Napoli, Sevilla each take leads in first leg of Europa League quarters

April 16, 2015

Marek Hamsik scored twice as Napoli took a giant step toward the Europa League semifinals Thursday by beating Wolfsburg 4-1 away in the first leg of their quarterfinal.

Wolfsburg, which had won five of its last six games in all competitions, must now score four goals in the April 23 second leg in Naples to have any hope of progressing to the semifinals.

Gonzalo Higuain put Napoli ahead after 15 minutes against the run of play from a pass by Dries Mertens, before Hamsik struck eight minutes later. The Slovakian forward beat Wolfsburg's offside trap to latch on to Higuain's curling pass and score.

Hamsik's second goal on 64 minutes was a simple finish after a poor pass in the Wolfsburg defense allowed Jose Callejon to snatch the ball and set up the striker.

Manolo Gabbadiani added a fourth with a 77th-minute header, but the host pulled one back three minutes later when Nicklas Bendtner scored to boost Wolfsburg's slim hopes of reaching the semifinals.

Elsewhere, defending champion Sevilla came from a goal down to beat Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1 at home, with substitute Denis Suarez scoring the winner with an 88th-minute volley from the edge of the area.

Winger Alexander Ryazantsev had put Zenit ahead on 29 minutes, scoring off his own rebound when the first shot was saved by Sergio Rico. The Russian visitors looked on course for victory until the 73rd, when Carlos Bacca's header leveled the score.

In Ukraine, Fiorentina rescued a 1-1 draw away to Dynamo Kiev, with Khouma Babacar's stoppage-time leveler saving the Italian team from a third straight defeat in all competitions.

Jeremain Lens had given Dynamo a first-half lead with a fine curling 20-yard shot into the far top corner as Fiorentina's players pulled back to defend their own penalty area.

Club Brugge's Australian goalkeeper Matthew Ryan made some smart saves to deny Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's attackers in a 0-0 draw in Belgium.

That keeps Brugge in contention for a first European semifinal since 1988, when the competition was known as the UEFA Cup.

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