Napoli defeated Fiorentina 3-0 at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday afternoon in Serie A. Goals from Dries Mertens, Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon saw the Partenopei comprehensively beat the Viola in Naples and keep alive faint hopes of Champions League qualification. Both sides crashed out of the Coppa Italia semi-finals with home defeats midweek, but of the two Napoli were more in need of a boost. Without a win in five competitive games and sliding down to sixth place, President Aurelio De Laurentiis threw the squad into a training retreat due to a squalid performances.a The only real absentees were Giuseppe Rossi and Michu, while the Viola won this fixture 1-0 last season. The Azzurri had tumbled to sixth on the back of five games without a win but returned to the race for a Champions League place when Dries Mertens opened the scoring midway through the first half.
With Mertens in creative mood Fiorentina struggled to contain the diminutive Belgian, Jasmin Kurtic twice resorting to fouling the attacker. On nine minutes the wideman carried the ball down the left, bursting past Stefan Savic, and delivered a low cross that Jose Basanta clumsily managed to turn wide of his own post. Mertens then supplied Gonzalo Higuain with a well weighted through ball, but as the Argentinean looked to round Neto in stepped Basanta with a crucial interception. However, on 24 minutes the Partenopei had the lead. Higuain laying off to Mertens on the edge of the box and, with Micah Richards allowing him space, curled a wonderful low effort past the goalkeeper. Vincenzo Montellaa s side started to control possession from that moment and it took a wonderful challenge in midfield from Walter Gargano to create what should have been their second on 35 minutes. With the ball breaking to Higuain the Argentinean drove forward onto his right-foot and unleashed a powerful long range strike that came down off the underside of the bar and over the line. However, as the ball quickly bounced back into play a goal was never signalled by any of the officials and it remained 1-0. As the first period ended Fiorentina could not capitalise on their slice of good fortune, Manuel Pasqual sending over a wonderful cross on 44 minutes that none of his teammates anticipated.
The second-half continued much the same and it was the hosta s Manolo Gabbiadini who threatened next with a curling effort that went just wide on 55 minutes. Mariano Andujar had to be on his toes to keep Borja Valero out when play resumed, but the Fiorentina midfielder was ruled offside anyway. Napoli hit back with Gabbiadini letting rip at the end of a swift counter-attack – his effort shaved paint off a post – and another rapid counter nearly resulted in the second goal. The Argentinian had a gilt-edged opportunity when Savic slipped to allow him space in front of Neto, but he took too long and ran out of time to finish. Hamsik spared his team-mate’s blushes and made up for the ghost goal by extending Napoli’s lead in the 71st minute. Served in splendid fashion by Callejon, the Slovakian beat Neto with a cool right-footed touch. Fiorentina had been second-best throughout and let their heads drop completely in the final moments. That allowed Callejon plenty of room to receive Lorenzo Insigne’s pass and drive it beyond Neto with only one minute remaining at the Stadio San Paolo.
Napolia s first win since February may not ultimately help them catch third placed Roma, but will provide a timely boost with Beniteza men travelling to high-flying Wolfsburg in the Europa League on Thursday. They were out of the Champions League before their Serie A campaign had even begun and have since squandered the stranglehold they once had on the third-place spot that would have seen them return to the Champions League .On Wednesday they hit a new low, extending their recent poor run to show just a single win from nine games as they were beaten at home by Lazio and eliminated from the Coppa Italia. Thursdaya s visit to Wolfsburg for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final has taken an even greater importance in the face of their spectacular implosion over the last six weeks. It is almost perceived as fact that Benitez won’t be Napoli coach in 2015-16. Having collected a Coppa Italia and a Supercoppa before now, the Spaniard will be expected to end his two-year tenure at the club this summer having had a very go good at winning the Europa League at the very least.