Rafa Benítez insisted that Napoli's draw and sub-par performance against Sassuolo on Wednesday didn't worry him much, and that his players weren't shaken. The routine win on Saturday night proved that they, indeed, didn't dwell too much on the midweek result. Genoa, on the other hand, have a lot to think about. It seemed after their brilliant win in the derby against Sampdoria that they were set to improve, but that's been the only positive result of their campaign.
The grifone revealed, once again, the weakness in their defense. Genoa conceded two avoidable goals, dropping points and pushing them further toward danger. The hosts managed to create a few chances in the second half, but while Liverani's side had to spent a lot of energy to even get the ball near the Napoli penalty box, the visitors threatened Mattia Perin with simple 3 touch counter attacks.
As he did against Sassuolo, Benítez mixed things up again, leaving Marek Hamšík and Gonzalo Higuaín on the bench, with an eye toward the midweek Champions League duel with Arsenal. Goran Pandev stepped in for his second start in a row, playing just behind Colombian Duván Zapata, making his first appearance in Serie A.
Pandev demonstrated his worth, and perhaps his desire to start regularly, to Rafa by scoring two goals. The first came off a quick counter attack,with Pandev capitalizing off an error by Juraj Kucka to capture a pass from Lorenzo Insigne and put the ball in the back of the net.
Despite reinstating both Miguel Britos and Raúl Albiol in defense, Napoli were still shaky at the back. Britos hesitated and nearly allowed Davide Biondini to tee up Alberto Gilardino, but Reina read it very well, coming out to clear the danger. Napoli hit back quickly, doubling their lead through a great one-two between Insigne and Pandev at the edge of the box. The latter sent a precise diagonal to the right post, leaving Perin helpless. Credit to new boy Zapata too, as his movement caused Alessandro Gamberini to peel off and leave Pandev free.
Liverani didn't wait for the break to change his formation. He took Gamberini off at the 37th minute for Adrian Stoian, shifting from a 3-5-2 to 4-4-2. It was a smart change, as Stoian made the grifone look much more lively, but the intelligent move is unlikely to be enough to save Liverani's job.
The second half saw Liverani's second change, with the Genoa manager removing Luca Antonini in favor of the more offensively-minded Mario Santana. Benítez, meanwhile, was forced into his own change, bringing on Paolo Cannavaro to cover for Albiol, who'd taken a knock in the first half.
Liverani's final change was to replace Matuzalem with Ioannis Fetfatzidis. All three substitutions were smart moves, as Stojan, Santana and Fetfatzidis all created problems for Napoli's defense, but again, without the result, it's unlikely to save the manager. In fact, it was Napoli who continued to control the match and have the better of the changes. Higuaín, on for Zapata, very nearly set up José Callejón for Napoli's third, but Perin rushed out to collect the Argentine's weak pass.
Napoli may have shown a few weaknesses once again, but it's they that leave with all three points. Meanwhile Fabio Liverani has a long night ahead of him, wondering if he'll be the first coach sacked this Serie A season.
Genoa: Perin; Gamberini (Stoian 37') , Portanova, De Maio; Vrsaljko, Biondini, Matuzalem (Fetfatzidis 60'), Kucka, Antonini (Santana 46'); Gilardino, Calaio
Napoli: Reina; Mesto, Britos, Albiol (Cannavaro 46'), Zuniga; Inler, Behrami; Callejon, Pandev Dzemaili 81'), Insigne; Zapata (Higuain 58')
Goals: Pandev (14', 25')