NEWS
Wednesday February 12 2014
Coppa: Napoli crush Roma for Final

Napoli thrashed Roma 3-0 with Diego Maradona in the stands and will face Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia Final.

The Giallorossi had the upper hand with a 3-2 first leg victory, but a 1-0 win would put Rafa Benitez’s men through on away goals. January signings Jorginho and Faouzi Ghoulam started with Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik supporting Gonzalo Higuain. Radja Nainggolan was suspended for the visitors, Federico Balzaretti and Dodo injured with Francesco Totti initially rested after Sunday’s 0-0 derby with Lazio.

It was an emotional reunion for several figures at the San Paolo. Morgan De Sanctis returned to face his old club, Mertens played against his ex-PSV teammate Kevin Strootman and Napoli legend Diego Armando Maradona was in the stands for the second half. Michel Bastos also got his first start for Roma, despite having very nearly joined Napoli in January.

After just two minutes Pepe Reina had to rush out to charge down Mattia Destro from point-blank range on an Adem Ljajic assist. Mehdi Benatia was booked for a very late tackle to stop Mertens going on the counter-attack and he’d be suspended for the Final. Marek Hamsik curled over the bar, while there was a double chance created by Miralem Pjanic, as Gervinho’s shot was charged down and the Ljajic follow-up went off target from 13 yards.

Napoli took the lead on 33 minutes when Cristian Maggio floated in a cross from the right and Jose Maria Callejon got between the centre-backs for a precise header. It was a fine way to celebrate his birthday this week and with this result the Partenopei would go through on away goals.

Hamsik tried to surprise his old teammate De Sanctis with a cheeky lob from midfield, then Ljajic fired straight at Reina. There was confusion as Bastos scrambled clear after a misunderstanding with De Sanctis. Gervinho wasted a great opportunity when he did a double dummy to shimmy past Raul Albiol only to misplace the cross for Ljajic.

Straight after the restart De Sanctis needed a sensational reaction save when Higuain had set up Callejon for a chip from 10 yards. From the resulting corner, it was flicked on for Higuain’s header into the far top corner to double Napoli’s lead.

Diego Armando Maradona was in the stands still getting to his seat, so was embraced by the crowd after the goal by Pipita.

Moments later it was 3-0, as a divine Mertens slide-rule pass sent Jorginho clear on goal and the Italy Under-21 international kept his cool to flick the finish past an on-rushing De Sanctis.

Roma had the ball in the back of the net from a touched-on free kick, but Strootman was ruled offside. Gervinho then ballooned a volley over the bar from Pjanic’s assist and the Bosnian’s free kick skimmed the woodwork.

The Giallorossi now needed two goals just to force extra time and Destro’s header was inches wide just before Higuain stung the gloves of De Sanctis at the near stick.

Hamsik’s looping header sailed over, while Destro chested down a Daniele De Rossi ball over the top and scissor-kicked the half-volley over from close range.

The evening got even worse for Roma when Strootman saw red. He was booked for a challenge on Callejon, then immediately received another yellow for sarcastically applauding the referee’s decision. The Dutch midfielder had been the star of the first leg with an astounding strike from 31 metres.

Ex-Palmeiras defender Henrique was given his Partenopei debut in the final minutes.

Napoli won 5-3 on aggregate and will meet Fiorentina for the Final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on May 3 or 7, depending on Europa League progress.

Napoli 3-0 Roma (5-3 on agg)

Scorers: Callejon 33 (N), Higuain 48 (N), Jorginho 51 (N)

Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Ghoulam; Inler, Jorginho (Henrique 85); Mertens, Hamsik (Behrami 76), Callejon; Higuain (Insigne 82)

Roma: De Sanctis; Torosidis (Maicon 49), Benatia, Castan, Bastos; Pjanic (Totti 61), De Rossi, Strootman; Ljajic (Florenzi 55), Destro, Gervinho

Ref: Rocchi

Sent off: Strootman 79 (R)

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