Napoli can extend their advantage over Fiorentina in the final Champions League spot to six points with a win over Sassuolo on Sunday, after the viola suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Inter Milan. It was a flat performance in which they never really looked at their sparkling best, with Mauro Icardi coming off the bench to punish them with a winning goal midway through the second half.
Despite Alessandro Matri's recent goals, Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella decided to bench the AC Milan loanee, leaving the viola without any nominal centre-forward. It was a selection which backfired in a disappointing first half for the hosts, in which centre-back Marvin Compper's low long range drive was the only test for Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanović.
It wasn't only up front that Fiorentina had problems, either. Their ambitious central midfield of playmakers Alberto Aquilani, Matías Fernández and David Pizarro may have kept possession reasonably well, but also left them hugely exposed on the counter-attack. Time and again in the first half a pretty poor Inter team sliced the viola open on the break, squandering several good goalscoring opportunities before they finally broke the deadlock.
Ten minutes before halftime Fredy Guarín squeezed a through-ball in for his teammate Rodrigo Palacio, with the Fiorentina defending so lax the Argentine striker could take a heavy touch before prodding past the flapping Neto. It epitomised an extremely disappointing opening half for the hosts, and they were fortunate to only be one down at the break.
However, they bounced back in the second half in just about the best way possible; drawing level within a couple of minutes of the restart. Winger Juan Cuadrado nearly blew the roof off the net with a spectacular goal in the Coppa Italia last week, and so it's only fair his latest strike was rather less spectacular; squirming under an unimpressive Handanović from the edge of the box.
Unfortunately for Fiorentina, their joy was short-lived. Despite Inter looking less threatening than they did in the first half, they retook the lead 20 minutes into the second; Mauro Icardi sliding Yuto Nagatomo's cross beyond Neto for 2-1. Despite both Mario Gómez and Matri being thrown on, the viola couldn't muster a response; slumping to a disappointing defeat and giving Napoli the chance to extend their lead in the Champions League race.
Fiorentina: Neto; Compper, Rodríguez (Tomović 62'), Diakité; Vargas, Fernández, Pizarro, Aquilani, Cuadrado (Matri 79'); Joaquín (Gómez 68'), Iličić.
Goals: Cuadrado (46').
Inter Milan: Handanović; Juan Jesus, Samuel, Rolando; Nagatomo (D'Ambrosio 87'), Hernanes, Kuzmanović, Guarín (Taïder 72'), Jonathan; Palacio, Milito (Icardi 55').
Goals: Palacio (34'), Icardi (65').