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Osimhen silencing Mourinho in Napoli win at Roma shows he is king in Naples

09:56 EAT 25/10/2022
Victor Osimhen Napoli 2022-23
Raspadori who? Luciano Spalletti may not have a tough decision on his hands anymore with the Super Eagle’s outstanding game in both boxes

Sunday night in Rome was a night of firsts for Luciano Spalletti and Victor Osimhen.

For the Napoli boss, it represented his first win over Jose Mourinho in his managerial career, claiming a 1-0 win at Stadio Olimpico to continue the Partenopei’s impressive start in Serie A.

The side from Naples have claimed victories in 13 of their 15 matches in all competitions this season, with that impressive run including wins over Liverpool (4-1) and a 10-3 aggregate thrashing of Ajax.

Domestically, Spalletti’s crew are the only side to hand out defeats to in-form Lazio, managed by former boss Maurizio Sarri, and AC Milan, the league’s defending champions and their defeat of Mourinho on Sunday put paid to the Giallorossi’s run of three wins from three heading into round 11 in Italy’s top-flight.

Strikingly, the aforementioned victories all came away from home, demonstrating Napoli’s title credentials.

The team’s ongoing run of 11 straight wins is not unprecedented but has only ever happened once in the club’s 96-year history. Notably, Ottavio Bianchi, the last Napoli manager to win 11 on the trot in all competitions at the club guided the club to its first Scudetto.

Perhaps this hitherto outstanding campaign bodes well for Spalletti who challenged for Serie A in both spells as Roma boss — ending three points behind Inter Milan in 2007-08 and finishing four points behind Juventus in the 2016-17 campaign — and challenged both Milan clubs for the most part last season before the Rossoneri claimed their first title in 11 years.

Could this be the year the Tuscan boss reigns supreme in Italy’s top-flight?

Sunday was also a first for match-winner Osimhen whose big-game prowess had intermittently been questioned since his arrival in 2020. It has taken two seasons and a bit but the Nigeria international finally netted a decisive goal for the Partenopei against one of the club’s direct rivals.

Admittedly, Osimhen scored in Napoli’s 5-2 thrashing of Lazio in his debut campaign, but the ex-Lille man had not been selected from the off by then-boss Gennaro Gattuso as the Partenopei raced into a 4-0 lead at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

The Nigerian’s 80-minute goal only added gloss to the score after Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic netted twice to halve Napoli’s deficit. That goal did not move the needle or change the course of a win for the Azzurri.

By contrast, Sunday night was decisive as Osimhen’s half-volley from a difficult angle with 10 minutes of normal time to play sealed Napoli’s seventh straight success in Serie A.

The Nigerian had failed to tuck away an easier chance earlier in the second half, sending a low effort just outside the bottom-left corner in the 70th minute. 10 minutes later, he was converting a more difficult chance after outrunning and getting on the wrong side of Chris Smalling to power his effort past Rui Patricio.

It would have been easy for the 23-year-old’s head to drop, especially as he hit the woodwork twice in the corresponding fixture last season. But he came up trumps with a big goal 10 minutes after a miss had left him on his knees and Hirving Lozano and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia had their head in their hands.

Questions arose pre-match about Napoli’s central striking option and Spalletti’s preference at his old stomping ground, with Giacomo Raspadori’s form in Osimhen’s extended absence not lost on fans and neutrals.

However, the Nigerian was selected by Spalletti from the off for the first time since returning from injury and he rewarded his manager’s faith.

“Osimhen has these sudden changes of pace that only he can do,” said the Napoli head coach to DAZN after the 1-0 win. “When he gets his emotions sorted out, he will become extraordinary.”

Apart from Osimhen’s goal was his importance in clearing defensive set-pieces away from harm’s way, proving his worth in those actions which further validated Spalletti’s selection of him over a diminutive Raspadori.

“He is one of the best headers of the ball I have ever seen,” admitted the Napoli boss. “He was also decisive when defending on set plays and resolving a lot of issues for us there.”

Mourinho grudgingly congratulated Napoli on the 1-0 win that saw him lose the upper hand he held over Spalletti.

Last season, the Portuguese limited the space in behind to limit Osimhen’s menace in attacking transitions.

This time, his side gave away two of those opportunities to the Nigerian, who made a hash of the first but converted from a seemingly impossible angle after blazing past Smalling.

Raspadori may have stolen the spotlight in the Super Eagle’s absence — and may even be a smoother option for Spalletti and Napoli — but Osimhen is Napoli’s man for all seasons.

The Nigerian is king in Naples. And he is not going anywhere.