As Juventus went 2-1 down to Inter on Saturday night, Napoli fans were relishing their clash with Fiorentina in the early Sunday evening kick-off. All they would need to do was beat the Viola – who had lost their last two matches versus Lazio and Sassuolo – in Florence and they would find themselves two points ahead at the top of the table.
Yet Juve would come back to win 3-2 and the Partenopei kicked off at the Stadio Artemio Franchi knowing they were back to trailing their rivals by four points. Many had whispered that the Tuscan club would do Napoli a favour by rolling over in this match due to their well-known hatred of Juventus, however Stefano Pioli’s men were on the front foot right from the start.
It was during a Viola attack when Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli’s hero from the week before, was sent off for a challenge on Giovanni Simeone just outside the penalty area, and the away side never recovered from that point onwards. To say that is was merely a bad performance from the title chasers though would be to do Fiorentina a disservice, as this side recovered in spectacular style from their back-to-back defeats.
Simeone was the man of the moment after firing in a hat-trick as Maurizio Sarri’s men offered very little considering what was at stake for them. The performance from the home side was well-drilled and determined, and this encounter saw the most shots faced by Napoli (28) and the fewest attempted (four) under the current boss, a truly miserable match for the Partenopei.
“We knew Napoli could be dangerous, so we tried to pass the ball and never stopped pressing,” Pioli told reporters after the match. “There’s no such thing as a perfect performance, but I think we came pretty close. Obviously, 11 against 11 was a different situation.”
Such determination and team play has become a characteristic of this young side, especially since the death of their Captain Davide Astori in early March. To expect anything less versus Napoli from the Viola players and indeed anything less than full support for their side from their supporters simply because of a rivalry with Juventus would be incredibly wide of the mark, and any doubters were proved to be very wrong after the final whistle.
The squad are battling hard to achieve a Europa League berth in the name of Astori, and they are fully united in their grief as well as in the way that they play. Fans in Florence see their side as a representation of their pride in the city, and all that they ask of those who wear the famous purple shirts is that they honour them by always giving their best for the side.
After two seasons of apathy under Paulo Sousa, Fiorentina are back fighting again. These youngsters don’t care who they are playing, they simply want to give their all for each other and the supporters every single time they step on the pitch. On Sunday evening they did just that, and the result of this sublime effort was there for all to see.
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