Napoli win the Europa League group, but Real Sociedad’s late equaliser after a Piotr Zielinski strike mean they also qualify for the Round of 32.
The Partenopei were top of their group on 10 points, but still not safe, as Real Sociedad and AZ Alkmaar both had eight. Victor Osimhen was still out injured, with Elseid Hysaj and Amir Rrahmani also out of action. The Basque outfit made the trip without David Silva, Mikel Oyarzabal and Jon Guridi.
This was the first game played here since the Stadio San Paolo was officially renamed the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Tragically, it began with a minute’s silence for another Calcio legend, Paolo Rossi, who died last night.
Real Sociedad inevitably started strong and Willian Jose stung David Ospina’s gloves from distance after 13 minutes, then Mario Rui’s looping defensive header risked an own goal.
The Basque side should’ve taken the lead on 19 minutes when Willian Jose pounced on a defensive error to roll across for unmarked Portu, who incredibly fired wide when clear on goal as he came sliding in at the back post.
At the other end, Napoli were furious when the referee only awarded a corner for the completely mistimed last-man tackle on Chucky Lozano, who was going clear on goal. He was brought down on the edge of the area, which would’ve been a red card offence, but as there is no VAR in the Europa League, their protests were ignored.
On the resulting corner, Tiemoue Bakayoko only hit the side-netting from point-blank range.
Napoli’s pressure was building and they took the lead when a corner came to the edge of the area, Piotr Zielinski controlled and smashed the half-volley into the roof of the net.
Real Sociedad again started the second half aggressively with a run of Nacho Monreal crosses, but Lozano also failed to make the most of a solo run when he turned wide, then couldn’t quite bundle the Dries Mertens assist over the line as he came sliding in at the back post.
Real Sociedad finally got their goal in stoppages, as an unlucky ricochet confused Faouzi Ghoulam, allowing Willian Jose to pounce from 12 yards.
Almost simultaneously, news came in that Rijeka were 2-1 up against 10-man AZ Alkmaar, so the draw would send both Napoli and Real Sociedad into the Round of 32.
Napoli 1-1 Real Sociedad
Zielinski 34 (N), Willian Jose 92 (S)
Napoli: Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Mario Rui (Ghoulam 82); Bakayoko (Demme 69), Fabian Ruiz; Lozano (Politano 69), Zielinski (Elmas 74), Insigne; Mertens (Petagna 69)
Real Sociedad: Remiro; Zaldua (Gorosabel 46), Zubeldia, Le Normand (Sagnan 78), Monreal (Munoz 78); Portu (Barrenetxea 56), Guevara (Isak 78), Merino, Zubimendi; Januzaj, Willian Jose
Ref: Grinfeeld (ISR)