Living In The Limelight - Coppa Italia 2014

Paolo Bruno

Fiorentina v Napoli in front of Italy and the world and it was all that is Italian Football...

The Coppa Italia is one of the highlights of the year in Italy and in the soccer world in general and this years edition did nothing to lessen that fact all.

This Coppa had all that is Calcio, fan violence outside the stadium, chaos and confusion inside as officials struggle to figure out what to do as Napoli Ultras held the game hostage for 45 minutes prior to kick off, threatening a riot inside the stadium as well as throwing incendiaries and explosives onto the pitch, nearly injuring a fireman.

The Ultras were concerned for the fate of one of their own as a Napoli fan was apparently jumped and shot by Roman "criminals" and had nothing to do with the match, but rumors quickly swirled that the player had died and napoli fans were incensed that officials might consider continuing to play the match after the death of one of their own.

Once it was made clear to them that their mate was not dead and was out of danger they "graciously" allowed the match to get underway.

Of course it took many more minutes as officials, in a typical display of Italian (lack of) efficiency, could recover and get the match underway and it really seemed to take a lot out of Fiorentina as they came out listless and ineffective.

Napoli, however, showed no such problems and came out flying, taking only 11 minutes to take a lead they would never relinquish.

Lorenzo Insigne took a ball from Marik Hamsik and put it past Neto, following a questionable yellow card given to Borja Valero.

Oh yes, another prime fixture of Italian football was in evidence tonight as game official Daniele Orsato put in a typically bad Italian reffing performance. Waving lots of yellow cards early and late, 9 in all, eventually having Napoli put down to ten men as Gökhan Inler was sent off, perhaps later than he might have, given his reckless play.

Orsato also called 23 fouls, 12 on Napoli, creating a disjointed tempo and causing players on both sides to shake their heads in puzzlement. In my opinion, other than the fan violence and racism, the quality of the officiating in the league as a whole is a big disappointment and a black eye to the league, which they refuse to recognize.

Napoli continued their dominance, scoring their second goal, just 6 minutes later, another for Insigne. In fact Naopli were so dominant, Fiorentina didn't get a shot until the 25th minute, a shot wide of goal by Valero.

However, seemingly out of nowhere, Juan Manuel Vargas struck like lightning, against the run of play as he jumped on a flick from Josep Ilicic and lasered it into the bottom corner to bring the match back to 2-1.

The goal seemed to ignited something in the Viola and they began to play much more aggressively and Napoli seemed to play into their hands by playing back a lot more and looking to counter.

Shortly before the half, it looked like Fiorentina had equaled it up, but Alberto Aquilani was called offside and the goal called back. Replays seem to indicate that Aquilani was just a lean offside, but that is enough according to the rules.

Still, going into halftime, things looked better for Fiorentina and the second half started much the way it had finished, with Fiorentina trying to possess the ball and move forward with Napoli looking to break loose wicked counters to slice through the exposed Viola defense.

Shortly before the one hour mark, Matias Fernandez came on for an ineffective Manuel Pasqual and his inclusion just seemed to make la Viola that much quicker. However the focus on moving forward also made Fiorentina seem that much more vulnerable in back and the signs were there as to what was going to happen.

Before Napoli could close out the match, however, Inler was sent off, and with ten minute left, the stress levels only increased.

Ilicic had a chance to be the hero as he wound up wide open on Napoli Goalie Pepe Reina but chipped the ball wide left and wound up clutching his head and he knew he had wasted a prime chance and Dries Mertens stoppage time goal only made the miss that more painful.

Napoli walked off with the win and the cup.

The action wasn't finished yet, however as not only were there problems before the match, but after the match as well, as hundreds of Napoli fans invaded the pitch, eventually making their way to the south curve, where they proceeded to mock Viola fans.

Most Fiorentina fans, however, showed the other side of the coin, when it came to fan passion, proudly supporting their team throughout the entire match and refusing to get involved in the Napoli nonsense. There were reports of a small group of Viola fans involved in violence prior to the match in a train station, however, but over all, most Viola fans seemed to comport themselves well.

