Napoli came out in a 3-5-2 and dominated the first half hour. Their goal was a bit fluky but entirely deserved; by pressing the central defenders 2-v-2 and crowding the middle, the Neapolitans forced Fiorentina to play out to the fullbacks, who weren’t able to connect effectively either. The Viola hardly connected a pass through this period and looked dazed throughout. They got one back via Daniela Sabatino, of course, with Bonetti notching the assist off a free kick. The pivotal moment was Chiara Groff’s astounding own goal just before the half; after she passed the ball into her own net, it seemed like the hosts completely lost belief in themselves.
Antonio Cincotta shifted his system from the diamond midfield, pushing Claudia Neto back and pulling Valery Vigilucci and Marta Macarello wider to form more of a 4-2-3-1. With extra width, Fiorentina were able to overwhelm the opposing wingbacks and took over the game, running riot for the firs 20 minutes of the half and pushing their lead to 4 goals. Napoli did one back through another slightly fluky moment—a long shot caromed off the bar and Despoina Chatzinikolaou scored a lovely diving header off the rebound—but the Viola were simply miles better in the second period and made it count.
Öhrström—4.5: Flapped pretty badly at Errico’s free kick before it found the net, bobbled another through ball that she nearly dropped right in front of Deppy, and looked rather iffy on the second goal as well. It’s probably just rust after Schroffenegger got the start last week, but the goalkeeper situation is now officially worth monitoring after two slightly anxious games between the sticks.
Thøgersen—6.5: Initially the weakest link at the back. Continually targeted by Martínez and constantly left space in behind for the Guatemalan. With a bit of cover ahead of her in the second half, though, she offered excellent ball-carrying and had her second assist to Sabatino in as many games.
Quinn—5: Struggled with Martínez’ pace in behind and seemed to lose di Criscio on the opening goal, making it tougher for Öhrström to make a play on the ball. Was pretty solid otherwise, but it’s clear that she’ll need some help when playing a high line and up against quicker attackers.
Adami—5: This doesn’t seem like her fault entirely, as she isn’t a central defender by trade (seeing number 7 back there is jarring no matter what). She did lose the ball cheaply once or twice and completely lost Deppy on Napoli’s second. With Tortelli, Arnth, and Ripamonti all on the bench, hopefully this is the last we see of CB Greta.
Zanoli—6: Was the primary out ball early on and struggled to make anything good happen, misplacing several long passes forward. Still showed off her burst down the wing and fired in several good crosses while holding her own defensively. Slightly uncertain at times but overall a decent performance.
Vigilucci—6: Buzzed about early on without really offering too much, but settled in later on. Looked much more comfortable in a wider role than she did as a carrilero. Did a nice job of dropping in to cover for Thøgersen’s runs forward.
Breitner—6: Didn’t affect the game very much in the first half aside from biffing a good chance on the break. Looked miles better once she had Neto with her in the middle. Hit a few nice switches of play, but needs to do so more consistently against a team leaving the fullbacks free like Napoli did.
Mascarello—7: Another spectacular goal for the 21-year-old is excellent news, but she was seemed a bit lost at times, especially in the first half. Her instinct is to wander all over, looking for space, but Napoli were quite good at constricting her. Not a natural fit on the wing, either, but showed a couple of nice interchanges with the overlapping Zanoli.
Neto—6.5: Bit of an odd one for the Portuguese star. Missed a bunch of passes that she’ll usually make in her sleep early on and lost the ball under pressure a couple of times. Napoli’s physical approach (read: they fouled her unmercifully) clearly had an effect. Still won the penalty and was much stronger after moving deeper into midfield, where she had a bit more time on the ball with Breitner to cover behind when she strolled forward.
Bonetti—7.5: Two more assists (albeit from dead balls) highlight Tati’s fantasia. Dribbled her way out of trouble several times and caused mayhem in the Napoli rearguard whenever she was in possession. Always seemed to be the catalyst.
Sabatino—8.5: A brace in the first one and now a hat trick. Her natural finishing instincts are just unreal. Everyone’s said what the obvious things about her (id est she’s the best Italian striker of her generation) but those things are all true. When she’s on the pitch, the opposing defense can never rest and the rest of her team can always assume she’ll be at hand to turn home any chance.
Piemonte—5.5: Seemed a little too eager to make something happen but was obviously committed, running and pressuring well from the front. Still settling in.
Fusini—5.5: Had trouble tracking Errico on the latter’s shot that hit the bar and led to Deppy’s goal but was otherwise fine.
Clelland—n/a: Came on late and played in midfield (!), where she’s clearly not a natural fit. Still an absolute tank and takes no prisoners, committing and suffering a pair of fouls in her brief cameo.
Cordia—n/a: Once again brought on late to replace Zanoli and once again was perfectly adequate. Would love to see her get a chance at rightback in relief of Thøgersen, especially against an opponent offering a greater threat on the wing.
Three things we learned
1. This team can play badly and still score 5. The cliche is that the best teams can get a win even when playing badly, and that’s what Fiorentina did. They were atrocious early on, missing passes, tackles, defensive assignments, runs, and everything else. They eventually adjusted and improved, but they were far and away the worse team for at least half an hour and more or less even for another half hour. That’s the formula for a 0-1 smash-and-grab victory. This team, however, has so much talent that it can still put away 5 goals without getting out of second gear, including just one from open play. That’s how special this group is.
2. Cincotta’s a top-notch tactical mind. He’s so self-deprecating that you’ll never hear it from him, but he did a great job of adjusting his side after the first half hour to solidify things, pushing Vigilucci wider on the right and dropping Bonetti deeper to offer another simple forward passing option, which helped his players claw their way back into the game. At the half, he changed shape completely and Fiorentina utterly dominated after the restart. That ability to change everything at the dressing room during the break is something that every top drawer coach has, but his ability to understand the problems and tweak things from the touchline on the fly is what makes him special. Once his players have a better grasp of the alternate shape and can flip to it seamlessly, look out.
3. Sabatino is good. I mean, yeah.