Things were almost perfect for Napoli against Bologna on Saturday, demolishing their hosts 7-1 in a match that saw two partenopei attackers finish with hat tricks — including Marek Hamsik’s first career Serie A hat trick with the club.
Ed. note — my internet picked a hell of a day to die two hours before the match. Thanks for that. That’s why the recap was delayed.
The scoring started early, with Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne both beating Bologna goalkeeper Antonio Mirante in the first six minutes of the match. Things threatened to come off the rails, though, when Jose Callejon gave away a penalty in the 24th minute — earning himself a yellow card that became a red when he lost his cool after Pepe Reina saved Mattia Destro’s shot from the spot.
The sides were evened again just minutes later, though, when referee Davide Massa sent off Adam Masina in a decision that’s been seen as questionable. The foul he committed was hard, yes, but hardly worthy of a red on its own, and the last-man situation some have argued is both incorrect — Domenico Maietta was arriving on the scene and was in a position to make a play on the ball a second later — and no longer actually a red card offense in that situation.
Regardless of Massa’s reasoning for sending Masina off, though, he did, and that switched from the defensive shell they’d been settling into to try to see out the game and back into a hyper-aggressive mode looking to exploit Bologna’s shaken defense. By the time the halftime whistle blew, Dries Mertens had scored twice and Vasilis Torosidis had scored once, setting up a second half that was sure to be exciting.
And oh, was it ever.
The second half was when Marek Hamsik really took over. He’d already had a fantastic first half, being at the heart of every good attack Napoli created throughout, but in the second half he found a whole other gear, scoring two absolutely fantastic goals, including a gorgeous line-drive of a shot to the far corner that beat Mirante so thoroughly that he actually hurt himself trying to save it, having to come out of the match several minutes later. The change in goal wasn’t enough to keep Napoli from scoring again, with Mertens competing his own hat trick in the 90th minute to take the game from an outrageous scoreline to one that simply humiliated Bologna.
The timing of a performance like this is key for Napoli, who have a vital Champions League match against Real Madrid in Spain just over a week away. This is the kind of match that can help build the form and confidence they need heading into a match like that, and with such a tough road ahead they need all the help they can find for themselves. This win will go a long ways towards getting them to where they need to be, and could kick-start a truly fantastic run of form.