By Jerry Mancini.
Winning trophies is no easy task. It takes hard work, dedication and the will to win no matter what the cost.
These are the qualities Dries Mertens displayed on Saturday night against Inter Milan, as he scored a pivotal goal to send Napoli into the Coppa Italia final.
In their first leg of the semi-final, Napoli defeated Inter 1-0 at San Siro. In their second leg on Saturday night a 1-1 draw was enough to see Napoli advance.
The last time Napoli won any sort of silverware was back in 2014 when they won the Coppa Italia, also winning the Supercoppa Italiana in the same year against Juventus, who they will meet in this season’s Coppa Italia final.
“We are facing a Juventus side that are accustomed to winning, have the mentality of great champions, so we can fight it out and have our say,” Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso told RAI Sport. “We know that it’ll take a great performance to bring home the trophy.”
David Ospina put in an excellent performance after an early error, making key saves as the game went on.
He was also involved in the Napoli goal. After collecting the ball following a corner kick, the Colombian did a great job of releasing it quickly in the direction of Lorenzo Insigne. The Italian advance into space before delivering a brilliant pass into open space. Mertens had made a nice run upfield in order to get on the end of the pass and make it 1-1.
“Ospina has always had great feet, we tried this move a few times in training,” Insigne told RAI Sport. “He saw my run, created a great counter-attack and we brought home the result.”
Aside from Ospina’s impressive display, it was Mertens’ goal that ultimatley saw Napoli advance to the finals. The goal was a monumental moment for Mertens as it saw him become the club’s all-time top goalscorer. This goal, his 122nd for Napoli, saw him surpass Marek Hamšík.
Mertens also has seven more goals for the club than the legendary Diego Maradona. A great way for the 33-year-old forward striker to celebrate his new contract with the club.
Since joining Napoli back in 2013, the striker has been one of the most influential players the club has ever signed. In his seven years in Naples, he has also contributed 73 assists.
The striker has always given a consistent effort with a positive attitude no matter how the club is playing. His ability to score pivotal goals and contribute in so many key moments has earned the respect of the Napoli fans. Mertens making the decision to stay with Napoli over Inter should be no surprise. His performance on Saturday night showed how important the striker is to the club.
Mertens was part of the squad last time Napoli won the Coppa Italia in 2014, scoring the third goal in a 3-1 against Fiorentina in the final. The striker will once again have the opportunity to take back what was theirs six seasons ago against their rivals, Juventus, on Wednesday night in Rome.
Until then, this night belonged to Mertens, who continues to show how vital he is to Napoli.