All in all, the match had a bit of everything and while the headlines will mostly be about the fan violence, Fiorentina, coming in with all their injuries and playing courageously on three fronts all season have no reason to hang their heads and fans should be proud of their team.

Although many have said "That's the season for Fiorentina," this is NOT the case. There is still two matches to go and fourth place to wrap up. we still have Calcio left and we need the fans and players to remain focused.

In fact the team will have to shake off this loss quicker than usual as they play relegation threatened Sassuolo on Tuesday. Sassuolo have been playing well of late and will be fighting for their lives. We will see what kind of motivator Vincenzo Montella really is.

Highlights

Highlights courtesy of Viola Channel

Quotes

Montella:

"I don't know why we started out so tense and unrecognizable, but we got back into it. It was very tough agaisnt a strong side and we were missing key players."

"I thank the player for what they did on the evening, and also the fans who cheered us on from start to finish and are even continuing on now to reassure us."

Roster/Report Cards

Neto(6) - Neto faced 6 shots on target, saving only three of them, but really had no chance on any of the three goals and was left out to dry be his defense, or lack thereof. No blame to him for the loss.

Tomovic(4) -just awful. Bad going forward, unable to beat his man most of the time and unable to get a quality cross in the few times he did beat his man. On defense, he was a liability at best and i personally shuddered every time Napoli came down his side. Left side defender is a spot that really needs improvement.
Rodriguez(6) - Little shaky at the start, had a bad back pass, but was a rock for most of the match. One of the bright spots of the season.
Savic(4) - cannot recall one positive play by this guy and he was absent on the first two goals, as well as kicking the ball directly to a Napoli attacker for the third goal.Here's a big eff you to Nastasic and his agent.
Pasqual(5) - Looked confused, almost always opting for a back pass rather than a cross or a positive play. Shaky on defense, his best days are way behind him and yet there's no better alternative on the bench at this point. Subbed for Fernandez.

Aquilani(5) - Really didn't do enough. Perhaps the formation didn't really give him space to work. Just a hair offside on the possible equalizer, but that's not really his fault. Need to see Alberto involved.
Pizarro(5) - A shadow of his former self. invisible for much of the match. Focues on long over the top passes which are low percentage plays at best.He needs to play better, most theories have seen him leaving Florence this summer, but he was quoted today as saying " am fine here, the attachment that people have to Florence is unique: I want to stay here."
Valero(6) - Started slow, gave up some balls and seemed to have a hard time finding space, but once Pasqual went out he got more room and owned his side of the field.
Joaquin(5) - started slow, but worked his way into the run of play towards the end of the first half, but completed disappeared in the second half and was eventually subbed out.
Ilicic(5.5) - Played well early, got the assist on the goal, played well late but completely borked it on the chance to tie the match and it wipes out of memory everything he did well. Very disappointing shot. Wide open on the goalie you must get it on frame.
Vargas(6) - his goal and only his goal got this team back into the match, once pasqual went off, Juan was moved to left back and disappeared from the match. Still he was one bright spot.

Subs
Fernandez(6) - brought a lot of energy into the side for the last push, but not a lot of efficiency. He still needs some polishing, but will be a great tlaent for years to come
Rossi(6) - wasn't able to get into the match much, but brought excitement for the fans, just by his presence.
Matri(NA) - great pass to Ilicic who screwed the pootch on the shot. Might be the last we see of him.

Montella(6) - Not bad for his first major final, especially with all the Napoli fan nonsense. he was unable to get his team out on the pitch from the first whistle with any kind of focus, however, but his team got back in the match and owned possession for much of the match. Each of his subs contributed something, Fernandez possession, Rossi excitement and Matri should have gotten the assist on the equalizer but for Ilicic Nacho-izing his shot.

Looking Ahead

Three Serie A matches left. At home against Sassuolo on Tuesday, away to Livorno on Sunday and at home against Torino to finish the season the following Sunday. Both Sassuolo and Livorno are fighting relegation and will put up a mighty battle, but the last match has meaningless scoreless draw written all over it.

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