Thursday, 6 February 2014

Gervinho winner sees Roma edge Napoli in Cup semi

Gervinho winner sees Roma edge Napoli in Cup semi

Last Updated: Thursday, February 06, 2014, 04:34
Gervinho winner sees Roma edge Napoli in Cup semi
Milan: Ivory Coast international Gervinho hit a fine brace including a late winner to put Roma within sight of their second successive Italian Cup final thanks to a 3-2 victory over Napoli in the first leg of the sides` semi-final on Wednesday.

Superb individual goals from Gervinho and Dutchman Kevin Strootman, the latter firing a 25-metre screamer past Pepe Reina just after the half hour, had given Roma -- beaten in last year`s final by city rivals Lazio -- a 2-0 half-time lead at a rain-hit Olympic Stadium.

However Napoli were back in contention when a shot from Gonzalo Higuain took a deflection to beat Roma `keeper Morgan De Sanctis, the latter being credited with the own goal, just after the restart.

As the visitors grew in confidence, Rafael Benitez`s side were rewarded for their efforts just after the hour thanks to a superb Dries Mertens leveller.

Mertens had replaced Marek Hamsik only minutes earlier and after picking up a loose ball following a challange on Higuain on the edge of the area, the Belgian rode two tackles to beat De Sanctis with a dipping shot on 70 minutes.

Napoli, Cup winners in 2012, appeared to have settled for a draw that would have boosted their chances in next week`s second leg at the San Paolo.

However Gervinho, easily Roma`s best player on the night, produced another fine piece of individual skill in the Napoli area to beat Reina from the right of goal for an 88th minute winner.

On Tuesday Udinese stunned Fiorentina 2-1 to edge closer to their first Italian Cup final appearance since 1922.

Udinese captain Antonio di Natale opened the scoring for the hosts before Fiorentina levelled through Peruvian Juan Manuel Vargas a minute before half-time.

However, Udinese edged the contest when Colombian Luis Muriel scored with a fine effort eight minutes from time.

Fiorentina will still fancy their chances of overhauling the deficit in the second leg next Tuesday.

They will also be boosted by German international striker Mario Gomez, who missed the past five months because of injury, due to return to training on Wednesday.
AFP ------------------------

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