After netting the goal that gave his side a 2-1 aggregate semi-final win over Inter Milan, Dries Mertens fired Napoli to Saturday’s Italian Cup final and made him the club’s all-time top scorer.
In Wednesday’s final in Rome, Napoli will face Juventus. Thanks to Belgium’s striker Mertens, who slotted home his 122nd goal for Napoli four minutes before half-time to take the night score 1-1 and give them overall victory after a 1-0 first-leg take at the San Siro in February.
In the second minute, Christian Eriksen raised the tie for Inter straight from a corner and the offside continued to dominate the first half, but Mertens finished a lightning counter-attack to put the hosts through at San Paolo Stadium.
Mertens, 33, overtakes Marek Hamsik and pushes seven away from Diego Maradona, who scored 115 goals in all competitions and won two Series A titles and the UEFA Cup in Southern Italy during his seven turbulent years.
Although there were no fans at the San Paolo stands, public broadcaster RAI reported that a small number of Napoli fans who had gathered outside the San Paolo set off fireworks in celebration of Merten ‘s goal throughout the half-time period.
In 2013, Mertens transferred from PSV Eindhoven to Napoli and became so settled in Naples that he was nicknamed ‘Ciro’ by fans, a hugely popular Naples name.
Following a 0-0 draw in Turin on Friday, Italy’s first competitive football match since the country became the global coronavirus epicenter, Napoli will take on Juve at Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital after Maurizio Sarri ‘s side squeezed past AC Milan on away goals.
In tribute to the more than 34,000 people who died in Italy as a result of COVID-19, Napoli and Inter players gathered around the center circle for a minute’s silence as with Friday’s match.
A large television audience for two of Italy’s best-supported clubs would possibly be out there.
Some 8.3 million people tuned in to RAI to watch the goalless draw on Friday at Juve’s Allianz Stadium, the largest TV audience for a football match this season, according to Italian media.