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Zerbin nets twice and almost gets knocked out as Napoli beats Fiorentina to reach Super Cup final

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Substitute Alessio Zerbin had a memorable nine minutes of playing time as he scored two late goals and almost knocked himself out on the post in the process, to help Napoli beat Fiorentina 3-0 on Thursday and reach the final of the revamped Italian Super Cup.

Giovanni Simeone scored Napoli's opener in the 22nd minute before Zerbin’s double gave new coach Walter Mazzarri a chance of winning a trophy. Fiorentina missed a penalty shortly before halftime and also had a goal ruled out.

Napoli will play either Serie A leader Inter Milan or Lazio in Monday’s final. Those two teams meet in the other semifinal on Friday.

The Italian Super Cup had always been contested between the Serie A champion and the Italian Cup winner from the previous season but the format has been changed this year to include the runners-up from those competitions — similar to the Spanish competition, which was held in the same stadium in Riyadh last week.

Napoli ran away with the Serie A title last season, finishing above Lazio, while Inter beat Fiorentina in the Italian Cup final.

Napoli has gone through a turbulent time since then. Title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti left and was replaced by Rudi Garcia, but the French coach was fired in November and replaced by Mazzarri.

However, results have hardly improved and Mazzarri has won just four of his 11 matches in charge in all competition to leave Napoli eighth in Serie A and 20 points behind Inter.

Napoli, which was also knocked out of the Italian Cup, faces Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16.

The decision to play the Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia has been much criticized, with Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri particularly scathing about it, especially in the midst of an already crowded fixture list.

For Fiorentina, however, it was an opportunity to win a first trophy since 2021.

But it found itself behind on a counterattack as Simeone sprung the offside trap to run onto a delightful pass from Juan Jesus and race into the right side of the area before firing into the far bottom corner.

Fiorentina thought it had leveled seven minutes later when Lucas Martínez Quarta’s header came off the right post and Giacomo Bonaventura rolled the rebound across for Lucas Beltrán to tap in. But Bonaventura was judged to have been offside.

The Tuscan team got another chance to level two minutes from halftime but Jonathan Ikoné blasted his penalty way over the bar after he had been tripped by Mário Rui.

Fiorentina dominated the second half but without really creating clearcut goalscoring opportunities and it was Napoli which extended its lead instead.

Zerbin had been brought on in the 81st minute and he scored his first Napoli goal just three minutes later as a corner from the right was nodded on by Giovanni Di Lorenzo for him to tap in at the back post.

However, as Zerbin slid in to score his momentum carried him over the line and he hit his head on the inside of the post. He lay there for a while surrounded by his teammates before walking off and there was a doubt as to whether he would be able to continue. If he had gone off it would have left Napoli with 10 men as it had already used up all its substitutions.

But Zerbin did come back on and immediately proved he was more than OK as he scored again seconds later, racing onto a pass on the counterattack and firing into the bottom left corner.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer