Luciano Spalletti was thrilled that Victor Osimhen was fit enough to start, although he may have been a bit anxious that 21-year-old Alessandro Zanoli, making just his second-ever Serie A start, was the only option at rightback. Vincenzo Italiano, with Lucas Torreira and Álvaro Odriozola, turned to Sofyan Amrabat and Lorenzo Venuti. Riccardo Saponara and Arthur Cabral rounded out the attack in front of a packed and rowdy Stadio Diego Maradona.
Napoli came out firing, putting Fiorentina under pressure from the word go. Victor Osimhen was clearly the main threat, constantly bursting in behind, and even got the ball in the net once, but it was clearly offside. Still, you felt like the goal was coming, either from him or from Lorenzo Insigne. The Viola, however, weathered the storm and started to fight back, largely through Nicolás González’ ability to find space to receive the ball, turn, and drive at the defense. He was at the center of everything, prompting a few probing attacks before opening the scoring after a nice Cristiano Biraghi cross and some powerful penalty box play from Cabral. Lovely finish from the Argentine.
Gran definición de Nicolas González para que Fiorentina se ponga en ventaja en el Diego Armando Maradona.— Fútbol Vertical (@futbol_vertical) April 10, 2022
Fiorentina had a couple more chances but couldn’t quite get the final ball right, but the real story was Igor at the other end. The Brazilian, an afterthought at the start of the season, produced a magnificent performance to prevent Osimhen from getting a sniff. When the halftime whistle blew, nobody could argue that the visitors deserved their lead.
Napoli again came out like gangbusters, keeping Fiorentina under pressure and finding space in behind. When the goal finally arrived, it was exactly what you expected: Osimhen got in behind and cut it back for Dries Mertens to drill home against a disorganized and retreating defense.
Instead of folding up, though, Fiorentina battled back and retook the lead. As always, it was Nico at the heart of the move, driving past the constantly-overmatched Mário Rui and floating a cross in for recently-introduced substitute Jonathan Ikoné. With his first touch of the game, the Frenchman settled the ball; with his second, he lashed it past David Ospina for his first Serie A goal.
The Viola weren’t done, though, and grabbed a third on the counter. Youssef Maleh will get credit for the assist, finding Cabral in on the left flank, but the Brazilian did all the work, driving at Stanislav Lobotka before dribbling him into the turf and curling a gorgeous finish past Ospina before tearing off his shirt to celebrate. It was the sort of dynamic, all around striker play he was brought in to offer and he looks like he’s just getting started.
Filthy from Arthur Cabral— Jerry Mancini (@jmancini8) April 10, 2022
What a goal!
Now leading by two, the visitors began slowing the tempo by passing the ball around at the back, lowering the tempo nicely and forcing Napoli to chase. It worked for a little while but Osimhen finally shook free of Igor to score a goal out of nothing, plucking Rui’s high pass out of the air and smashing past Terracciano.
The final moments were tense—more because Italiano removed González and Cabral so that José Callejón (?) and Aleksandr Kokorin (???) could get some minutes—but the good guys managed the game well for the most part, allowing their hosts no real opportunities and fully deserving their three points.
Goals: Mertens 58’ (ass. Osimhen), Osimhen 84’ (ass. Rui); González 29’ (ass. Cabral), Ikoné 66’ (ass. González), Cabral 72’ (ass. Maleh)
Cards: Milenković 11’, Cabral 73’, Ikoné 88’
Once again, Fiorentina beat Napoli in Naples as the Partenopei mount a Scudetto challenge. This time, however, it doesn’t hand the title to Juventus, so let’s call it a big win. More importantly, Atalanta lost to Sassuolo, which means Fiorentina leapfrog la Dea into 7th; if Salernitana get a win at AS Roma today (unlikely), the Viola could leapfrog both Roman clubs into 5th if the game in hand works out well. Let’s forget all those calculations for now, though, because that was a fantastic performance and a great result.