Napoli bounced back strongly from last weekend's disappointment, earning a massive 3-0 win over Bologna at the Stadio San Paolo. The win was locked up on the strength of a first-half brace from Manolo Gabbiadini, though it was Dries Mertens' second-half hat trick that stole the show.
After weeks of slow starts, Napoli needed something different and something better this time around. Different and better is exactly what they got -- instead of giving up their practically traditional early goal, Napoli scored one of their own, off a wonderful piece of play from Dries Mertens and a clever run from Manolo Gabbiadini allowed the latter to slot home just ten minutes into the match.
The home side was given adulating cheers for that goal, and those cheers grew to roars when Gabbiadini scored from the penalty spot 25 minutes later. Napoli utterly dominated the first half, only allowing Bologna to get two shots off, neither of which were on target. It was a vastly improved performance than we've seen from the club in weeks -- even against Hellas Verona, they had to deal with more danger than they did on Tuesday.
The second half was more of the same, one-sided dominant play, and it had one element that was even better: the Dries Mertens show. The Belgian attacker scored an astounding hat trick, and all three were well worth a highlight reel. That trio of goals added to the late David Lopez tally -- his first league goal in 11 months -- gave Napoli their biggest win of the season, and one that they very badly needed right now.
Now, before you go assuming that Napoli are back and badder than ever, keep this in mind -- Bologna have now gone nine games without a win, a run that dates back to mid-February. In that time, they've failed to score in seven of those games, and while Napoli scored almost as many goals today than Bologna had given up in that poor run -- six goals to seven -- it's not like the rossoblu have had a sterling defensive record this season.
Still, it's a wonderful turnaround to see after the struggles of recent weeks, and it will give the club a huge boost in confidence heading into their Derby del Sole match against Roma this weekend. That game will be decisive for Napoli's ability to hold onto second place in the league, so any boost helps.
On to the next.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik (Lopez 81'); Callejon (El Kaddouri 77'), Gabbiadini (Insigne 73'), Mertens
Goals: Gabbiadini (10', pen. 35'), Mertens (58', 80', 88'), Lopez (89')
Bologna: Mirante; M'baye, Oikonomou, Rossettini, Constant; Taider, Diawara (Donsah 81'), Brighi; Zuniga, Acquafresca (Floccari 60'), Giaccherini (Mounier 60')