Napoli put their recent woes behind them on Thursday, defeating Fiorentina 3-0 in Riyadh to advance to the Italian Super Cup final.
Giovanni Simeone started the scoring in the 22nd minute at a sparsely filled Al-Awwal Park, before Alessio Zerbin sealed Napoli’s victory with two late goals, his first for the Italian champions.
Napoli will play the winner of Friday’s second semi-final, between Inter Milan and Lazio, in the final on Monday night at the same venue.
Thursday’s victory was a rare bright spot in Napoli’s dreadful season, which has seen the club fall 20 points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan and win just five games since Walter Mazzarri took over for Rudi Garcia in November.
“I don’t know if this is a turning point,” Simeone told Mediaset.
“What truly important is the mindset we demonstrated today. “We are a team with heart and soul.”
Fiorentina had lots of possession but failed to break down Napoli, and Jonathan Ikone’s missed penalty shortly before halftime summed up a terrible night for Vincenzo Italiano’s side.
“When you lose 3-0 you can only tip your hat to the winners,” Italiano went on to say.
“Unfortunately we’ve started getting a bit sterile again… but until the 84th minute we were in the running and I thought we could get back in it.”
This season is the first time the Italian Super Cup has been fought in a four-team format, although it does not seem to have piqued the interest of the Saudi public.
The stadium was practically empty for a match involving the ailing champions, who seized the lead when Simeone converted the first opportunity his team generated in a rare start, with Victor Osimhen at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Fiorentina could have equalised when Ikone went down easily under a push from Mario Rui, but the French attacker sent his penalty over the crossbar.
After effortlessly holding Fiorentina at bay, Napoli extended their advantage in the 84th minute with substitute Zerbin.
The 24-year-old, who is expected to join Frosinone on loan this month, grabbed onto a flick-on at a corner and pushed home before hitting his head on the post.
Team physicians had to examine the 24-year-old, who seemed stunned following the incident, before he could return to the pitch.
However, he recovered soon enough to score the third two minutes later, snatching the ball from Michael Kayode and firing a low shot past Pietro Terracciano to secure his team’s place in the final.