A single Dries Mertens goal was enough to snatch all three points for Napoli, in Sardinia, on Sunday evening in what was their third win in four Serie A games and their fifth consecutive victory on the island.
The Belgian’s sumptuous, curled effort meant that the Partenopei left sunny Cagliari in high spirit, now sitting on 33 points in eighth place, and just two points off a Europa League qualification spot.
His 10th goal in eight games against the Casteddu was enough to put them to the sword on this occasion, also meaning that the hosts have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 13 Serie A games.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side looked comfortable from the off, taking their time to stroke the ball around at the back and not rushing when presented with openings at the other end.
Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski were excellent in central midfield and often seemed to have an eternity on the ball to make decisions, partly a credit to themselves and somewhat the fault of the Isolani.
Rolando Maran’s team, on the other hand, have now failed to win any of their last 10 Serie A games and are looking completely and utterly out of ideas, particularly as captain Radja Nainggolan missed the game due to suspension.
Injuries and suspensions aside, Maran’s side have really been found out. Their over reliance on crosses from the full-back’s and their lack of creativity in the centre of the park has resulted in some pretty dire football of late, with Sunday being no exception.
They tend to repeat the same patterns of play, over and over again, and if it’s obvious from the stands then it’s likely even more obvious on the pitch, and probably doesn’t make the opposition coaches job very hard, Gattuso benefitting this time around.
Pereiro a plus but home fans left frustrated
If Cagliari were to take any positives from the defeat, then the standout would probably be the performance of Gaston Pereiro on his full debut.
The 24-year-old Uruguayan had two or three opportunities, as well as being tenacious and tricky in trying to find a breakthrough, but without setting the world alight.
One thing is for certain, and it’s the fact that the Casteddu curva was left reeling after Sunday evening’s defeat, and it wasn’t nice to see.
As the players went over to applaud their supporters they were met with a chorus of boos, whistles and jeers as well as a couple of chants containing some choice language.
The home fans are perhaps slightly disillusioned after such a great start to the season has been followed up by a woeful spell, and not only are the players in the firing line as it’s only a matter of time before Maran’s head is being called for.