Monday, 20 January 2014

Matri double fires Fiorentina as Napoli held

Matri double fires Fiorentina as Napoli held

Last Updated: Monday, January 20, 2014, 04:18
Matri double fires Fiorentina as Napoli held
Milan: Alessandro Matri marked his debut for Fiorentina with a brace in a 3-0 win over Catania while Napoli were held and Inter slumped to defeat as torrential rain played havoc in Italy`s Serie A on Sunday.

Matri, AC Milan`s most expensive signing last summer, pledged to hit 10 goals for La Viola when he signed for the Florence club in midweek having struggled to make an impact with the Rossoneri.

And the former Juventus flop took a big step towards fulfilling that promise with a first-half brace after Chilean Matias Fernandez had opened the scoring for the visitors.

"I haven`t had an experience like this for a long time and to be honest, I really needed it," said Matri, who had scored only one goal this season in 15 appearances with Milan.

"I wanted to play a leading role again and after such a tough period you lose your sense of balance."

Fiorentina`s 12th win of the campaign reinforced fourth place in the table and Vincenzo Montella`s men are now 15 points behind leaders Juventus, 4-2 winners over Sampdoria on Saturday, and seven behind second-placed Roma.

More importantly, Fiorentina are only three points behind Napoli, who occupy the third and last qualifying spot for the Champions League.

Napoli had been looking for a win at Bologna to stay in touch with the top two, especially after Roma`s 3-0 defeat of Livorno on Saturday.

But after Rolando Bianchi opened the scoring just after the half hour the former Manchester City and Lazio striker levelled on 90 minutes for the hosts to snatch a share of the points in a 2-2 draw.

Napoli remain third but are now 12 points behind Juventus -- a gap Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik believes rules out a challenge for the `scudetto`.

"The gap is quite big now... I think it`s too much," Hamsik, who made his first start since being sidelined with injury in November, told Sky Sport Italia.

Bianchi broke the deadlock with a glancing header from Alessandro Diamanti`s cross which beat Napoli `keeper Rafael on 37 minutes.

Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain came close to levelling after the restart when he dived to head Jose Callejon`s cross from six yards out only for his effort to flash wide.

Higuain made no mistake from the penalty spot, though, blasting the ball under Gianluca Curci`s crossbar on 62 minutes after Blerim Dzemaili had crumbled under a clumsy challenge from Panagiotis Kone.

A superb Curci diving save then kept out Dries Mertens` free kick and, now with the momentum, Napoli finally pulled in front when Callejon pounced on a lost ball in midfield to surge ahead and beat Curci with an angled drive.

Napoli looked set for the three points after Bologna were reduced to 10 men when Kone was cautioned for a second time after tugging Higuain`s shirt.

But Rafael Benitez`s men were made to pay for slack defending at the death, their defence failing to pick up Bianchi at the back post before the striker smashed the ball into the net.

Inter`s woes continued, meanwhile, with a 1-0 away defeat in rainy Genoa which left Walter Mazzarri`s men in sixth on 32 points, the same as fifth-placed Verona ahead of their trip to Milan later Sunday.

Inter had plenty of chances to snatch the win and Mazzarri could only lament his side failing to beat Mattia Perin in the Genoa goal.

"We had plenty of chances to score at the end and Mattia Perin was impressive. We gave it everything and it`s hard to play more attacking football than we did," said Mazzarri.

Elsewhere Alessandro Lucarelli hit an injury-time winner for Parma in precious 2-1 win away to struggling Chievo while Ciro Immobile and Matteo Brighi struck in either half for Torino in a 2-0 win away to Sassuolo.
AFP -------------------------

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