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In a showdown between last season’s Serie A champions, Napoli, and the runners-up, Lazio, at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona this evening, it was Lazio who emerged victorious.
Napoli, under the guidance of their new boss Rudi Garcia, aimed to continue their flawless start to the season. They began on the front foot, with Kvicha Kvaratskhelia displaying his usual flair on the wings. Kvaratskhelia issued an early warning to the Biancocelesti by firing a shot wide while they were still finding their footing. Shortly thereafter, Ivan Provedel deftly tipped a free-kick over the bar, and Victor Osimhen, last season’s Capocannoniere, headed over from the ensuing corner.
Following their disappointing loss to Genoa last week, Lazio’s manager, Maurizio Sarri, had remarked that it was too early in the season for his squad to be in peak form. His assessment appeared accurate as his players struggled to build from the back, with Napoli’s pressing game proving highly effective.
However, against the run of play in the 30th minute, Felipe Anderson broke free down the wing and entered the box. With a quick glance, the Brazilian spotted Luis Alberto completely unmarked at the near post. In one graceful motion, Alberto executed a superb backheel finish past the helpless Alex Meret to give Lazio the lead.
The lead was short-lived, though, as the Scudetto holders quickly responded within two minutes. Matteo Politano’s cross was poorly cleared, falling to Zielinski, who tried his luck from the edge of the area. With a double deflection off Kamada and Romagnoli, the ball wrongfooted Ivan Provedel and leveled the game for the home side.
Napoli continued to press until half-time, with excitement mounting every time Victor Osimhen touched the ball and the wide players causing problems. However, the teams went into the break with the score level at one apiece.
Piotr Zielinski forced Provedel into a diving save early in the second period, but it was the visitors who seized control and the lead. In the 52nd minute, Zielinski lost possession in the center, and Felipe Anderson seized the opportunity. He sprinted down the wing and delivered a low, hard cross to Luis Alberto. The Spaniard displayed excellent awareness with a clever dummy that freed Daichi Kamada, who entered the area and struck to claim his first goal in Lazio colors.
Once they took the lead, Lazio aimed to protect their valuable three points, often packing seven or eight men into their defensive third to stifle Napoli, who increasingly resorted to long-range shots.
In the 67th minute, Lazio had another goal disallowed when Mattia Zaccagni was set free down the left by Matteo Guendouzi, who had just replaced Kamada, but VAR ruled that Zaccagni had mistimed his run. Less than five minutes later, VAR intervened again, denying Guendouzi a debut goal when Zaccagni was deemed to have interfered with play in the buildup.
As the champions felt they were losing control, coach Rudi Garcia tried to equalize by introducing Giovanni Simeone, Jesper Lindstrom, and Giacomo Raspadori. However, it did not pan out as they had hoped in the closing stages, and Napoli struggled to create clear-cut chances. Even the passionate support of their fans couldn’t crack the Lazio defense that stood resolute in front of the goal.
Lazio finally got on the board with three points and a precious away victory against the champions. Napoli, on the other hand, will be disappointed with their first loss of the season, but they have ample time to pursue another Scudetto.