We were all hoping for three points and a strong performance from Napoli to start the season. Sadly that wasn't to be, despite an almost-instant opening goal from Marek Hamsik. Sassuolo equalized late in the first half, then held firm to keep Napoli's attack at bay throughout the second, then stole a late goal to earn a 2-1 in the first match of the campaign.
Some quick notes before getting to the full recap a little later on:
- OK, the result sucked, but there were positive signs in the attack. Hamsik was lively and dangerous, Lorenzo Insigne was lively and dangerous, and both Jose Callejon and Manolo Gabbiadini made an impact after coming in as substitutes. Heck, even Omar El Kaddouri looked pretty decent once he came on. Gonzalo Higuain looked like he's still getting up to speed, though, and Dries Mertens was bizarrely poor today. Those problems really hamstring Napoli's attack.
- Midfield was a mixed bag. David Lopez looked like someone who hadn't gotten enough playing time in preseason and didn't expect to start. Which, hey, that's who he is right now. Mirko Valdifiori was great in possession, mixed in defense, and left to stand around watching on set pieces while Mertens sprayed the ball around uselessly. Have to think all that will be better with time, and Allan back in the lineup.
- The defense... woof. Elseid Hysaj was actually quite good against Domenico Berardi, and Vlad Chiriches quietly shut down a striker in Guy Defrel who absolutely tortured Napoli's back line last season. Raul Albiol, though, was mediocre at best, making a number of crucial mistakes, and Christian Maggio was directly at fault for both goals, letting Floro Flores waltz by him unmarked on the first, and marking his own goalkeeper instead of the guy running to the far post on the second. Maggio's had a great career, but ... man. He just looks done.
- While the result sucked, the problems are all fixable. The attack will gel with time, the midfield mostly just needs Allan, and the defense has options that can help. A loss is harsh for Napoli, but Sassuolo away was never going to be easy. Napoli are going to get better, though, and hey, it's not like they're behind Juventus right now.
Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Albiol, Chiriches, Hysaj; Lopez, Valdifiori, Hamsik; Insigne (El Kaddouri 74'); Mertens (Callejon 79'), Higuain (Gabbiadini 63')
Goals: Hamsik (3')
Sassuolo: Consigli; Vrsaljko, Cannavaro, Acerbi, Peluso; Missiroli, Magnanelli, Duncan; Berardi (Politano 63'), Defrel (Falcinelli 82'), Floro Flores (Sansone 73')
Goals: Floro Flores (32')