Edinson Cavani’s double strike in the final ten minutes of last Sunday’s extraordinary encounter against Lazio at the Stadio San Paolo, is just the latest chapter in an incredible story involving the Partenopei and the “Zona Cesarini”.
In 1929, an Argentinean striker called Renato Cesarini was signed by Juventus. His uncanny knack of scoring goals in the closing minutes of matches earned him great affection from the Italian public and gave rise to the saying “Zona Cesarini”, which is still used by Italians today to describe goals that are scored in the latter stages of games.
In the current Serie A campaign, Napoli are never more dangerous than when in the “Zona Cesarini”, having already scored 15 goals inside the last ten minutes of their league games this term, eight of them coming from their mercurial Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani. As early as the second week of the championship, the Partenopei were leaving it late when skipper Paolo Cannavaro scored an 87th minute goal to give his side the lead against Bari at the San Paolo, only for this to be cancelled out moments later. It was a signpost to the future as just a week later, Marek Hamsik and Cavani ensured their side took all three points in Genoa, scoring in the 83rd and 86th minute respectively against Sampdoria.
In week five with nine minutes to go, Walter Mazzarri’s men were heading towards a 1-1 draw in Cesena before goals from Hamsik and a brace from Cavani sealed all three points for the visitors. At the San Paolo in week 10, Cavani’s 86th minute goal gave the home side an unassailable 2-0 lead against Parma and just a week later, Argentinean playmaker Ezequiel Lavezzi grabbed a 94th minute winner in Sardinia against Cagliari. Between week 15 and week 21, last gasp goals from midfielder Christian Maggio and Cavani saw off the challenge of Palermo, Lecce and Bari before another Argentinean, Jose Sosa got in on the act in week 24 against Cesena.
In week 25, Cavani was at it again, putting Roma to the sword in the capital and four weeks later, Maggio confirmed the points at the Stadio Ennio Tardini in Parma. If all of this wasn’t dramatic enough, last Sunday’s incredible finale was something that nobody who witnessed it will ever forget. The Vesuviani’s last gasp heroics have been worth a total of 14 extra points in their quest to land their first scudetto for over 20 years. To give a clear indication of just how vital this could be in the final analysis, the next team to profit from the “Zona Cesarini” are Milan with the current league leaders having scored 12 goals in the final ten minutes of their games. However, the Rossoneri have also conceded three goals in the dying embers of their matches and their points tally has only profited by two. As the title race enters the final straight, is there to be another twist involving the legend that was born over 80 years ago?