Tue, May 01, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Napoli title hopes dealt severe blow


ACF Fiorentina’s Giovanni Simeone contraols the ball against SSC Napoli in their Serie A match at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, Italy, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

SSC Napoli’s title hopes on Sunday were dealt a severe blow with a 3-0 loss at ACF Fiorentina that leaves Juventus with a clear path toward a record-extending seventh straight Serie A championship.

Napoli played most of the match with 10 men after Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off for a last-man foul on Giovanni Simeone, who went on to score a hat-trick.

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri called it his squad’s “worst match of the season.”

After Koulibaly’s red card and Fiorentina’s first goal “we were completely lost,” Sarri said. “Over the course of the season we’ve done well to handle these types of problems, but today we didn’t.”

Napoli were left four points behind Juventus with three matches to play — the same gap that existed until the Partenopei beat Juventus the previous weekend.

Juventus produced two goals in the final four minutes of a 3-2 win at 10-man Inter on Saturday.

However, Juventus will have to overcome an injury to striker Mario Mandzukic, who had 10 stitches applied to a deep cut in his left ankle after getting stepped on by Matias Vecino.

In Florence, Koulibaly was first shown a yellow card and a penalty was awarded since the referee believed the foul had occurred inside the penalty area, but after help from the video assistant referee, the referee ruled that the foul had occurred outside the area and changed the card from yellow to red.

Simeone, the son of Atletico Madrid coach and former Argentina international Diego Simeone, finished off a counterattack later in the first half by shooting under the legs of Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Then after the hour mark, Simeone was quickest to a rebound following a corner and scored from close range.

He then added another from a counterattack in the 90th minute, running past a confused Mario Rui for his 13th of the season.

“Clearly, having an extra man after eight minutes was a huge advantage,” Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli said. “We had the right ideas even with 11 against 11, but we should have scored more goals earlier on. We knew Napoli could be dangerous, so we tried to pass the ball and never stopped pressing. There’s no such thing as a perfect performance, but I think we came pretty close.”

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