Mertens at the double as Samp lose in Naples
Sampdoria returned to Serie A action after the international break with the daunting task of travelling to last year’s runners up in a bid to pick up their first points of the season. Despite some encouraging signs, particularly in the first half of the encounter, Eusebio Di Francesco’s men were handed a third straight defeat, as Napoli emerged 2-0 winners at the San Paolo.
With both sides eager to bounce back from disappointing defeats on matchday 2, the fans in Naples were treated to a lively first 45 minutes with chances at both ends of the pitch. Alex Ferrari went close for the Blucerchiati with less than 10 minutes on the clock, forcing Napoli keeper Alex Meret into a save following a corner. However at the other end Samp were punished. Giovanni Di Lorenzo found space down the right to cross along the floor to Dries Mertens, who produced a clinical first-time finish to beat Emil Audero and give his side a 1-0 advantage with less than 15 minutes played.
Napoli did not let up and pushed to double their lead, with Eljif Elmas and Hirving Lozano both going close, before Mertens almost doubled his personal tally, pouncing on a loose ball and curling it against the crossbar. A combative Doria side squandered a fantastic opportunity to equalise before the interval when Fabio Quagliarella released Emiliano Rigoni, who fired straight at Meret when presented with a one-on-one chance.
After an open first half, Napoli exercised greater dominance over proceedings in the second 45 minutes, limiting Samp to precious few opportunities to draw level. The home side eventually extended their lead on 67 minutes. Substitute Fernando Llorente picked out Mertens from close to the by-line and the Belgian’s shot was deflected past a stranded Audero. The goal was initially ruled out for offside, but the decision was overturned by the VAR.
It was a disappointing result for Di Francesco and his men, who can nonetheless be encouraged by a positive, battling display in the first 45 minutes against high-end opposition. Up next it’s Torino at the Marassi next Sunday, when the Blucerchiati will be desperate to finally get some points on the board.