SSC Napoli gave new coach Rafael Benitez a flying start when they beat Bologna 3-0 in their opening Serie A game on Sunday, while predecessor Walter Mazzarri celebrated his first league game in charge of Inter with a 2-0 win over Genoa.
Benitez was able to enjoy his debut for Napoli as last season’s runners-up began life without Edinson Cavani by over-running Bologna with two goals from Marek Hamsik and one from Spaniard Jose Callejon, who was making his debut.
Mazzarri, by contrast, was made to suffer as Inter spluttered to a 2-0 win with late goals from Yuto Nagatomo and Rodrigo Palacio at a half-empty San Siro.
Mazzarri, Inter’s sixth coach since Jose Mourinho left after completing the treble three years ago, was greeted by a lukewarm response as he replaced Andrea Stramaccioni, who led Inter to a dismal ninth place last season, including seven home defeats.
“These boys hadn’t won at home for four-and-a-half months, they had to exorcise a psychosis,” Mazzarri told Sky Sports Italia. “We are getting better and we are finding a balance. We are improving more than I had anticipated, we’ve done a lot in a short space of time.”
In other games, AS Roma beat promoted AS Livorno 2-0 on coach Rudi Garcia’s debut, while Hernanes and Antonio Candreva, from the penalty spot, scored in the first 20 minutes to set up a 2-1 win for SS Lazio over Udinese.
Torino overcame US Sassuolo, another promoted side, 2-0, while Cagliari beat Atalanta BC 2-1, and Parma and AC Chievo Verona played out a goalless stalemate.
Cagliari, unable to find a suitable venue in Sardinia, played their game in Trieste on the border with Slovenia, about 1,000km from their base.
There was plenty for Benitez to celebrate at Napoli as Gonzalo Higuain also made an impressive debut following his move from Real Madrid, while Pepe Reina in goal was barely tested.
“I saw perfect training sessions and expected this sort of match from my men,” Benitez, who lasted only six months as coach of Inter on his only previous venture in Italy, told Sky Sports Italia. “This team has a lot of quality and in attack we can use any combination of [Goran] Pandev, Hamsik, Higuain, Callejon and [Lorenzo] Insigne, as well as another striker. We have the capability to change things around often.”
Callejon hit the post early on and put Napoli ahead in the 32nd minute from a rebound after Hamsik’s shot had been saved.
Higuain had a goal ruled out for offside shortly afterwards, before Hamsik scored a brilliant second, slaloming his way through the defense before scoring from a narrow angle, despite being off-balance.
Although Napoli slowed after the break, they were still in control and Hamsik turned in Goran Pandev’s cross just after the hour for their third.
It was a different story at the San Siro, where Mazzarri was visibly relieved on the touchline when Rodrigo Palacio sealed victory with Inter’s second goal in stoppage-time after Yuto Nagatomo had put them ahead with a fortuitous goal.
Inter dominated the game, but with captain Javier Zanetti, defender Walter Samuel and striker Diego Milito still missing with long-term injuries, their play was disjointed and shoddy.
Genoa, playing their first match under new coach Fabio Liverani, offered little threat of their own and Inter finally broke through with 15 minutes left when Jonathan’s deflected cross caught the defense offguard and Nagatomo headed in at the far post.