Edinson Cavani’s sensational brace sank Manchester City 2-1 and put qualification in Napoli’s hands.
If the Partenopei manage to beat bottom of the table Villarreal in the final match, or City fail to beat Bayern Munich, then they will be in the knockouts of the Champions League.
This was a battle for second spot behind Group A leaders Bayern Munich and City started with Italian international Mario Balotelli plus ex-Lazio full-back Aleksandar Kolarov in their red and black away strip. Sergio Kun Aguero, the son-in-law of Napoli legend Diego Armando Maradona, was on the bench.
The Partenopei had won just one of their last seven games in all competition, so the pressure was on to deliver.
Balotelli had the first shot that drifted past the far post, while Ezequiel Lavezzi chipped a cross for Marek Hamsik’s disappointingly weak header. Lavezzi’s give-and-go with Edinson Cavani was finalised by Pocho’s shot just wide.
Lavezzi was at full stretch to reach Andrea Dossena’s cross from the left, but Joleon Lescott got a toe in there to force a corner.
Joe Hart palmed a fierce Gokhan Inler effort over the bar and from Lavezzi’s corner it glanced off Cavani’s head at the near post to surprise Hart, sending the San Paolo crowd wild.
The enthusiasm was sky high and Cavani smashed a shot into the side-netting. David Silva tried to react, his strike well-smothered by Morgan De Sanctis, and Paolo Cannavaro took a dangerous James Milner cross off Edin Dzeko’s head.
Napoli absolutely gifted City an equaliser with a defensive howler. Aronica toe-poked it straight to David Silva in the box, his shot was parried one-handed by De Sanctis into the path of Balotelli for the easiest of tap-ins. It was Balotelli’s ninth goal in his last 10 Man City appearances.
Cavani blasted over from distance as he slipped, while Kolarov and Silva combined to test De Sanctis at the near post.
Straight after the restart, Napoli restored their advantage with Cavani’s second of the night. The Uruguayan had been suffering from a goal drought recently, but was sharp as a tack when side-footing home Dossena’s pull-back from nine yards.
Their tails were back up and Lescott did well to intercept another shot moments later. A free kick flashed across the face of goal with no City players able to get the final touch.
Hart got just enough of his hand to a Dossena low cross so that Cavani couldn’t complete the tap-in.
Hamsik went on the counter-attack and Lavezzi skipped past Vincent Kompany for a left-foot strike beaten out for a corner by Hart.
It should’ve been 3-1, as Hamsik ran on to a Cavani cross-field pass and got away from Kolarov, but the shot struck the base of the post with Hart well beaten!
Balotelli had a good chance, but immediately at the other end Lavezzi’s reverse pass sent Christian Maggio clear to force a desperate save out of Hart.
At the other end, Balotelli nodded over from Samir Nasri’s chipped cut-back, then Balotelli was allowed far too much space to volley a corner and De Sanctis just about got it under control at the second attempt. Cavani went off after a clash with Kompany.
City poured forward in the final minutes and Sergio Aguero tested De Sanctis at the near post with his snapshot. From that corner, Kolarov was booked for a very, very late and cynical tackle to stop Lavezzi going on the counter.
Napoli 2-1 Man City
Scorers: Cavani 17, 49 (N), Balotelli 33 (M)
Napoli: De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Aronica; Maggio, Inler (Dzemaili 58), Gargano, Dossena (Fernandez 88); Hamsik, Lavezzi; Cavani (Pandev 83)
Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta (Johnson 85), Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov; Silva, De Jong (Nasri 70), Toure, Milner; Balotelli, Dzeko (Aguero 81)
Ref: Skomina (Svn)