Giovedì, 20 Settembre 2018
NAPLES

Soccer: Benitez gleeful after 'best-ever' debut

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Naples, August 26 - Rafa Benitez hailed "the best
debut of my life" after Napoli thrashed Bologna 3-0 in their
Serie A opener at the San Paolo Sunday night.
"I'm very satisfied, this is the best debut of my career,"
said the former Valencia, Liverpool, Inter and Chelsea coach.
Benitez warned rivals that "we're still lacking a lot from
the physical standpoint, we can still grow a lot".
Napoli are among the favourites to stop Juventus - 1-0
winners at Sampdoria - claiming their third straight title.
Of the others, Inter beat Genoa 2-0 but AC Milan lost 2-1
at Verona.
The performance by Napoli, seeking their first scudetto
since the glory days of Diego Maradona, was by far the most
emphatic of Serie A's long-awaited opening day.
But new coach Benitez said he was by no means surprised,
having seen how good his new charges were in their pre-season
training.
"The lads have looked terrific in training and in the
friendlies and they were straining at the leash to show what
they could produce under the new formula I've introduced," said
the Spanish coach, famous for overseeing Liverpool's
come-from-behind victory in the 2007 Champions League final
against Milan.
Two fine goals from Marek Hamsik and a Jose Callejon strike
sank Bologna in front of a delirious full house at the San
Paolo, while the hosts also had two goals disallowed.
The Napoli fans have taken the Spanish coach to their
hearts and helped make his frustrating six months at Inter -
where he was sacked after leading the treble winners to the Club
World Cup trophy - a fading memory.
The San Paolo faithful, among the most passionate and
imaginative in Italian soccer, have already dubbed him 'Don
Rafa' and suggested his Spanish blood could help revive some of
the swaggering pride of the southern city's glorious past under
Spanish rulers.
Benitez has made a major overhaul in Naples over the
summer, bringing in eight new faces.
For many pundits, Napoli are the biggest threat to
champions Juventus.
Benitez said: "We don't think about Juventus at this stage,
we only think about ourselves.
"We changed a few players from last season's team but they
did just fine and now we can look ahead".
Two-goal hero Hamsik of Slovakia warned Juve and the other
title bidders that Napoli "will get even better" as the season
progresses.
He also stressed the higher number of attacking options
available to Benitez.
"Today was a game we wanted to win to start the season on
the right foot. We don't read anything into it, it means
nothing," he added.
"It will be difficult for Gonzalo Higuain to score the same
number of goals as Edinson Cavani but we have to help him and
try and score 10 goals apiece.
"Me, Callejon, (Dries) Mertens, (Goran) Pandev can all
score goals. We are more competitive than last season and that
is good for Napoli".
Hugain, the biggest summer signing in a 30-million-euro
move from Real Madrid after Cavani's record 64-million-euro
transfer to PSG freed up a truckload of cash to bring in talent
to Naples, was acclaimed by fans after an impressive first game,
despite his not opening his account.
Napoli-lovers had a bit of a scare Monday when Higuain was
reported to have gashed his face on a Capri rock and required 10
stitches.
But doctors said it was "nothing to worry about" and he
would be ready for the next outing of what Gazzetta dello Sport
is already calling "the steamroller", at Chievo on Saturday.
Later the same day, Juve face another of the first-day
heroes, Lazio, who beat Udinese 2-1.
Roma, who won 2-0 at Livorno, entertain Verona at the
Olimpico while Milan host Cagliari and Inter travel to Catania.

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