were some top-shelf individual performances to go along with it. But who was the best on the day? Read on to find out.
Rafael Cabral - 8 - Maybe could have done better on Cesena's goal, but made several solid saves and did some excellent work on crosses and other balls in the box that snuffed out potential goals before they happened. In particular, his work to go out on a full stretch and push a ball away from an oncoming striker early in the second half when many goalkeepers would have risked trying to catch the ball despite the low chance of success in that spot was impressive decision making that, a year ago, Rafael may not have been on the right side of.
Christian Maggio - 6 - Did his job. Nothing flash at either end of the pitch, but no mistakes either, so job well done I say.
Raul Albiol - 6 - Went to sleep during the free kick that lead to Cesena's goal, but no mistakes otherwise, and at 4-0 with 15 minutes left who really cares?
Henrique Buss - 5 - Really struggled with his positioning again, and Alejandro Rodriguez took him to school for it early in the second half. In fact, basically every Cesena threat and half-chance came through him. Yay.
Miguel Britos - 6 - Stayed deep and stayed responsible. Didn't make any real mistakes, in large part because he stayed at home and didn't risk getting caught out on the counter like we've seen happen so many times with him this season. Success!
Walter Gargano - 5 - Solid in the first half, but made too many mistakes on and off the ball in the second half. Deserved to be subbed off much earlier than he did, frankly. It's a bit of a shame to see him backslide like this after how good he was in the Supercoppa.
David Lopez - 7 - Maybe not up to his usual standard, but had a solid game. Cesena had little luck trying to move the ball through his part of midfield, so eventually the basically just gave up trying. Also worked well with Hamsik early in the match to keep the attack moving even when the front three weren't having such a great time.
Jose Callejon - 8 - Started slow, but once he woke up, Callejon was a force to be reckoned with. He ran hard, created a lot of danger, made Cesena's defenders look even worse than they did on their own. His goal was a nice piece of poaching, too, which we haven't seen from him in awhile. After being in rough form for a couple of months, this sign of quality is a nice thing indeed.
Marek Hamsik - 9 - Continued to show the strong form he was rounding in to before the break, netting a goal and a pair of assists as he dictated play and constantly seemed to be a step or two ahead of anything Cesena's midfield and defense tried to do to stop him. This was the Marekiaro we all know and love. Hopefully, this time he's back to stay.
Jonathan De Guzman - 6 - This was not De Guzman's best performance on the left win. In fact, it was thoroughly forgettable. So let's just forget about it and move on.
Gonzalo Higuain - 9 - Damn, Pipita. Nice show. Two stellar goals, an assist, and absolute domination of a three-man defense that kept trying to double- and triple-team him and failed miserably at it. He was a one-man wrecking crew out there, which was extra bad news for Cesena since Callejon and Hamsik played so well too.
Dries Mertens - 7 - Super sub ahoy! Served up the assist on the fourth goal, had a couple good cracks at trying to score himself, and injected some energy to the attack when Napoli were starting to slow up a tad. This is the kid of showing that makes us love Dries.
Jorginho - 6 - Was only on for some twenty minutes, so didn't really have a ton of time to do Jorginho-y things. Still was fairly decent; didn't really lose possession and was solid enough defensively.
Josip Radosevic - 10000000000 - JOSIP RADOSEVIC ACTUALLY PLAYED IN A REAL LIVE COMPETITIVE MATCH NO I DON'T CARE THAT HE ONLY PLAYED FOR LIKE SEVEN MINUTES HE ACTUALLY PLAYED HE GETS ALL THE MATCH RATING POINTS EVER. No I don't have an obsession problem, why do you ask?
Who was your man of the match for Napoli against Cesena? Vote in the poll below and discuss the performances in the comments!
And yes, the Player of the Half-Season feature post is coming. The transfer news day, related features, and match kind of shoved it back a bit. Apologies.