Napoli back winning as Ribery’s Fiorentina punish AC Milan
All the Italian teams in European action this week warmed up with wins with Napoli seeing off promoted Brescia despite Mario Balotelli scoring his first goal for the newcomers.
First-half goals from Dries Mertens and Kostas Manolas ensured the hosts took all three points after their midweek loss to Cagliari, to boost their confidence ahead of a Champions League trip to Belgian club Genk.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side stays fourth with 12 points from six games, six behind league leaders Inter Milan who beat Sampdoria 3-1 on Saturday before they play Barcelona in Europe.
“We went from nearly making it 3-0 to conceding a goal and suffering several injuries. The positive side is that we did well to come through the tricky period,” said Ancelotti.
“We’re still working towards peak fitness: not all of the players are there yet, but we’ll get there.”
Inter have a maximum 18 points from six games — two ahead of Juve — after winning their first six league matches for the first time since the 1966-67 season.
Champions Juventus beat SPAL 2-0 to stay second with Atalanta third — a point ahead of Napoli — after thrashing Sassuolo 4-1 on Saturday.
Juve play Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday with Atalanta’s first-ever Champions League home game against Shakhtar Donetsk.
But AC Milan is in crisis with new coach Marco Giampaolo’s days now looking numbered as the former European giants have lost four of their first six games.
“Tonight we looked like a team who had never even trained together,” said Giampaolo.
Former Bayern Munich midfielder Ribery sealed back-to-back wins for Fiorentina for the first time this season.
Ribery scored the third goal after 77 minutes to add to Gaetano Castrovilli’s 66th-minute effort with Erick Pulgar slotting in a penalty on 14 minutes.
Milan played most of the second half a man down after Mateo Musacchio was sent off for a foul on Ribery.
Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma did well to deny Federico Chiesa’s penalty kick with Rafael Leao pulling a goal back for the hosts ten minutes from time.
Ribery went off to a standing ovation from the San Siro crowd.
“He deserved it. He had a fantastic match,” said Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella.
“He’s always decisive, always in the game even if he doesn’t have the pace he had five or six years ago.”
“Yes, I’m old, but on the pitch I’m young,” said 36-year-old Ribery, who joined the Tuscan club this season.
Balotelli’s divided loyalties
Balotelli carried his daughter Pia, who lives in Naples with her mother and was decked out in the Napoli colours, onto the pitch at the San Paolo Stadium.
Ancelotti’s side went ahead after 13 minutes.
Mertens connected with a Jose Callejon cross to blast in his 114th goal in a Napoli jersey — one shy of Argentine legend Diego Maradona’s total from 1984 to 1991. Slovak Marek Hamsik leads both with 121.
Manolas thought he had scored six minutes later but the goal was ruled out after a VAR review. The Greek defender did head in just before the break off a Mertens corner.
Then in a nervy final half-hour, Balotelli got his head to a Sandro Tonali corner to serve notice to Italy coach Roberto Mancini of his ambitions to play at Euro 2020.
Brescia slip to 15th in the table.
Elsewhere, both Roman clubs also warmed up for their Europa League games with wins after Serie A losses during the week.
Edin Dzeko’s header, his fourth goal in six games, made the difference for Roma against promoted Lecce, whose goalkeeper saved an Aleksandar Kolarov penalty.
Lazio eased past Genoa 4-0 largely thanks to Ciro Immobile, who scored the final goal and set up another, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Stefan Radu and Felipe Caicedo also on target.
Roma are fifth, a point behind Napoli, with Lazio a further point back in sixth.
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