If Fiorentina-Napoli was meant to be a commercial for the upcoming Serie A season, we are going to have some fun times ahead. The match at the Artemio Franchi Stadium in Florence ended 4-3 for the visitor Partenopei, offering loads of goals, emotions, bad goalkeeping, and controversial decisions, including a pretty generous penalty that left Fiorentina’s coach Vincenzo Montella furious.
But if the Viola keep playing like on Saturday night, the Toscani’s new president, volcanic Italian-American businessman Rocco Commisso, has much to be happy about as he officially starts his much-awaited adventure in the world of calcio.
Among the home lines, Federico Chiesa put his mumbling at his missed transfer aside, and led the charge of an interesting offensive trident where he was flanked by 19-year-old Dusan Vlahovic, and 20-year-old Riccardo Sottil – the latter being the most positive of the three. New faces for the Viola also on the defensive sides, which featured newcomers Pol Lirola and Lorenzo Venuti, as well as in midfield, where returning Milan Badelj was lined up together with Erick Pulgar. Between the sticks, Polish goalie Bartlomiej Dragoski re-took his place after spending a very positive season in Empoli.
Late arrival Kevin Prince Boateng started from the bench, and so did Fiorentina’s colpo di mercato Franck Ribery. The Frenchman however showed his trademark grit already, as well as a very good connection with his teammates, as he was often seen dispensing advice and encouragement to young talent Sottil.
On the other side, Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli showed significant changes in a defensive line that had been mostly unaltered in the past seasons. As they wait for the insertion of Hirving Lozano and maybe, who knows, somebody else, Kostas Manolas took place next to Kalidou Koulibaly to form one the potentially strongest center-back lines of the whole Serie A, whereas former Empoli Giovanni Di Lorenzo claimed his spot on the right back side.
The ”Three Tenors” Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, and Jose’ Callejon, offered another sample of their football feeling, scoring at least one goal each. Napoli’s terrible trio could find and serve each other blindfolded by now, and their exploits helped Ancelotti forget about the shaky performance of his defensive line, as well as about some hesitations on goalkeeper Alex Meret’s part – all things Carletto will have to fix pretty soon as he prepares to receive Juventus next Saturday at the San Paolo Stadium.
Vincenzo Montella’s post-match remarks focused on the turning point of the game: “Can somebody explain to me the penalty allowed to Mertens? [Referee] Massa says he saw a foul, but what is the VAR there for then? That was a simulation by Mertens, and nobody said anything,” the livid Fiorentina coach said after praising the performance of his side.
If truth be told, Dries Mertens was awarded a pretty inexplicable penalty, with the home midfielder Gaetano Castrovilli not even touching the Belgian striker.
Lorenzo Insigne’s conversion from the penalty spot brought Napoli to 1-2 in the 40th minute, after Fiorentina’s initial lead had been levelled by a sharp shot by Dries Mertens which surprised the Viola’s goalie Bartlomiej Dragowski. Midfielder Erick Pulgar scored the first one of the night for the home side in the 9th minute, courtesy of a handball by Napoli’s Piotr Zielinksi that sent him on the 11-meter spot.
Fiorentina’s penalty was much clearer than the one eventually awarded to Napoli, still referee Davide Massa missed it and had to be corrected by his technological assistants: A night to forget for the 38-year-old referee from Imperia.
Serbian center back Nikola Milenkovic equalized for Fiorentina six minutes after the break, anticipating no less than Kalidou Koulibaly to deliver a header on which keeper Alex Meret didn’t do much of a good job. Only four minutes later, however, Jose’ Callejon brought the Neapolitan side ahead again with a razor-sharp right-foot shot on a suggestion by Lorenzo Insigne.
Vicenzo Montella eventually replaced Dusan Vlahovic with Kevin Prince Boateng. The former Milan and Sassuolo midfielder first missed a favorable chance on a pass by Riccardo Sottil, but then delivered an absolute screamer that hit the post, then rebounded in the net to bring the score to 3-3. Props to the Ghanaian midfielder for the way he made an impact on the match, but Napoli’s Alex Meret appeared slow to react on this occasion too.
Was that over? Of course not, as only two minutes later Lorenzo Insigne embellished an already sumptuous performance made of one goal and two assists with his second personal marking, correcting a pass by Callejon, and making the best out of a chance initiated by Dries Mertens which caught Fiorentina’s defensive line totally by surprise.
Montella sent in Frank Ribery for a very positive Sottil, whereas Ancelotti made new joiner Elif Elmas debut, before eventually covering himself up by replacing Dries Mertens with defender Elseid Hysaj. Napoli’s Albanian full-back risked much as he held Ribery in the box during extra time, a feat that could have potentially prompted a new penalty for the Viola, had referee Massa been in a less unfortunate night.
Fiorentina ended on a nervous note, scoring three yellow cards during stoppage time, including one to a surprisingly vocal coach Vincenzo Montella. President Rocco Commisso however praised the first official performance of his newly-bought side. “I’m happy for being here and for having seen Fiorentina playing so well. Napoli are a great team, but didn’t deserve to win.”
Napoli’s Carlo Ancelotti, on the other hand, remarked on the Partenopei’s in-progress transfer market session: “We conceded three goals, but we scored four away. So perhaps we don’t need a new striker, but a new defender…” Difficult to imagine that Ancelotti will have that available before next Saturday, when the partitissima against Juventus will already say a great deal about his squad’s claim on the Scudetto 2019-2020.
August 24, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 1
SCORERS: 9′ Pulgar (F, pen.), 38′ Mertens (N), 41′ Insigne (N, pen.), 51′ Milenkovic (F), 55′ Callejon (N), 64′ Boateng (F), 66′ Insigne (N).
|FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Dragowski; Lirola, Milenkovic, Pezzella, Venuti; Castrovilli, Badelj (69′ Benassi), Pulgar; Chiesa, Vlahovic (61′ Boateng), Sottil (74′ Ribery). (Terracciano, Biraghi, Ceccherini, Cristoforo, Montiel, Ranieri, Simeone, Terzic, Zurkowski) Coach: Montella|
|NAPOLI (4-4-1-1): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Mario Rui (71′ Ghoulam); Callejon, Allan (72′ Elmas), Zielinski, Insigne; Fabian Ruiz; Mertens (84′ Hysaj) (Karnezis, Ospina, Chiriches, Gaetano, Luperto, Maksimovic, Malcuit, Verdi, Younes) Coach: Ancelotti|
REFEREE: Mr. Massa from Imperia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Montella, Boateng, Pezzella (F); Allan, Callejon, Mario Rui, Zielinski (N); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 5′