By Mark Doyle
So, sometimes the right team does win. Just a night after Chelsea were crowned champions of Europe after yet another dreadfully defensive display, Napoli restored one’s faith in the game by overcoming a fine Juventus side to claim the Coppa Italia.
It was the Partenopei’s first major trophy in 22 years and it was thoroughly deserved. Whether Juventus were still suffering from a hangover after their Scudetto celebrations the week before is open to debate, but the Bianconeri were undoubtedly second best. They looked flat and were unusually devoid of creativity.
Indeed, one of the great strengths of this Juventus side is their midfield but they were out-thought and outfought on the night. Gokhan Inler epitomised everything that was good about Napoli. The Switzerland international’s drive and dynamism were integral to Napoli’s victory and it was no surprise that he played a key role in the crucial second goal.
|FROM OUR LIVE COMMENTARY|
|63'||GOOOOAAAALLLL!!!!!! And Edinson Cavani has scored for Napoli!!! The Uruguayan slots it into the bottom right-hand corner, as Storari guesses the wrong way. 1-0.|
|83'||GOOOOAAAALLLL!!!! Pandev broke from the halfway line, drew Bonucci out of position, and slipped in Marek Hamsik. The Slovakian took a touch, and smashed the ball across goal, and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. 2-0.|
Of course, the 'Three Tenors' also played their part. Ezequiel Lavezzi won the penalty from which Edinson Cavani opened the scoring, while Marek Hamsik finished wonderfully well after being played in on goal by Goran Pandev. All three worked tirelessly, with Hamsik and Lavezzi responsible for curbing Juventus’ attacking threat out wide – Stephan Lichtsteiner was particularly quiet – while also ensuring that Andrea Pirlo was not given the time and space in which to work his magic.
In that sense, it was a victory for energy and endeavour. With their terrific counterattacking capabilities, Napoli have been one of the most watchable sides in Europe over the past two years and it would have been a shame if Walter Mazzarri’s men had again finished the season empty-handed.
It would have been a bitter pill to swallow in light of the fact that their late surge in Serie A failed to secure them re-entry into the Champions League, a tournament which they illuminated this season with some scintillating displays. Their second-leg capitulation at Stamford Bridge was a massive disappointment to the neutrals at the time and only became even more lamentable after each and every one of Chelsea’s subsequent outings.
It was sad to see Alessando Del Piero’s career in Italian football end on a low, but then the legendary No.10 had enjoyed the perfect Serie A send-off last weekend, scoring a goal in his final league appearance for the Bianconeri before lifting the title in front of his own fans. A repeat performance was perhaps too much to ask, even for one as great as Del Piero.
The fear now, of course, that Napoli’s team will break up, with Lavezzi, Cavani and Hamsik still continually being tipped with moves away from the San Paolo. However, on Sunday night in Rome they inspired the Partenopei to a first piece of silverware since the days of Diego Maradona – and nobody can ever take that away from them. If this is to be the Three Tenors' last performance together, at least they went out on the right note. And who knows, now that they have won a trophy, we might even have the pleasure of an encore.