x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Callejon, Higuain power Napoli into Coppa Italia final

Napoli topped AS Roma 3-0 on Wednesday for a 5-3 aggregate victory that put them through to face Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia final.

Jose Callejon celebrates after scoring for Napoli on Wednesday. Carlo Hermann / AFP
Jose Callejon celebrates after scoring for Napoli on Wednesday. Carlo Hermann / AFP

Napoli beat AS Roma for the first time in three attempts this season on Wednesday as their 3-0 victory saw them reach the Coppa Italia final running out 5-3 winners on aggregate.

Goals by Jose Callejon, Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho set up a date for Rafael Benitez’s side with Fiorentina – who like Napoli overturned a first leg deficit to knock out Udinese on Tuesday – in the final in Rome on May 3.

It was only Roma’s second defeat this season under Frenchman Rudi Garcia – they also lost 3-0 to champions Juventus early in January – but the coach will have been alarmed to see how the meanest defence in Serie A was picked apart by Napoli.

Their frustrations boiled to the surface in the 80th minute as impressive Dutchman Kevin Strootman was sent off after he sarcastically applauded the referee for booking him.

Napoli, who were watched by their legendary Argentinian former player Diego Maradona, were rarely troubled – only Mattia Destro and Gervinho troubling the keeper – and well deserved the chance to make it two Cup wins in the last three editions.

Callejon opened the scoring in the 33rd minute with a bullet header after stealing unnoticed between the two central defenders in a move started by Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamsik.

Higuain, an inspired signing from Spanish giants Real Madrid last summer, doubled their advantage three minutes into the second-half with a diving header while Jorginho, newly arrived during the transfer window last month from Verona, put them two goals to the good overall and 3-0 up on the night in the 51st minute after being set up with a brilliant ball by Belgian international Dries Mertens.

In desperation Garcia turned to 37-year-old veteran Francesco Totti, sending him on but he was unable to change the course of the match, although Destro could have done better with two chances, directing a header wide on the hour mark and then striking a shot over the bar with 15 minutes remaining.

On Tuesday Fiorentina moved to within one win of their first trophy since 2001 as they beat Udinese 2-0, to win 3-2 on aggregate.

Goals by captain Manuel Pasqual and Colombian star Juan Cuadrado confirmed their place in the final completing a remarkable revival.

Just 11 years ago their fall from grace looked complete as they languished in the fourth tier as a result of serious financial difficulties before being rescued by brothers Andrea and Diego Della Valle.