Neapolitans dine for five in delicious curtain-raiser
SSC Napoli responded to an early Kevin Lasagna goal against the run of play with five of their own, recording a thumping 5-2 victory over Hellas Verona to put down the gauntlet for an improvement on last year’s third-placed finish in Serie A.
After a summer which saw the departure of key players in Kalidou Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens, Napoli knew this would be a challenging affair. But despite being shorn of that trio’s 29 years of combined experience in Napoli blue, the Neapolitans started well, and Victor Osimhen should have opened his account within the first ten minutes, skewing wide from close range following some tricky wide play from Hirving Lozano.
It was wave after wave of Gli Azzurri traffic in the first half, but Verona put themselves into a lead against the run of play just short of the half-hour mark. Their first corner of the game produced a cross from Ivan Ilić, which was flicked goalwards by Koray Günter, before instinctive finisher Lasagna swooped round the back to tap home for his fourth career goal against Napoli.
On each of the previous three occasions though, Lasagna didn’t end up on the winning side, and Georgian summer signing Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was out to spoil the party yet again, rising highest to nod home a Lozano cross from the right for a deserved equaliser. But the first-half action wasn’t over yet, as on the stroke of HT, Osimhen atoned for his earlier miss and tapped home from a tight angle following a Giovanni Di Lorenzo flick.
The high-octane entertainment continued just three minutes after HT, when Davide Faraoni charged forward down the right, and delivered an inch-perfect delivery to Thomas Henry, whose finish was one his French namesake Thierry would have been proud of. With the game now wide open, Napoli then retook the lead by turning defence into attack, with Kvaratskhelia playing Piotr Zieliński free through the middle to finish calmly beyond an onrushing Lorenzo Montipò.
Verona had no answer, with goals four and five yet to come. First, Stanislav Lobotka scored only his second in Serie A leaving all in his wake and caressing the ball beyond Montipò, before Matteo Politano rounded off the rout minutes after coming off the bench. There was even time for a disallowed sixth, and the result leaves Napoli with only one loss in the last six away H2Hs, while providing an emphatic illustration of their desire to win a first Serie A title in 33 years.