Google+ PLANET FOOT 7: Hamsik leads Napoli to a win over Chievo in the Serie A.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hamsik leads Napoli to a win over Chievo in the Serie A.

Marek Hamsik netted his second consecutive brace as Napoli saw off Chievo Verona in a tough match at the Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.

Though the 4-2 scoreline suggests it was a pretty comfortable win for Napoli, it certainly wasn't. Chievo Verona battled back to draw level twice in the first half, and could've taken the lead with better finishing. However, the visitors were much improved in the second half, scoring twice to seal their second consecutive victory.

Chievo started in a typically stubborn fashion, with Napoli finding it difficult to work any clear cut opportunities early on. The best chance fell to Gonzalo Higuaín, though after he was slipped through by Marek Hamsík, his effort was comfortably saved at the near post by Christian Puggioni.

However, just short of a quarter of an hour into the game, the visitors had the lead - and they didn't even have to break through Chievo's defensive line. Midfield wizard Hamšík managed to work some space in the sea of yellow shirts outside the box, and before anyone had time to close him down, the ball had been powered into the bottom corner of the net.

Napoli were far from dominating the game, and looked content to sit deep and compact. Their deepest six outfielders seemed content to let the front four shoulder the offensive burden while they soaked up the Chievo attacks. However, they neglected their duty, when just short of 25 minutes in, Alberto Paloschi levelled the scoring. Winger Perparim Hetemaj found a pocket of space in behind left-back Juan Zuniga, volleying a low cross into the area which Paloschi slid home.

It was a goal out of nothing, and sparked a frantic end-to-end few minutes. Pepe Reina was forced into a save on Boukary Dramé's deflected cross as Chievo grew in confidence, though 28 minutes in, a rare defensive lapse from the hosts allowed Napoli to retake the lead. Defender Gennaro Sardo gave the ball away to Gonzalo Higuaín out on the left wing, with the striker's low cross to the far post tapped in by winger José Callejón.

A minute later Paloschi nodded a risky defensive header by Christian Maggio against the post, as Chievo looked to draw level again. They were in the ascendency, and Cyril Thereau missed a volley from point-blank range after Ivan Radovanović's long-range effort was palmed into the Frenchman's path.

Higuaín had a great chance to double Napoli's advantage against the run of play, though fired wide from close range. Five minutes before half time, the partenopei paid the price. Paloschi found himself on the scoresheet once again, after he found himself in space at Reina's near post after a goalmouth scramble. Despite the tight angle, the Spanish keeper allowed the ball between his legs, and the scores were level once more.

Napoli came out for the second half with much more intent, and seized control of the match. Gökhan İnler went close with a couple of long-range efforts, and Lorenzo Insigne ducked and weaved his way through the Flying Donkeys' box before spooning a weak shot into Puggioni's arms. With 25 minutes left they had their reward, as Hamsík smashed a volley into the top corner from close range after the Chievo keeper failed to deal convincingly with a defensive backpass.

Zuniga went close soon after, before Higuain took advantage of another goalkeeping error to net his first Serie A goal. The striker sealed the points after Insigne's chipped through-ball deflected off Puggioni, leaving the Argentine with a simple tap-in for 4-2. From then on Napoli were rarely given a scare, and would've added a fifth with ten minutes remaining if Goran Pandev had remembered his shooting boots.

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