Napoli didn’t have their best form in the first half of their match against Palermo on Saturday, but turned things around brilliantly in the second half. Marek Hamsik scored a historic goal in the opening moments of the second half and Jose Callejon followed it up with a brace to lead Napoli to a 3-0 win away from home.
The first half was a slow one for Napoli, who looked to get out on the front foot with an aggressive starting lineup. They certainly did that, virtually camping out in the final third for long stretches of the half, but Palermo’s defense held firm and Napoli were utterly stymied by them.
The second half, however, was a much different story. Napoli came out racing like a team possessed, and it quickly paid major dividends in the form of a quality goal from Marek Hamsik, set up by a lovely low cross from Faouzi Ghoulam. It was a massive goal in Hamsik’s career, his 82nd career tally in Serie A — taking him to second place in Napoli’s all-time list and passing the great Diego Maradona in the process.
That wasn’t the last time we would celebrate a Napoli goal, though, with Jose Callejon popping up with a pair of quality finishes of his own on either side of the hour mark. Napoli were well and truly running rampant, and while they wouldn’t score again it wasn’t for lack of quality or lack of effort. They were clearly the superior team and it seemed that everything they did was clicking and leaving Palermo hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
While Napoli’s win over AC Milan two weeks ago may have been more emphatic, but this may actually have been of a higher quality, with the flow and luster of Napoli’s play pleasing from first minute to last, even in their weaker start to the day. The addition of Piotr Zielinski to the midfield to give them extra attacking verve was a gamble, but one that paid off with a quality performance, and Lorenzo Insigne bounced back brilliantly from his disappointing start to the season with a terrific performance of his own.
The match was a good sign of how things are progressing early this season for Napoli — they dominated a team they should have dominated, something that’s been troublesome in the past for them, and got excellent performances from several players who needed to show just that in Callejon, Insigne, and Zielinski. The defense dominated their way to allowing just one shot on target all match long, with even Christian Maggio was solid in his return to the starting lineup. There wasn’t a truly weak performance from anyone on the day, and with a Champions League trip to Ukraine and Dynamo Kyiv looming on Tuesday, the timing for this showing couldn’t have been better.
Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Zielinski (Allan 73’), Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon (Mertens 70’), Milik (Gabbiadini 67’), Insigne
Goals: Hamsik (47’), Callejon (51’, 65’)
Palermo: Posavec; Rispoli, Goldaniga, Rajkovic, Aleesami; Hiljemark, Gazzi, Jajalo (Henrique 57’); Embalo (Nestorovski 46’), Diamanti, Sallai (Bentivegna 84’)