Napoli made their 2017/18 Coppa Italia debut last night by defeating Udinese 1-0 in the Round of 16. Manager Maurizio Sarri made quite a few changes from their Serie A win Saturday against Torino with Sepe in goal, Maksimovic and Maggio, who bagged his 300th appearance for Napoli, in defense and, most notably, Rog, Ounas, and Giaccherini getting extremely rare, yet refreshing starts. This was refreshing because Marek Hamsik got to sit this one out and Dries Mertens got to grab some rest, at least to start the match.
These teams met in league play at the Friulli last month and while the outcome was the same, it was a very different match at San Paolo, as Udinese put in an impressive showing in the league loss. Massimo Oddo, who’s side were coming off a string of great results since then, including an impressive win over Inter this past weekend, also went with a B side and it showed as this match saw a way more dominant Napoli.
The first half was mostly played in the midfield, with Napoli having most of the possession. Napoli came closest to goal on Adam Ounas’ shot that grazed the post in the first half. Giaccherini played in the Mertens “False 9” role, and did look a bit out of form, which was later admitted by Sarri as his own fault for not playing him enough.
As the first half ended scoreless, Oddo opted to bring in Rodrigo De Paul from the start of the second half. De Paul made his presence felt a bit and this caused Sarri to go to his big guns as he put both Mertens and Insigne in for Giaccherini and Callejon respectively. The duo caused an instant spark as Insigne had a chance on goal straight away.
Still goalless, Sarri called the captain up to get ready. Oddo went to his bench to put Widmer in, but only one minute later, Mertens with a great through ball found Insigne who cooled the ball passed Scuffet in the 71st giving Napoli the 1-0 lead.
The goal led Sarri to go a different route with Allan coming in for Ounas, who had another great look at net earlier in the half, this time going over the bar. Oddo went for Kevin Lasagna in the 79th, but the Partenopei would hold on for the victory. Napoli now advance to the quarterfinals and are set to face the winner of Atalanta-Sassuolo on January 2nd at San Paolo.
By Raffa Rispo Follow @RaffaNapoli83