This game had skill, pace and movement – it was a compelling watch. Overall City may have more outstanding individual players than Napoli, but here was a team of organised opponents with the perfect counterattacking system, each player fully understanding their roles. They progressed with speed whenever they retrieved possession.
The threat of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani was clear in the early minutes when they raced at City's defence. The three frontmen reacted to each others' movements with unselfish understanding, one coming short, one pulling wide, one running forward – they were a cohesive threesome.
For City Aleksandar Kolarov had found some space when joining the City middle line, but this threat did not continue after the break as Napoli resumed with further energy, with Christian Maggio emerging powerfully. The Italians' running power and support play was tremendous. Crucial to this was the contribution of the two wide workaholics, Maggio and Andrea Dossena. The latter's overlap set up the brilliant Cavani's second and then the wide midfield men gathered further reserves of energy to cover their defensive threesome as City roared forward in search of an equaliser. Maggio and Dossena then became almost permanent wing-backs, making a foursome to support the defenders, Paolo Cannavaro, Salvatore Aronica and Hugo Campagnaro, as City approached from the opposite wing.
When late on Sergio Agüero broke, or David Silva and James Milner got into wide positions with possession, all the central space was covered. Relying, in an exciting last 20 minutes, on pure breakaway football, with the superb speed of Hamsik and Lavezzi they spurned chances. Maggio seemed as through he was playing on skates as he roared up and down the right side. Whether covering his right-sided centre-back Campagnaro or forcing the issue down the right, he pinned Kolarov and covered acres for the cause.
City were good but Napoli's 3-4-3 perfectly suited their squad's qualities. No square pegs here – they were outstanding in their application.