Luciano Spalletti was delighted to have quietened Napoli’s critics after Fabian Ruiz’s 94th-minute strike saw off Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico and propelled the visitors to the Serie A summit.
After Lorenzo Insigne had opened the scoring, Pedro’s superb late volley looked to have denied Napoli a crucial victory, only for Fabian to curl in a brilliant last-gasp winner to put Spalletti’s men ahead in an enthralling title race.
Napoli’s return of 18 points from their eight league matches in 2022 is the best in Serie A, as they bid for a first Scudetto since the Diego Maradona era, while the late goal condemned Lazio to just their second home defeat of the league campaign.
Spalletti, who joined in with his players’ wild celebrations after the goal, said after the contest Napoli deserved the victory, but he seemed more concerned with quietening those who have criticised his men.
“I think overall the team deserved the victory,” he told DAZN.
“I want to underline that everyone keeps moaning that this team doesn’t have character, it’s soft, it’s sluggish; I want to hear them say that now.
“This team definitely has character. We lost to Barcelona [4-2 in Naples] after getting a result at Camp Nou, it was my fault because I told them to take that approach.
“I see an ugly atmosphere around this team, people trying to say we lack character. I want to see them say that now.
“We got knocked down, we got straight back on our feet again and poured forward to find the winner. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to say this was a deserved victory.”
Fabian has now scored the most goals from outside the box in this Serie A this season, with all six of his strikes coming from range. Moreover, the midfielder has now netted as many goals this term as he did in the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 campaigns combined.
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) February 27, 2022
Napoli now lead Serie A, although they are level on points with second-placed Milan ahead of next weekend’s huge clash with the Rossoneri in Naples.
Spalletti, however, was keen to play down talk of a first title since 1990, emphasising that his team did not need to win the league in order to enjoy a successful season.
“We have a good team, but this idea that if we don’t win the Scudetto then we’ve failed is unfair,” he said.
“There is a middle ground. The team is doing what it needs to do.
“We are ahead of teams that are on our level [financially], while others have even more resources than we do.
“We had players at the Africa Cup of Nations, we had players who were injured, you could see we were struggling and couldn’t really rotate from one game to the next.
“There are many games [remaining], but this team has potential, it has character and showed it tonight.”
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