NEWS
Tuesday August 22 2017
CL: Napoli triumphant in Nice

Napoli were dominant in Nice, coming away with a 2-0 victory, 4-0 on aggregate, to qualify for the Champions League.

See how the evening unfolded on the LIVEBLOG.

The first leg ended 2-0 at the Stadio San Paolo with Dries Mertens and a Jorginho penalty on target. Alassane Plea and Vincent Koziello were sent off, and therefore suspended here, though Mario Balotelli and Wesley Sneijder were available after missing the trip to Naples.

Mertens shook off a knock to the left foot and started, but within seven minutes was hacked down by Jean Michael Seri for a booking.

The little Belgian pounced on a defensive error and forced a very difficult one-handed save at the near post, then saw his free kick deflected wide. The resulting Faouzi Ghoulam corner flashed across the face of goal, but Kalidou Koulibaly couldn’t get the decisive touch.

Mertens wasted a golden opportunity on the counter from the centre-circle, blazing over the bar, then Insigne’s curler was deflected over by Dante.

As is often the case, Maurizio Sarri’s men dominated possession, but struggled to turn it into goals. Mertens got in front of Dante to turn a Ghoulam cross on to the side-netting.

The only Nice dangers came from Allan Saint-Maximin, who also impressed in the first leg and regularly got past Elseid Hysaj, but with no real support.

On the stroke of half-time, Jose Callejon wasted another good chance by scuffing his finish across the face of goal after a Seri slip. Remarkably, in the first half Nice had just one touch inside the opposition penalty area.

Napoli finally made this domination count with a goal straight after the restart, as Marek Hamsik rolled across for an unmarked Callejon to tap in at the far post. Nice were furious, because Balotelli was on the touchline at the time to get some jewellery covered up.

Moments later it was nearly 2-0, as Mertens dribbled through a crowd of defenders and his low strike cannoned off the upright.

Balotelli tried to counter, but wanted to go for goal himself from an improbable angle following a Raul Albiol error. The first genuine Nice chance came on 55 minutes, as Saint-Maximin earned another corner and the Maxime Le Marchand flick took it away from Dante’s head at the back stick.

Suddenly, the hosts realised they had nothing to lose and poured forward, Sneijder’s volley hitting Albiol on the hand, but only when it was across his chest, so could not be considered handball.

Insigne should’ve made it 2-0 on the break, but Yoan Cardinale rushed off his line to parry and blocked another attempted curler from the Italian.

Balotelli was substituted to the sound of quite a few boos from the crowd and in the final stages Reina finally had a real save to make on substitute Ignatius Knepe Ganago and a Sneijder free kick.

There was still time for Insigne to get his fully deserved goal, gathering from Ghoulam on the edge of the box and drilling in to the far bottom corner with his weaker right foot.

Nice were about to get a consolation goal to celebrate, but Lees-Melou saw his shot cannon off the underside of the bar.

Nice 0-2 Napoli (0-4)

Callejon 48 (Na), Insigne 89 (Na)

Nice: Cardinale; Souquet, Dante, Le Marchand, Jallet; Tameze (Lees-Melou 67), Seri; Walter (Marcel 79), Sneijder, Saint-Maximin; Balotelli (Ganago 77)

Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan (Rog 71), Jorginho (Diawara 85), Hamsik (Zielinski 63); Callejon, Mertens, Insigne

Ref: Skomona (SLO)

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