clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Napoli 3, Fiorentina 1: COPPA ITALIA CHAMPIONS

Despite horrifying scenes before the match, despite a late start, despite a poor second half, despite going down a man, Napoli have won the Coppa Italia.

Giuseppe Bellini

First, we need to discuss what happened before the match.

Starting hours before the match, there were reports of minor incidents and disturbances throughout Rome. Then came reports of Napoli fans getting attacked by a gang of "Roman Ultras", and then of two Napoli fans and a police officer being shot, and another Napoli fan wounded.

One of the fans was in critical condition and it was unsure if he would survive. As the Stadio Olimpico filled, you tell there was an unrest among both groups of fans. As kickoff approached, you could tell something was wrong; league and national officials were huddled near the Napoli end of the stadium, with both Marek Hamsik and Aurelio De Laurentiis among their number.

It immediately became clear that they were discussing whether or not the match would go on. The original kickoff time came and went, and no official word was available on a decision. Hamsik approached the Napoli ultras to discuss the matter with them, and shortly afterwards sections of the Napoli fans started firing numerous flares on to the pitch before their leaders got them under control.

After several minutes of discussion with and in front of the fans, Hamsik headed back to the dressing room, but there was still no official statement on when the match would start, or if it would start at all. Eventually, word came around that the critically injured fan was out of immediate danger (though someone forgot to tell beIN Sports USA...). Another round of discussion among officials started shortly thereafter, and before too long the Coppa Italia itself was brought out to its display podium and the teams were lining up in the tunnel. The match would start 45 minutes late, but it did start despite the almost surreal atmosphere in Rome.

Despite all the drama before the match, there was a football game to be played. And oh boy was it ever an entertaining match.

ssc napoli blog sbn

Napoli 3 Insigne 11', 16'; Mertens 90+2'
Fiorentina 1 Vargas 28'

Despite the delay, and despite the events earlier in the day, the match started at an almost frantic pace. Both sides looked well up for the occasion despite the tension in the air, and things were very wide-open in the early minutes.

There were nervy moments in front of both goals, and Lorenzo Insigne generated the first real danger with a shot that tested Nesto just before the first ten minutes were up. Moments later, though, Insigne slipped free of Nenad Tomovic while Marek Hamsik dribbled in to the box. Hamsik saw Insigne hit the box and put a lovely little low cross right on his feet, and Insigne made Fiorentina pay for not paying attention to him.

Just five minutes later, it happened again. Napoli were going forward on a counter after a bad Juan Vargas error, with Gonzalo Higuain on the ball. Higuain broke through a challenge from Pasquale, then cut the ball back towards Hamsik at the top of the box. The Argentine's ball was behind Hamsik's run, though, and it looked like the chance was dead... until an unmarked Insigne ran on to the ball and hammered it home to put Napoli up 2-0.

Fiorentina looked stunned, and it took them awhile to get their feet back under them. Napoli were unable to take advantage, though, and just before the half hour mark Josip Illicic found Vargas creeping at the top of the box and put in a ball for him to volley. Since Henrique Buss and Federico Fernandez were apparently sleeping, Vargas got to the ball easily, Pepe Reina failed to react, and just like that it was 2-1.

Napoli were able to hold off significant Fiorentina pressure from there, and escaped in to half time with the lead in tact. The match had become a nervy affair, though, with Henrique in particular performing very poorly in defense, but no one really covering themselves in glory back there.

The second half was... well, it's probably best left undiscussed. Napoli had a hard time building sustained possession and generating threats at goal, and when they did get shots off they were rarely dangerous. That was best typified by Goran Pandev's "effort" not long after coming on; the striker got free with the ball in the final third with only Neto to beat, and put it softly in to the keepers arms. That was also Pandev's only real involvement in the match, aside from cheaply losing possession repeatedly while Napoli were desperately holding on late on.

Not helping matters any was Gokhan Inler getting himself sent off for a moronic foul with ten minutes to go. He was already on a yellow after a hard (and arguably red-worthy) challenge on Aquilani earlier in the half, and had already been fortunate not to get sent off after several other reckless challenges in the half. Going off like that in a Cup final while your side is already struggling is just not a good thing to see at all, and it ramped up an already-high stress level to previously unimaginable levels.

Fiorentina pushed ever-harder for an equalizer, throwing on Giuseppi Rossi just before Inler was sent off and Alessandro Matri not long after. There were too many painfully nervy moments in a seemingly unending final ten minutes of regulation plus five of extra time, and it was hard to even watch.

Then.... magic.

Dries Mertens, who'd been introduced for a limping Hamsik earlier in the half, charged up the pitch with Jose Callejon at his side. A scuffed shot deflected to Mertens' feet, and one touch was all the Belgian needed to put Napoli up 3-1 and put the Cup in their hands.

ssc napoli blog sbn

Despite all the adversity of the last few months, Napoli came through in the end. With everything going on around the stadium before the match, things easily could have gone otherwise, but the side was able to rally around tough circumstances to win the day.

The players looked delighted and immensely proud as they received their winners medals, and the look on Marek Hamsik's face as he lifted the Coppa Italia trophy said everything that needed to be said. It was an amazing moment to cap off an incredibly emotional day.

Napoli are the Coppa Italia champions. Go celebrate. Forza Napoli sempre.

Napoli: Reina; Henrique, Fernandez, Albiol, Ghoulam; Inler (sent off 79'), Jorginho; Insigne (Behrami 81'), Hamsik (Mertens 64'), Callejon; Higuain (Pandev 71')

Fiorentina: Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic, Pasqual (Fernandez 56'); Pizarro, Aquilani (Matri 83'), Valero; Joaquin (Rossi 72'), Ilicic, Vargas