Joaquin header snatches late Viola win at Napoli

23 March 2014 08:16

A late header by Spanish forward Joaquin helped Fiorentina snatch a precious 1-0 win away at 10-man Napoli which dented the Partenopei's hopes of a second-place finish in Italy's Serie A on Sunday.

Leaders Juventus face Catania away in one of two late matches looking to restore their 14-point lead on Roma, who reduced arrears with a 2-0 win away to Chievo on Saturday and still have a game in hand.

Napoli, sitting third six points behind Roma, were looking to stretch their undefeated run to seven games and keep the pressure on Roma for runner-up spot and an automatic Champions League qualifying place.

But after seeing a number of early chances blocked by impressive Fiorentina 'keeper Neto, the hosts suffered an early blow when Faouzi Ghoulam saw red for a challenge on Marko Bakic.

Rafael Benitez reshuffled and although Fiorentina made the most of their advantage, Napoli were defiant.

Neto had to stretch to fingertip a Lorenzo Insigne free kick over the bar, while only a timely intervention from Stefan Savic stopped Gonzalo Higuain's attempted tap-in from close range.

Both sides went on to spurn a number of chances, although Fiorentina arguably came closest when Alessandro Matri, who had replaced Mario Gomez, headed wide while unmarked following Joaquin's cross.

Benitez sent on Dries Mertens although the livewire Belgian was forced off with an ankle injury 10 minutes later after he fell awkwardly following a crunching but fair tackle from Savic.

Fiorentina had the momentum, though, and after Josip Ilicic blasted just over the bar Matri made amends when he drew Reina out of the goal, set up Manuel Pasqual who crossed for Joaquin to head into an empty goal at the back post.

Earlier, Atalanta striker Giacomo Bonaventura scored a brace in a 2-1 away win which pushed Inter Milan down to sixth, while Verona's Europa League hopes were hurt by a 5-0 rout away to Sampdoria.

Inter hosted the Bergamo-based side looking to stretch their unbeaten run to seven games and tighten their grip on fifth place.

But after Mauro Icardi had levelled for the hosts only a minute after Bonaventura's 35th minute opener, Walter Mazzarri's side spurned a series of chances to put the match beyond reach in a lively second half.

Having missed out on Europe this season, Inter are desperate not to miss the boat but a jaded-looking Mazzarri admitted his side's setbacks could prove costly.

"A team like Atalanta have nothing to lose by coming here and playing well. We knew they'd be a dangerous side but we had a great second half," said Mazzarri.

"We had at least three chances to score but we just couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. It's a strange season. We're making too many mistakes, and they could be costly."

Verona's hopes of top-five finish, meanwhile, suffered a huge blow in a 5-0 humiliation at Samp.

Gianluca Sansone started the rout in the fourth minute, and after a corner in the 23rd minute deflected off the referee, Renan collected to beat Rafael down low at the 'keeper's near post.

Samp took a 3-0 half-time lead thanks to Roberto Soriano's close range strike and he completed his brace thanks to a fine individual effort on 48 minutes.

Angelo Palombo hit Samp's fifth just before the hour to complete the rout and move Sinisa Mihajlovic's men up to 11th place.

In a veiled reference to William Shakespeare's Verona-based lovers Romeo and Juliet, Mihajlovic quipped: "We've thrown Juliet from the balcony. But she's not too hurt. They (Verona) still have 40 points.

"Mathematically, we're not safe from relegation but virtually we are."

Source: AFP