Gilardino 60, 87, Jovetić 94
Napoli’s unbeaten home record was ended by Fiorentina in an entertaining encounter at Stadio San Paolo. Both sides played end-to-end football and the home side has several chances to put the game beyond doubt after taking the lead. But in the end la Viola deserved all three points as they were the better team.
Both teams played swift, free-flowing football right from the start. This resulted in several chances and half-chances at either end. The attacking threat from Fiorentina mainly came via Stevan Jovetić, whereas Marek Hamšik was pumping dangerous long balls on the other side. Ezequiel Lavezzi, who has been extremely quite this season, was looking bright with his runs and free-kicks. Fiorentina emerged stronger in the first half but their efforts were successfully thwarted by the Napoli defense marshaled by Hugo Campagnaro.
The Partenopei came out as a different team in the second-half and laid siege to Fiorentina’s goal. Lavezzi’s header seemed to round off a miserable week for la Viola. However, the diminutive Argentine was guilty of not putting the game beyond doubt by missing a gilt-edged opportunity when he was one-on-one against Sebastian Frey. Alberto Gilardino equalised hardly a minute later to score his first every goal against Napoli and added another late in the game. Jovetić capped off a man of the match performance by adding his name to the score sheet.
Fiorentina fans will be relieved to see their team secure a win after a long time. The celebration of the players after the final whistle depicted relief more than anything else. This game showed why Cesare Prandelli is being linked to managerial jobs at Juventus as well as the Italian national team. Gianluca Comotto and Manuel Pasqual were having a poor game and just before the hour mark, Prandelli made a double substitution to remove both full-backs and introduce Kouma Babacar. The Senegalese youngster will celebrate his 17th birthday on March 17. In spite of being so young, Babacar displayed admirable composure to set up Fiorentina’s first and third goals. Still in the youth academy, he is fast becoming popular with the Viola fans.
Napoli’s lack of sharpness in front of the goal has been troubling them for quite some time. In their last seven games, they have scored just five times – certainly a poor rate for a squad gunning for a European place. Lavezzi has been inconsistent this season, while Germán Denis is not a clinical striker and needs many chances to score. In the first-half, he had at least three chances, all of which were saved by Frey. Bright spots for Napoli were the performances of wing-backs Juan Zúñiga and Christian Maggio. The Colombian made several important runs on the left flank and twisted and turned throughout the game to trouble Fiorentina’s defence. The Italian Maggio not only produced the assist for Lavezzi’s goal, but given his offensive and defensive performances, his inclusion in the national team seems increasingly likely.