Napoli suffered a slow start to the game, but once they got rolling against Udinese there was no stopping them. A trio of goals in the second half put an emphatic mark on the game as Napoli strolled by their visitors, hopefully setting up an excellent run to the end of the season for the partenopei.
The first half was fairly underwhelming for Napoli, who despite dominating possession failed to create truly dangerous scoring chances. They lacked any measure of edge or incisiveness, and really seemed to lack energy as well. Fortunately, Udinese didn’t seem to feel up for punishing them for that failing, unlike other opponents this season, so Napoli were able to coast into halftime without incident.
Someone must have lit a fire under Napoli in the dressing room, though — our money is on Marek Hamsik with how angry he looked coming off the pitch at halftime — because they came out swinging hard and fast in the second half. That renewed effort and energy lead to an almost immediate goal, with Dries Mertens pouncing on the slightest of openings to hammer home the opening goal in the 47th minute.
Napoli started absolutely taking the game to Udinese after taking the lead, pinning the visitors back and bringing a nearly relentless attack right to them. The Zebrette did have a few chances to get forward, though, including one just after the hour mark that nearly saw Duvan Zapata score on his old team, though thankfully the goalpost got in the way.
Moments later, it was a former Udinese player scoring on the visitors, with Allan pouncing on a mistake by Ali Adnan, leaping onto a bobbled ball at the edge of the box, poking it past the scrambling Iraqi defender, and then slamming it home with authority. He didn’t celebrate other than a little bit of mustache-stroking with Mertens, but the stadium did enough celebrating to cover him.
Ten minutes later, the stadium was cheering again, this time chanting Jose Callejon’s name as he wheeled away in celebration. Udinese had seemed to almost stop playing after blocking a shot, but a looped ball found it’s way to Callejon and he had all the time and space he needed and then some to send a bullet shot past Orestis Karnezis and into the side netting for Napoli’s third goal.
That strike put Callejon into double digits for the season, putting Napoli in a unique position in Europe. They are the only team in the top five leagues in Europe with four players having scored double-digit goals, with Callejon’s tenth of the season joining Mertens’ 21, Lorenzo Insigne’s 14, and Hamsik’s 11 goals. That’s some incredible quality and consistency on a season-long basis and the kind of statistic you just don’t see very often in this game — and yet you can’t help but think that if Arkadiusz Milik hadn’t gotten hurt, Napoli would easily have a fifth player with that many goals.
Napoli would have a few more scoring chances before the end of the night, but they were more than happy to settle for three goals and three points. It was an important result, carrying through their recent momentum and hopefully setting them up to finish the season strongly, because they’re going to need every point they can get their hands on if they’re going to finish in second place, even after Roma dropped points again earlier in the day. They’re now just two points behind their rivals, setting up a close and dramatic race to the final matchday.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Strinic; Allan (Rog 71’), Jorginho, Hamsik (Zielinski 79’); Callejon, Mertens (Arkadiusz Milik 78’), Insigne
Goals: Mertens (47’), Allan (63’), Callejon (72’)
Udinese: Karnezis; Widmer, Danilo, Heurtaux, Ali Adnan; Badu, Hallfredsson, Jankto (Evangelista 78’); De Paul (Perica 51’), Duvan Zapata, Thereau (Matos 70’)