🇮🇹 New-look Napoli defy doubters as big guns start strong in Serie A | OneFootball

🇮🇹 New-look Napoli defy doubters as big guns start strong in Serie A

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Padraig Whelan

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With three club legends departed in Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly, there was a concern about Napoli this summer.

But for those worried about the Partenopei, their opening game of the new season offered plenty of encouragement.

A trip to Verona is always a tense and tricky affair for Napoli, particularly given the rivalry that exists between the two sets of fans, but they dealt with it in assured fashion on Monday night.

In a hostile atmosphere that made the famous Ferragosto heat seem even hotter, Luciano Spalletti’s side fell behind and then, after getting their noses in front, conceded an equaliser.

Both goals came from headers via crosses, which will be of some concern for the man in charge, but he will have no complaints about his side’s response.

After trailing, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (or Kvaradona as he is becoming known in local circles) headed Napoli level before Victor Osimhen silenced the boo boys with a neat back post finish from a corner.

And when Thomas Henry headed home that aforementioned equaliser for the hosts, Napoli responded in ruthless fashion, Piotr Zielinski, Stanislav Lobotka and Matteo Politano all scoring to start the season with a 5-2 win.

It is the first time Napoli have ever netted four or more on opening weekend (and the first time Verona have conceded that amount too), while they made it six straight seasons starting with a victory for the first time in the club’s history.

And all that was achieved with one of the most diverse starting line-ups you’ll witness anywhere. By nationality, they began with a team of: Italy, Italy, Kosovo, South Korea, Portugal, Cameroon, Slovakia, Poland, Mexico, Nigeria, Georgia. Quite the international mix.

It is a new era, even if only two new signings started, and Spalletti offered some interesting analysis on the differing displays of Kvaratskhelia and Kim Min-jae, who shone defensively.

“Kim was perfect, sumptuous. It was a performance that reminded me of Koulibaly with some of his attributes. It was like he was back with the physical strength and personality he showed,” the coach told the assembled media.

“Kvara felt the occasion a little [too] much. He can do much better than this. He suffered a bit from his opponent’s man-marking and had a bit of the tension that comes with your first game in the Napoli shirt.”

The last part seems harsh for a man who became the first Napoli player to score and assist on his league debut since Opta started collecting such data in 2004 – but that only brought a typically Spalletti response.

“We bought him to do that,” he smiled. “When he doesn’t, then it will be a problem!”

And elsewhere …

Highlights available in UK and Ireland only

Both Milan clubs began with a win, although they had to work hard for them – Ante Rebić inspiring the Rossoneri to a 4-2 home win over Udinese, while Denzel Dumfries netted a 95th minute winner for Inter at Lecce.

Juventus impressed in their opener, with Ángel Di María netting a deft volley and Dušan Vlahović helping himself to a brace in their 3-0 victory over Sassuolo.

It was a successful start for the capital clubs too, Roma somehow only defeating Salernitana 1-0 despite creating so many chances …

… while Lazio fought back from a goal and man down to defeat Bologna 2-1 in a game that saw new goalkeeper Luís Maximiliano sent off six minutes into his debut.

😱 Goal of the Weekend

Gianluigi Buffon’s declaration that El Fideo could have the same impact in Serie A as Diego Maradona may be a tad hyperbolic – but he’s started very well. It’s just a shame he picked up an injury that could sideline him for up to a month.

🥇 Player of the Weekend

Rebić may have netted twice for Milan but their win may prove to have been notable for the potential rebirth of Brahim Díaz who was a constant threat and finished with a goal and assist. The start of his redemption?