Wednesday at the San Paolo saw Napoli put on a dominant show, beating Palermo 2-0 in a match that could easily have seen a much steeper win. Napoli dominated the run of play and put the hurt on Palermo in a big, big way. While they only score two goals, thanks to Gonzalo Higuain and Dries Mertens, it could have been so, so much better.
The pace of the match was frenetic from the start, with Napoli driving at Palermo's goal at will. It seemed inevitable that Napoli would score, but Stefano Sorrentino had a brilliant performance in goal -- and a seemingly endless stream of shots hitting to woodwork didn't help either. OK, it wasn't endless, Napoli shots only hit wood four times during the match, and two were a result of Sorrentino saves, but it sure felt endless.
Just when things were starting to look problematic for Napoli, though -- with Palermo threatening on the counter and Napoli's attack struggling to find the final ball they needed -- up stepped Higuain with a moment of magic. A low, driven shot that came off his foot like a rocket beat Sorrentino and snapped the back of the net, giving Napoli a lead just before halftime that they would not relinquish.
There were plenty of moments of nerves and frustrations -- like when Lorenzo Insigne's struggles to score lead to him blowing up at Mertens and Maurizio Sarri when he was substituted -- but Napoli by and large played with a cool, calm, and collected demeanor that left little doubt that they would get the win in the end. When Mertens scored Napoli's second late on, it was almost a foregone conclusion. Of course Napoli would win, how else could it be?
While Higuain and Mertens were the goalscoring heroes, the two men who came into the side today were plenty fantastic as well. David Lopez and Vlad Chiriches played at extremely high levels, with Lopez letting Napoli's midfield barely miss a beat without Allan, and Chiriches turning into a stone wall in defense. With those two able to step in and keep the team playing well, it makes Napoli's season all the brighter -- after all, the better the depth, the better the team.
Three points, job done. On to the next.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Chiriches, Ghoulam; Lopez (Allan 63'), Jorginho, Hamsik, Callejon (El Kaddouri 77'), Higuain, Insigne (Mertens 65')
Goals: Higuain (39'), Mertens (79')
Palermo: Sorrentino; Struna, Gonzalez, Andelković; Rispoli, Rigoni (Quaison 67'), Maresca (Brugman 53'), Hiljemark, Lazaar (Chochev 79'); Vazquez, Gilardino