Edinson Cavani has kept Napoli’s Europa League dream alive with a stunning four goals to fight back and beat Dnipro 4-2.
The Partenopei absolutely needed a victory after two consecutive defeats or risk going out of the Europa League at the first hurdle. Edinson Cavani was given a rare start in this competition alongside Edu Vargas and Andrea Dossena filled in for the injured Juan Camilo Zuniga, but the defence was rested. Dnipro had a 100 per cent record and a win would put Juande Ramos’ men through to the next phase already.
The Stadio San Paolo was open to fans after emergency reconstruction work ordered by UEFA and the crowd went wild after seven minutes when Napoli took the lead.
It was a splendid team move, as Gokhan Inler’s through ball found Blerim Dzemaili and his inspired pass cut the defence in two to send Cavani running, the Uruguayan finishing it off with a precise angled drive.
Cavani burst down the right and forced the goalkeeper to parry with his foot at the near post. From that corner, Andrea Dossena’s free header was over as he found himself under the ball following a Miguel Angel Britos flick.
It should’ve been 2-0 with a wonderful assist from Cavani, who at the by-line scissor-kicked an Inler cross back into the six-yard box for Dossena, who ballooned over the bar from six yards.
Napoli ran their first risk on 18 minutes when Jaba Kankava unleashed a screamer from distance that grazed the base of the upright. Roman Zozulya’s glancing header also whistled wide and Inler fired over from distance.
Dnipro equalised as Napoli confirmed their inability to defend from set plays. A corner was whipped in and Michael Odibe soared above the crowd for a header that Artem Fedetskiy prodded over the line from a yard. He was standing at the near post and completely unmarked, but onside thanks to Dzemaili on the other upright. Fedetskiy had also scored in the last meeting between these teams.
Giandomenico Mesto’s curling cross was just over Cavani’s head in the middle. However, after the restart Napoli shot themselves in the foot with a howler from Edu Vargas. The Chilean lost the ball foolishly in midfield to spark a counter-attack and Antonio Rosati really should’ve done better on Zozulya’s angled drive. He got a hand to it, but could not keep out the less than scorching shot.
Mazzarri had to take action and introduced Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne for Marco Donadel and Vargas as jeers rained down from the San Paolo stands. A defensive howler almost allowed Dnipro a third, but Odibe turned wide.
Insigne’s effort was deflected out for a corner from close range, then Mesto’s angled drive flashed inches wide of the far post. With a last throw of the dice, Goran Pandev came on and Napoli switched to a four-man defence.
Napoli once again had to rely on their talisman Cavani, who curled a fantastic free kick over the wall and into the near top corner. It was an unusual strike from El Matador, who does not usually take set plays.
Britos nodded wide and Dnipro made a defensive substitution, suggesting they were feeling the pressure. Insigne went on a scorching run and his fierce right-foot curler scraped a coat of paint off the far post.
Napoli completed the fantastic comeback with Cavani’s hat-trick to go 3-2 up in the final minutes! Insigne’s back-heel freed Hamsik to roll across from the left flank for the Uruguayan to tap in at the near post, ghosting in front of his marker.
Cavani put the icing on the cake with his fourth goal of the game in stoppages! Hamsik nodded on in midfield and the defence was hesitant, but Cavani pounced right on it and with his first touch got it under control, the second smashed a half-volley past a stunned goalkeeper.
Napoli 4-2 Dnipro
Scorers: Cavani 7, 77, 88, 93 (N), Fedetskiy 34 (D), Zozulya 53 (D)
Napoli: Rosati; Aronica (Pandev 73), Fernandez, Britos; Mesto, Donadel (Hamsik 55), Inler, Dossena; Dzemaili; Vargas (Insigne 55), Cavani
Dnipro: Lastuvka; Denisov, Odibe, Mazuch, Mandziuk; Konoplyanka (Cheberyachko 81), Kankava, Rotan, Fedetskiy (Matheus 86); Aliyev (Giuliano 56); Zozulya
Ref: Yefet (ISR)