Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli side continued to demonstrate their pedigree as the second best team in Italy, cruising to a 4-1 victory against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
The visitors started on the front foot and made their early dominance count in the second minute when Arkadiusz Milik controlled a chipped pass from Simone Verdi, turned, and fired an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net.
Against the run of play, Roma equalised on the stroke of half-time, Diego Perotti making no mistake from the penalty spot after Alex Meret fouled Patrik Schick, but that goal only proved to wake up Napoli who regained the lead shortly after the break through Dries Mertens.
Verdi added a third after a scintillating passing move, and Younes Amin scored Napoli's fourth to kill off the match.
Key Talking Point
Last season's Champions League semi-finalists have found things much tougher this campaign, eventually leading to Eusebio di Francesco's sacking.
Ranieri plainly does not have the situation in hand at Roma. It's also clear that Di Francesco was made to carry the can for problems that run deeper. But the previous tweet was made in jest. This team lost the derby 3-0 with him in charge, too.— Paolo Bandini (@Paolo_Bandini) March 31, 2019
Claudio Ranieri took over at the Stadio Olimpico, but Roma's sluggish form has continued, losing two out of three Serie A matches since the Italian's arrival, while being outclassed from start to finish against Napoli.
I didn’t think a Roma team could play worse but damn...this Ranieri side is atrocious! Even the Spanish commentators are making fun of us 🤦🏽♂️— El Romexican (@KansasCitian87) March 31, 2019
Completely devoid of confidence, Milik's second-minute strike seemed to kill off any hope the hosts might have had, and athough Ranieri's men managed to equalise, goals conceded at the start of each half displayed Roma's fragile mental resolve, allowing Napoli to control the ball and the tempo of the match in an easy victory.
Olsen (6); Santon (5), Manolas (6), Fazio (5), Kolarov (6); De Rossi (7), N'Zonzi (6), Schick (7), Cristante (6), Perotti (7); Dzeko (6)
Substitutes: Under (6), Zaniolo (6), Kluivert (6)
STAR MAN-Patrik Schick
The Czech Republic international has drawn a huge amount of criticism this season after finding the net just three times in 19 Serie A matches.
However, with Roma desperately in need of a burst of energy, Schick responded with boundless exuberance to cause Napoli all sorts of problems, culminating in Meret fouling the striker for Roma's successful penalty on the stroke of half-time.
A few more performances like this one and the Stadio Olimpico faithful may still warm up to the 23-year old.
Key Talking Point
Napoli could be forgiven for a certain level of complacency, after seeing their Serie A season become marooned on an island between Juventus in first and Inter in third, neither in the title race nor serious contenders to drop out of the Champions League places.
With a titanic Europa League quarter-final against Arsenal on the horizon, Ancelotti's men could have turned their focus away from the Serie A, but any questions of Napoli's commitment to their league season were answered in the match's opening moments when Milik gave the visitors the lead.
Despite being pegged back through Perotti's penalty, Napoli again showed their determination to end the Serie A season on a high, regaining the lead five minutes after the restart.
Meret (5); Rui (7), Koulibaly (7), Maksimovic (7), Hysaj (7); Verdi (9), Ruiz (8), Allan (7), Callejon (7); Milik (8), Mertens (8)
Substitutes: Malcuit (6), Ounas (6), Younes (7)
STAR MAN-Simone Verdi
Napoli's right winger often goes under the radar, seeing the bulk of the plaudits go to bigger names including Milik, Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne.
With Insigne out injured Verdi was the focal point of Napoli's devastating attack, dominating Roma from the opening whistle, finding acres of space on the wing, while also providing constant danger when drifting into central half-spaces between the hosts' disorganised defence.
CONVINCING performance today from Napoli and we could’ve had more than 4 goals. Great match AWAY from home where we had some struggles scoring goals. Happy for Verdi the most to gain confidence and Younes off the bench! Avanti Ragazzi!! #ForzaNapoliSempre #RomaNapoli— Gio Cozzolino (@Gio_Cozz24) March 31, 2019
It was from those central positions that Verdi contributed the bulk of his damage, assisting Milik with a delicate chip in the second minute, before turning goalscorer himself with a well-taken effort from the edge of the box to make it 3-1 in the second half.
Sixth place Roma host Fiorentina in midweek Serie A action on Wednesday before traveling to Sampdoria for a tricky clash on Saturday that could prove pivotal in the race for a Champions League spot.
Napoli head to relegation-threatened Empoli on Wednesday, before hosting Genoa at the Stadio San Paolo as Ancelotti's side look to wrap up second place and Champions League qualification, with a title challenge extremely unlikely as Juventus cruise to the Serie A crown.