Mon, May 05, 2014 - Page 19 News List

SSC Napoli win violence-marred Coppa Italia final

AFP, Rome

Ten-man SSC Napoli overcame dramatic scenes prior to kick-off at the Stadio Olimpico to claim their second Coppa Italia three years after beating ACF Fiorentina 3-1 on Saturday.

Violence marred the leadup to the final, with unconfirmed reports that at least four fans had been taken to hospital with gunshot wounds.

Hardline “ultra” Napoli fans, many of whom threw rocket flares toward the pitch, even ordered the Serie A giants not to play after rumors spread that one of their supporters had been shot.

Following discussions between Napoli captain Marek Hamsik and an ultra leader, the match eventually began 45 minutes later than scheduled.

Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto was given the all-clear, despite suffering a finger injury recently, while Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi made his return on the bench following his recent recovery from a knee injury.

With no designated striker, Fiorentina started — on paper at least — with a disadvantage that became apparent inside the first 16 minutes, when Lorenzo Insigne scored twice to give Napoli a 2-0 lead, his first a sublime curling shot which crept inside Neto’s far post after Hamsik’s superb layoff.

The Viola’s defense was almost caught unawares soon after, with Borja Valero clearing Gonzalo Higuain’s attempted tap-in from a corner off the line.

Higuain was denied again moments later when he latched on to Insigne’s ball, only to see his drive centimeters wide of Neto’s far post.

The Azzurri clearly had the momentum and were rewarded on 16 minutes, when Insigne trailed in late to meet a cross from Higuain after his run down the right, the Italian beating Neto with a shot which deflected off Nenad Tomovic.

“He should be going to the [FIFA] World Cup, no problem,” Napoli coach Rafael Benitez said when asked about Insigne’s selection chances for Brazil. “It was an incredible game, it seemed easy at the start, but then we came under more pressure. Despite being reduced to 10 men, our defense held firm and the lads gave 100 percent.”

Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella said his side had been caught cold.

Napoli looked to be in total control, but took their eye off the ball to allow Fiorentina to reduce the arrears just before the half-hour.

A long ball from midfield was flicked on by forward Josip Ilicic into the path of Juan Vargas, and as the Napoli defense waited for an offside flag that failed to materialize, Vargas pounced to beat a static Pepe Reina.

Alberto Aquilani had the ball in the net for Fiorentina on the stroke of halftime after volleying a free-kick past Reina, but it was ruled offside.

Montella replaced Manuel Pasqual with Matias Fernandez shortly after the restart, while Benitez added firepower with Dries Mertens replacing Hamsik.

Mertens should have done better with Insigne’s cutback on 69 minutes, but saw his attempt blocked.

Moments later, a tiring Higuain came off in favor of Goran Pandev and, after Fernandez tested Reina with a drive that the goalkeeper tipped over, Rossi replaced Joaquin.

Pandev should have extended Napoli’s lead moments later when he ran on to a through-ball, but Neto came out to block in timely fashion.

Fiorentina were given a boost with a little more than 10 minutes to play when midfielder Gokhan Inler saw red after being cautioned for a second time for a foul on behind on Ilicic.

The Viola should have made advantage count, but with five minutes left to play Ilicic’s attempted chip over the onrushing Reina was wide of the goalie’s post.

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