Napoli are practically out of the Europa League after a shock 3-0 home defeat to Viktoria Plzen, as they paid the price for errors in attack and defence. It is the heaviest home loss in their UEFA history.
The Partenopei were meant to start Lorenzo Insigne, but he pulled out with flu symptoms, joining the injured Valon Behrami. Omar El Kaddouri gave Marek Hamsik a rest, starting behind the strikers, while Christian Maggio returned after surgery on a fractured hand and Rolando made his debut in defence. Viktoria Plzen won Group B ahead of Atletico Madrid, faced Milan in the Champions League last season and had not played an official match since November, as the Czech League is on its Winter break.
The first chance came after seven minutes with Goran Pandev’s effort fingertipped over the bar, while Juan Zuniga stung the goalkeeper’s palms at the near post.
Viktoria Plzen started stepping up the pressure with a series of corners and eventually broke through, as Vladimir Darida gathered on the edge of the box and smashed a powerful rising left-foot strike into the far top corner.
The Czech side remained aggressive after the goal and continued to keep possession. When Napoli did push forward with Zuniga down the left, the defenders did well to stop assists reaching Cavani.
Hamsik came on for the second half and immediately kicked Napoli into life, as they had a series of early chances including the Slovak midfielder’s attempt deflected out for a corner.
Hamsik won back possession and threaded through for Cavani, whose angled drive shaved a coat of paint off the base of the far post.
Hamsik went on an amazing run, dribbling through five players to reach the six-yard box, but the goalkeeper flung himself at the ball to charge down the toe-poked finish.
Vaclav Prochazka needed a crucial interception to stop Hamsik’s pass reaching Cavani for what would’ve been a tap-in. Blerim Dzemaili’s screamer from distance was palmed round the post, then from that corner a glancing Cavani header again skimmed the upright.
Emanuele Calaio was thrown on for El Kaddouri and an even more attacking line-up. There was a scare when Frantisek Rajtoral put the ball in the net, but the flag was raised because Daniel Kolar was offside and interfering with play, preventing Zuniga from getting in a block.
Hamsik blasted inches wide after running on to a ricochet down the left side of the box, then Zuniga horribly volleyed over after the goalkeeper punched away a Maggio cross.
It all came to nothing, as Zuniga was made to pay for a terrible mistake. The defender hit a fresh-air clearance as a Jan Kovarik cross came in from the left, allowing Rajtoral to tap in relatively undisturbed at the back post.
Dzemaili’s shot was charged down in the box and a Miguel Angel Britos overhead kick was off target.
Napoli pushed and pushed, but wasted their chances and were punished again in the final minutes. Stanislav Tecl sprung the offside trap on a Martin Fillo through ball and placed his cool finish past an on-rushing Morgan De Sanctis.
There is even worse news around this game, as four Viktoria Plzen fans were mugged outside the Campi Flegrei railway station in Naples, one of them with a stab wound.
Napoli 0-3 Viktoria Plzen
Scorers: Darida 28 (V), Rajtoral 79 (V), Tecl 89 (V)
Napoli: De Sanctis; Gamberini (Hamsik 46), Rolando, Britos; Maggio, Donadel (Inler 72), Dzemaili, El Kaddouri (Calaio 59), Zuniga; Pandev; Cavani
Viktoria Plzen: Kozacik; Reznik, Cisovsky, Prochazka, Limbersky; Horvath, Darida; Rajtoral (Fillo 85), Kolar (Hejda 90), Kovarik; Bakos (Tecl 59)
Ref: Van Boekel (NED)