ROMA LEAVE IT LATE TO TOP NAPOLI
Even though Napoli had gotten off to a horrid start under Rafa Benitez, things were starting to look sunny once again under new boss Luciano Spalleti. His Azzurri side have now won 6 straight Serie A games and earlier this week defeated Sampdoria to move on to the next round in the Coppa Italia, where they will host Roma. Before then, however, Napoli must entertain the league leading Giallorossi in the league.
It would be a return to the Stadio San Paolo for two AS Roma players; Morgan De Sanctis, the veteran goalkeeper who joined last summer, and Paolo Cannavaro, who left his post as captain of SSC Napoli just yesterday to join league rivals Roma, perfectly in time to play against his old employers. De Sanctis, as expected, was given the start, but Cannavaro had to make to do with a spot on the bench, at least to start.
The first chance fell to Napoli when new captain Marek Hamsik hammered a strike from long range toward his old teammate’s goal, only for De Sanctis to make an astounding stop to tip the ball onto the post Roma almost immediately bounced back when Francesco Totti brilliantly slipped in Adem Ljajic, but the Serb’s shot was expertly denied by Pepe Reina.
The rest of the first half was well fought, but on the stroke of half time, it seemed Napoli had taken the lead. Marek Hamsik’s long range shot again found the crossbar, but this time Gonzalo Higuain was the fastest to react, and the Argentine easily buried the follow up. His celebration were cut short, however, by the offside flag, and so at half time the score was 0-0.
In the second half, both sides shored up defensively, and neither team could muster any real chances. With slightly less than fifteen minutes left in the match, however, Paolo Cannavaro was introduced to the match in place of Mehdi Benatia and was greeted by raucous boos and coin being thrown down at him. To make things worse, Cannavaro changed the game.
With just a minute remaining, it was the ex-Napoli captain that searched out Adem Ljajic with a lovely lofted through ball, putting him through on goal. The attacker drifted past Reina with ease and slotted the ball into an empty net, careening back toward the Roma traveling contingent to celebrate his late winner.
“It was a very difficult, exciting game, but in the end we came out on top,” said Totti after the match, wearing a knee brace. He confirmed to the media, “Yes, I’ve picked up a knee injury, and I will unfortunately be out for 3 or 4 weeks, but the team will do fine without me.”
After their dramatic late victory, the Giallorossi sit atop Serie A by two points over two-time reigning champions Juventus. Roma continue their quest for a Scudetto next week when they host Catania at the Stadio Olimpico. Until then, here’s how the league table is looking: