That win was so, so needed. For the club, for the players, for the fans. Everyone was desperate for a final score like that, and they got it when Napoli drubbed Fiorentina to the tune of a 3-0 final score.
Things looked shaky for Napoli at the start, with Fiorentina dominating possession and the partenopei not always doing a good job of winning the ball back or being effective with the ball when they did. With Manolo Gabbiadini trying to do too much, Gonzalo Higuain looking isolated up top, and Jose Callejon seemingly absent, it all looked like the same old story for Napoli of late, especially with Marek Hamsik languishing on the bench.
But then something happened. Gonzalo Higuain was on the ball in the box, sucking Fiorentina's defense to him. That let him slip through Dries Mertens behind a slow-to-react Micah Richards, setting Mertens free and leaving him with an easy finish to put Napoli ahead 1-0.
That goal, simple though it was, seemed to let Napoli release a breath held in far too long. You could almost see the tension start to melt away, and Napoli's play became more fluid, more effective, more dangerous. The weight of recent failures fell off their shoulders, and Fiorentina paid the price.
Just ten minutes after Mertens' opener, Higuain should have had a goal of his own when he had the defense beaten and Neto caught out, but his shot rattled the crossbar, bouncing down and clear of goal ... or so it looked. Replays clearly showed that when the ball banged down off the crossbar, it easily cross the goal-line before bouncing clear. It happened too fast for the goal-line referee to see, though, and because Serie A has been slow to adopt goal-line technology, Napoli had no recourse and had to go in to the half with just a one-goal lead.
The second half started more evenly, with Vincenzo Montella's decision to bring in Mario Gomez proving to be something Napoli had a hard time dealing with early on. Eventually, Rafa Benitez countered by taking off a tired and ineffective Gabbiadini and replacing him with Marek Hamsik, a decision that worked brilliantly. Hamsik gave Napoli's attack the cutting, creative edge it had lacked all match long, and it was little surprise when he used his tactical awareness to find a gap behind Fiorentina's defense and pounced on a cross from Callejon to put Napoli up 2-0.
Not long after, Lorenzo Insigne was brought in, replacing a clearly worn-out Higuain, who had recently whiffed badly on as clear-cut a chance as you'll see, failing to get a shot off after rounding the keeper. It was a big moment for Insigne, making one of his first appearances after his major knee injury against the very team he suffered the injury playing against. Some players may have wilted under such a challenge, but not Insigne, who ran rampant against Fiorentina's defense and expertly set up Jose Callejon for a volley at the far post late in the match, earning his first assist since his return and giving Callejon his first goal since early January.
This was a match filled with joy and relief for Napoli, hopefully helping several players and the side as a whole leave behind a lot of recent frustration. Napoli now are seven points behind third-place Roma, and depending how the late match goes, could finish the weekend as high as fourth. With the next few matches representing a brutal stretch of their schedule, Napoli needed to get any momentum they could out of this match, and that they did so in emphatic fashion is fantastic. Make no mistake, Napoli weren't anywhere near at their best today, but they were better, much better, and the importance of the improvement cannot be overstated right now.
Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Strinic; Lopez, Gargano; Callejon, Gabbiadini (Hamsik 64'), Mertens (Zuniga 81'); Higuain (Insigne 75')
Goals: Mertens 23', Hamsik 71', Callejon 89'
Fiorentina: Neto; Richards, Tomovic, Savic, Paasqual; Kurtic, Badelj (Pizarro 70'), Mati; Salah, Ilicic (Gomez 46'), Vargas (Joaquin 58')