Soccer: Benitez gleeful after 'best-ever' debut

Napoli will 'grow a lot,' he warns rivals

Soccer: Benitez gleeful after 'best-ever' debut

(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.

Lascia il tuo commento

Condividi le tue opinioni su Gazzetta del Sud online

Caratteri rimanenti: 400

Le altre notizie

i più letti di oggi