The Stadio San Paolo was singing to the tune of a 1-0 victory after Napoli emerged triumphant against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal, but the match itself was a very strange one. Napoli dominated the run of play for the vast majority of the match — but somehow, it’s hard to feel completely confident about their performance.
In fact, figuring out how to describe the match is a vexing task. Napoli easily dominated every facet of the match — possession, shots, chances created, even most defensive categories swung their way. But in terms of how Napoli played, things seemed somewhat less than amazing.
It wasn’t that Napoli were bad by any means — in fact, there were several individual performances that stood out quite nicely. Ivan Strinic was incredibly impressive before leaving with an apparent injury, and Nikola Maksimovic enjoyed perhaps his best performance since joining Napoli. Then there’s Lorenzo Insigne, who literally ran circles around Carlos Sanchez and was a constant menace to Fiorentina’s defense.
But the individual struggles of Leonardo Pavoletti, who missed two prime chances and got in the way of two others hurt Napoli’s attack badly once it got into the box, as did a general lack of numbers getting forward into the box while Fiorentina were constantly packing eight or nine men into the penalty area.
But a fantastic passing sequence on a counter attack was enough to break the deadlock, with Amadou Diawara lobbing up a pass over the top to Insigne, whose cross to Marek Hamsik was flicked onto Jose Callejon for a sweet headed goal. It came almost out of nowhere, and it was a gorgeous sight to see after the first 70 minutes of the match were so frustrating.
Of course, then there’s the chaotic end to the match — Elseid Hysaj getting sent off for a second yellow, the controversial foul called on Khouma Babacar to stop a Fiorentina scoring chance despite the contact coming from Callejon running into him after losing track of him, and then the fiery stoppage time minutes that saw Maxi Olivera sent off for a second yellow of his own after throwing Callejon down. Things threatened to come unglued in a bad way, and it was almost a relief when the final whistle was blown, more to just end any chance of worse things happening than anything else.
Despite the reservations about Napoli’s quality on the day, though, they’re still through to the semifinals, and that’s worth a lot. This also makes five wins in five matches in 2017 — Napoli may not be showing scintillating play, but they’re still winning a ton of games, and that’s all that matters in the end.
On to the next.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj (red 90’), Maksimovic, Albiol, Strinic (Maggio 61’); Zielisnki, Diawara, Hamsik (Allan 82’); Callejon, Pavoletti (Mertens 64’), Insigne
Goal: Callejon (71’)
Fiorentina: Tatarusanu; Tomovic, Astori, Sanchez; Chiesa, Badelj (Babacar 84’), Vecino, Olivera (red 90’+4); Cristoforo (Ilicic 75’), Bernardeschi (75’); Kalinic