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Napoli vs. Bologna, Serie A 2016: Final score 3-1, Milik brace secures victory

Two goals off the bench for Arkadiusz Milik was exactly what Napoli needed to beat Bologna.

SSC Napoli v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Another game, another brace for Arkadiusz Milik. Napoli’s biggest summer signing was the star of the show once more, coming off the bench to score two crucial goals to propel his side to a 3-1 victory over a Bologna side who finished the match with ten men. Jose Callejon opened the scoring and both Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski enjoyed stellar performances ad Napoli largely dominated the match, though a major error from Pepe Reina left the result in question before Milik stole the show.

Napoli came out absolutely on fire, roaring up the pitch over and over to put Bologna on the back foot and keep them there. There was an early chance for Bologna from ex-Napoli midfielder Blerim Dzemaili, but otherwise the first half was mostly one-way traffic, with Napoli constantly winning the ball back and firing into the final third to cause danger.

That danger came to fruition in the 13th minute when a stunningly gorgeous cross from Lorenzo Insigne was met by a perfectly-timed run from Jose Callejon, with the Spanish winger nodding the ball into the back of the net with ease to give his team the early lead. It was something of a nostalgic goal for Callejon as well, having scored his first goal for Napoli in his Serie A debut against Bologna in 2013.

Napoli wouldn’t add to their lead before halftime, but not for lack of effort -- the home side would rip 11 shots off in the opening frame, with six of them on target, including two shots on goal apiece from Callejon and Insigne. Napoli were rarely out of possession for long, and never wasted time before getting the ball into the final third — all of their possession was purposeful and aggressive, and while it only resulted in the one goal, it was still a pleasing style to see them play.

The second half started strong, but Bologna were able to find a bit more footing and managed to establish something of a genuine attacking threat. That paid off when Simone Verdi ripped off a shot from outside the box that soared right past Pepe Reina, the Spanish keeper letting the ball get between his arms despite seeming to read the ball well and react to it. It was a horrible gaffe from Reina, and a massive momentum killer for Napoli.

A pair of substitutions got that momentum headed back in the right direction, with Arkadiusz Milik entering for an ineffective Manolo Gabbiadini, and Faouzi Ghoulam relieving a solid-but-tired Ivan Strinic. The renewed energy in the side quickly proved crucial, as a stunningly gorgeous defense-splitting pass from Marek Hamsik set Milik free to score on one of his first touches of the match.

But Milik wasn’t done, popping up again ten minutes later to collect a loose ball outside the box, and unleashing an absolute rocket low to the near post to score a second goal, earning his third brace already in his young Napoli career.

Things went from bad to worse for Bologna just a few short minutes later, with Emil Krafth getting sent off after barging Piotr Zielinski over as the last man in defense with the Polish midfielder clear on goal. Napoli wouldn’t score off the resulting free kick, but used their one-man and two-goal advantage to grind out the waning minutes of the match with ease.

The 3-1 triumph is Napoli’s third straight league win, and fourth straight in all competitions. With a tough match at Genoa looming in a few days, this momentum is incredibly valuable, and to see so much of their depth perform well is a huge relief for the fans. Not everything was perfect — Gabbiadini and Reina were definite sour notes in this match — but optimism is high in Naples for a reason.

On to the next.

Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Strinic (Ghoulam 66’); Zielinski, Jorginho (Allan 74’), Hamsik; Callejon, Gabbiadini (Milik 60’), Insigne

Goals: Callejon (13’), Milik (67’, 77’)

Bologna: Da Costa; Krafth (red 81’), Gastaldello, Oikonomou, Torosidis (Masina 83’); Dzemaili, Nagy (Donsah 60’), Taider; Di Francesco, Verdi, Krejci (Rizzo 74’)

Goals: Verdi (55’)