Felipe Anderson Can Fire Lazio to Coppa Italia Win over Napoli

Jerrad Peters@@jerradpetersWorld Football Staff WriterMarch 3, 2015

REGGIO NELL'EMILIA, ITALY - MARCH 01:  Felipe Anderson # 7 of SS Lazio celebrates after scoring the opening goal  during the Serie A match between US Sassuolo Calcio and SS Lazio on March 1, 2015 in Reggio nell'Emilia, Italy.  (Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images)
Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images

Felipe Anderson's latest highlight-reel moment was delivered on Sunday during Lazio's 3-0 drubbing of Sassuolo at Citta del Tricolore.

In the final minute of the first half, the Biancocelesti attacker controlled a partial clearance 24 yards from goal, shifted the ball to his right foot and curled a masterful shot into the top far corner of the net—where the owl sleeps, as they say in his native Brazil.

The victory, in which the 21-year-old also produced an assist and, according to WhoScored.com, completed 90 percent of his passes, kept the Rome outfit in the hunt for Champions League football and temporarily closed the gap with second-place Roma to just five points.

Fourth in the table with 13 rounds remaining and likely to battle it out with Napoli, who are two points ahead, for third spot in the Italian top flight, Roma will also face the Partenopei over two legs in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, the first of which will be played Wednesday at Stadio Olimpico.

Given his exceptional form since a December injury to Antonio Candreva forced manager Stefano Pioli to turn to him with regularity, Felipe Anderson could well be the difference-maker of the tie. Although a pair of January setbacks threatened to derail his season, he hasn't missed a step since returning to the lineup, and according to Pioli, he stands to get better still.

"We're talking about a young lad who hasn't matured fully yet," the manager explained on Monday, according to Football-Italia. "He could still be even more calm in his choices and be even more decisive for us."

Felipe Anderson has quickly become Lazio's best player, and one of the best in Serie A.
Felipe Anderson has quickly become Lazio's best player, and one of the best in Serie A.Marco Vasini/Associated Press

It's a scary proposition, at least for Lazio's opponents. It was only six weeks ago, after all, that a knee injury interrupted a run of five goals and five assists in five matches (including a goal and an assist in the Derby Della Madonnina), and on top of everything else, the player's father was arrested on suspicion of a double homicide, as reported at the time by The Guardian.

With his Lazio career only just having taken off, and with memories of adversity at former club Santos and with Brazil's U-20s no doubt fresh in mind (he was criticised for failing to live up to Paulo Henrique Ganso's standard at the Paulista club and bore much of the blame for the Selecao's embarrassing South American Youth Championship), it would have hardly been a surprise if he hadn't burst back into Pioli's setup.

But his display at Sassuolo was one of the best of his season, and after the match, former Lazio midfielder Vincenzo D'Amico claimed he was as good as Barcelona star Neymar.

"Felipe Anderson is now number one at Lazio," D'Amico told Tuttomercatoweb, as per Forza Italian Football. "For me, he is currently progressing as much as Neymar, who has more flair, though. But Felipe Anderson is more powerful."

He just might send Napoli reeling out of the Coppa Italia. It wouldn't exactly come as a shock.

Felipe Anderson has already surpassed every expectation and met every challenge head on. From here, for him, the sky is the limit.

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