A late Gervinho winner gave Roma a 3-2 win over Napoli today at the Stadio Olimpico, but within the context of today’s Coppa Italia semifinal in Rome, it’s unclear which team has the advantage. The easy answer is Roma, who carry a one-goal lead into next week’s second leg at the San Paolo, but it’s possible Rafa Benítez would decline a chance to switch places with Rudi Garcia. The Napoli boss may prefer going home with two away goals rather than try to defend a one-goal lead, on the road, when the tiebreaker rests with the other team.
That’s the position Garcia’s Giallorossi find themselves in after 90 minutes of the clubs’ semifinal, a match Roma had under control after 45 minutes. With Kevin Strootman’s 32nd minutes blast doubling the lead earned by Gervinho’s 13th minute opener, Serie A’s second place team were ready to cruise to a comfortable first leg lead. But when Dries Martins’ 70th minute equalizer built on Morgan De Sanctis’s own goal just after halftime, the Neopolitans had gained the edge. Though the score was even at 2-2, the Partenopei’s pair of road goals gave them the edge in the tie.
Just minutes before the final whistle, a through ball for Gervinho allowed the Ivorian to restore Roma’s lead. Yet having seen Napoli claw their way being into the tie, the goal was more of a reprieve than triumph. Even in the first half, as Roma built their two-goal lead, close calls from Gonzalo Higuaín and Lorenzo Insigne could have provided an early spark for Napoli. Instead, the visitors needed to regroup at intermission to put Roma on their heals, with only the late substitution of Valon Behrami for Higuaín hinting Napoli were content to sit on they two goals.
Until that point, Napoli had played with a Roma team that’s been able to enforce their will on Serie A. Even mighty Juventus, a team running away with a third straight league title, demurred to Roma in the team’s January meeting, eventually countering the Giallorossi into their first loss of the season. Benítez, to his credit, didn’t let a Garcia’s team dictate terms, holding 51 percent possession against a team that league Serie A by average 59.3 percent per game.
With the teams resuming their tie next Wednesday, momentum’s on Napoli’s side. Not only were they able to snare two goals on the road, but they did so against a team rested after their weekend league match was rained out. And they did so on their own terms. Next Wednesday, the Giallorossi will be coming off a Rome Derby, while Napoli can afford to rest some players at home against Milan.