Napoli recorded the type of victory over Fiorentina that isn’t the most fun for the fans to watch, but offers the most hope for their chances of winning the Serie A title for the first time since 1990. The Partenopei came from behind to win 2-1 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Sunday.
Fiorentina started the match in the same intense manner they have started most matches this season, especially in the bigger games. That led to them taking a well-deserved lead through Lucas Martinez Quarta.
Napoli were struggling to get a foothold in the game but when you have a striker with the pace and presence of mind that Victor Osimhen has, the chance of winning a penalty is pretty high. The way he angled his run across the front of Martinez Quarta meant he was either getting a free shot on goal or going to win a penalty.
The penalty was saved but eventually, Hirving Lozano managed to turn it in and draw Napoli level. The Partinopei started the second half quickly and Amir Rrahmani headed in his second goal of the season to give Napoli a precious lead. From there, they managed to see out a vital victory and make it seven wins out of seven.
No Europa League hangover for Spalletti
The idea that teams playing in the Europa League often lose the domestic match following a Thursday night fixture is well-documented. It’s very true, though. The Europa League group stage can be gruelling for many teams owing to the huge distances that need to be travelled, and the tight turnaround between late Thursday evening and a Sunday afternoon Serie A kick off.
This is exactly what Napoli faced on Sunday but they, arguably, had to contend with an extreme version of it. Their game on Thursday night was a physically attritional defeat against Spartak Moscow in which they played a full hour with ten men and ended up losing 3-2. The only positive is that the game was in Naples rather than a four-hour flight away in the Russian capital.
After that difficult test for Luciano Spalletti’s side, they had to go away to one of the better teams in the division who play with pace and intensity. Napoli could have very easily withered to a 1-0 defeat or a lacklustre draw, but they dug deep and had the quality to record a win that for Spalletti, will feel like six points.
This weekend exhibited the gap between a title-challenging side like Napoli and one that is aiming to make it into the top four this season. Lazio also played at home in the Europa League on Thursday night, beating Lokomotiv Moscow 2-0.
Whilst their turnaround was slightly shorter before the Serie A match on Sunday lunchtime away at Bologna, they turned in a lethargic and incoherent performance and fell to a damaging 3-0 defeat.
If Napoli can reach the end of the Europa League group stage having kept their spot at the top of the Serie A table, they will be in an extremely strong position, mentally, to go on and claim that elusive Scudetto that the city craves so dearly.