Walter Mazzarri has devised a new tactic for his Napoli team. Let the opposition go two goals ahead to lure them into a false sense of security and then start playing with enough time remaining to produce an incredible comeback. In the last two outings for his new charges, Mazzarri has seen his side make two dramatic recoveries in games that they had no right to come back into. In midweek, as five minutes of injury time was shown on the fourth official’s board, the Azzurri were 0-2 down to Milan and somehow clawed their way back into the game to salvage a precious point. On Saturday night in Turin, they went one better by snatching the most unlikely of victories against Juventus, their first victory in Turin for 21 years. When Napoli defender Matteo Contini foolishly headed the ball straight into the path of Sebastian Giovinco nine minutes into the second half, the little man despatched the ball past the hapless Morgan De Sanctis to put Juventus two up and the game seemingly out of reach of the Southern giants.
Mazzarri was playing the strangest of formations, a 3-4-2-1 system that saw Marek Hamšik and Ezequiel Lavezzi playing just behind striker Germán Denis, who had been preferred to Fabio Quagliarella. Time for a change, off went defender Hugo Campagnaro and on came midfielder Jesus Dátolo as the visitors reverted back to the 3-5-2 formation that they seem far more comfortable with. Within six minutes of the change Napoli were level, with Dátolo instrumental in both goals, his first touch of the game saw him produce a pin-point cross for Hamšik to fire home and just five minutes later, he grabbed the equaliser as the Juventus defence capitulated.
Was this a stroke of genius or just plain lucky? Mazzarri will no doubt opt for the former but one thing that cannot be ignored is the sheer belief and courage he has brought back to the Azzurri, something that was sadly lacking under the previous regime of Roberto Donadoni. When Hamšik smashed home his side’s third goal nine minutes from time, Mazzarri’s tactical switch had been vindicated. After the game, President Aurelio De Laurentiis announced to the media that his Coach was “10 times better than Mourinho”, Napoli’s legions of fans around the world will be hoping that their team can win football matches with a little less fuss in the future.
Milan have turned a corner it would seem. Just a month ago the club were in crisis with all sorts of rumours being bandied around Milanello about who would be Coach Leonardo’s successor. A second-half renaissance against Roma has provided the catalyst for an impressive run of results culminating in Saturday night’s victory in the San Siro over a resurgent Parma. So what has been the main factor in the Rossoneri’s rise from the ashes? Firstly, we must look to their talisman Ronaldinho, who has finally found peace with himself and his teammates. His display on Saturday night was outstanding, setting up both goals for Marco Borriello, and seemingly relishing his role on the left hand side. Borriello, for his part, seems to be regaining full fitness after a turbulent year on the sidelines, and appears to link up well with the triad of attacking players behind him. Gennaro Gattuso’s return to the midfield has added much needed bite and at the back, Thiago Silva is finally living up to his potential as a fine central defender. The atmosphere around the club is one of contentment and tranquillity – Leonardo has seen his players repay the faith he has shown in them through the turbulent times and after a quarter of the campaign, the Rossoneri are emerging as unlikely title contenders in a season where none of the leading protagonists seem to want to take Inter’s title away from them.
Serie A analysis
Milan, a tale of one city, Roma, the same old problems– August 24, 2009
José’s derby day delight, Diego tames the Roman gladiators– August 31, 2009
Chiellini fires Juve to the top, Genoa respond in style– September 14, 2009
Top spot for a resurgent Samp, Totti leads from the front again– September 21, 2009
Two tales of one city– September 25, 2009
Will the real Viola please reveal themselves, Inter fall in Genoa– September 28, 2009
Inter go clear as Juve and Fiorentina play out entertaining draw– October 19, 2009
Juventus or Sampdoria, who are Inter’s real challengers?– October 29, 2009
Napoli break their Turin hoodoo, Milan on the charge– November 2, 2009