Callejon hits winner to send Napoli through

Partenopei will next face winner of Juve-Milan tie in Italian Cup semi-final


Afp January 25, 2017
SOLE SCORER: Callejon ran in to meet Marek Hamsik's swift delivery from deep on the left with a bullet header to score the game's only goal. PHOTO: AFP

MILAN: A fine second-half header from Jose Callejon fired Napoli into the semi-finals of the Italian Cup and a last-four date with either Juventus or AC Milan after a bad-tempered 1-0 win over Fiorentina on Tuesday.

Both sides finished with 10 men at the Artemio Franchi stadium after a fiery finale that saw Napoli defender Elseid Hysaj then Fiorentina's Maximiliano Olivera sent off within minutes of each other.

But Napoli were fully deserving of the win in a season which has seen Maurizio Sarri's men keep Juventus on their toes as they bid for a record sixth consecutive Serie A title.

Stand-in striker Dries Mertens started on the bench as Sarri gave Leonardo Pavoletti his first start in a Napoli shirt, and the absent Belgian's clinical finishing was perhaps missed in a wasteful first half for the hosts.

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Pavoletti blazed over the Fiorentina bar and Ciprian Tararusanu was even more alert to the danger when he tipped Lorenzi Insigne's free kick at the near post on to the crossbar.

Insigne, then Callejon spurned further chances before the end of a first half which, after battling to a thrilling 3-3 draw in their last league outing, surprisingly finished scoreless.

Fiorentina's sole chances came on the counter, but the threat was real, Pepe Reina palming Federico Chiesa's shot over from a tight angle before producing a fine one-handed save to parry a Davide Astori header.

Fiorentina resumed in determined fashion, Chiesa dribbling his way into the area only to be stopped in his tracks by an onrushing Reina. At the other end, Insigne angled a drive on the left flank that was blocked yards from goal.

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But Napoli regained command, Pavoletti beating a flailing Tatarusanu but seeing his free kick from outside the area hit post and crossbar, prompting Sarri to immediately replace the big front man with the more diminutive, but more successful Mertens.

Mertens has taken his league tally to an impressive 12 league goals after stepping in to replace injured Poland centre-forward Arkaduisz Milik during his lengthy injury absence.

But his thunder was stolen in fine style when Callejon ran in to meet Marek Hamsik's swift delivery from deep on the left with a bullet header that left Tatarusanu no chance from six yards.

Along with teammate Manolo Gabbiadini, Callejon is now the only other Napoli player to score goals in three competitions this season.

Fiorentina pressed in the later stages, Reina forced down quick to collect Josip Ilicic's deflected drive.

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Hysaj saw red moments later, on 90 minutes, for a second bookable offence but La Viola's chances of a late leveller were hit when Olivera was sent off after earning a second caution.

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