By 90Min
February 21, 2019

Napoli progressed into the last 16 of the Europa League after comfortably defeating Swiss side FC Zurich 2-0 at the San Paolo (5-1 on aggregate), keeping their dream of a first European title since 1989 alive.

Following a bright start from Gli Azzurri, Lorenzo Insigne came close to opening the scoring in the sixth minute, latching onto a superb pass from Adam Ounas before firing just wide.Yet it was Zurich who nearly took an unexpected lead through forward Assan Ceesay, who missed a gilt-edged chance by failing to convert Adrian Winter's swirling cross.

Napoli should have made them pay just moments later but Verdi was denied by a smart save by Brecher, before Insigne nearly capped off a wonderful team-move involving Dries Mertens in the 23rd minute, but somehow missing the target from 10 yards out. 

Ancelotti's side finally broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute as Ounas provided a delightful chipped pass to Verdi who dispatched with a clinical finish to score his third goal of the season, extending their aggregate lead to 4-1.

Not to be de-spirited by Napoli's goal, Zurich started the second half off brightly and were inches away from equalising when Salim Khelifi volleyed wide before the Italian side had a strong claim for a penalty turned away after Winter collided with Faouzi Ghoulam.

Francesco Pecoraro/GettyImages

After a period which saw Gli Azzurri dominate possession, Mertens set up Ounas with a wonderful ball that the Algerian finished coolly past Brecher, effectively killing off the tie.

With the game already secured, Ancelotti brought on top-scorer Arkadiusz Milik with 15 minutes to go. The Polish striker nearly made an instant impact from range but was denied by a spectacular save from Zurich's Swiss goalkeeper. Then in added time, Milik somehow missed an open goal from two yards out following a swift counter-attack led by Mertens.


Napoli


Key Talking Point

With Napoli holding a hefty advantage following their three away goals at Stadio Letzigrund, Ancelotti's side could have let complacency creep in during their second leg.

There were periods in the first half where Zurich looked like they could find a way back into the tie, launching a series of swift attacks which ultimately ended with no reward. 

TIZIANA FABI/GettyImages

Yet once Verdi scored Gli Azzurri's opening goal, the tie was effectively over as their Swiss opponents had to score four goals which was a huge task; especially against a defence which contained the imperious Kalidou Koulibaly.

Although Napoli seemed to be cruising through the majority of the game by dominating possession, when they turned on the style they could create chances at will, with the second goal scored by Ounas a testament to their attacking style of play.

Ancelotti will fancy his sides chances of at least replicating their 2014/15 campaign which saw Gli Azzurri reach the semi-finals of the Europa League before being defeated by Ukrainian side FC Dnipro.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Meret (6); Hysaj (6), Chiriches (6), Koulibaly (7),  Ghoulam (6); Zielinksi (6), Diawara (6), Verdi (7); Ounas (9*), Mertens (7), Insigne (8)


Substitutes: Luperto (5), Allan (5), Milik (6)


STAR MAN - Since joining Napoli for £9m from Bordeaux in 2017, Ounas has shown glimpses of what he is capable of but has lacked consistency since moving to Serie A.

However, on a night that saw Zurich play into the hands of Gli Azzurri's attacking style of play, Ounas outshone the likes of Insigne and Mertens, producing a fantastic midfield display which featured a spectacular assist for Napoli's first goal before providing a clinical finish for his side's second.

Fans of the Italian giants took to Twitter to rave about the Algerian's display:


FC Zurich

Player Ratings


Starting XI: Brecher (8); Kololli (5), Kryeziu (5), Bangura (5), Winter (5 ); Schonbachler (4), Domgjoni (5), Sohm (5), Khelifi (5); Ceesay ( 5), Odey (5).


Substitutes: Krasniqi (5), Kharadadze (4)


Looking Ahead

Napoli will be back in Serie A action on Sunday as Ancelotti's side travel to the Stadio Ennio Tardini to face Parma looking to close the gap between them and leaders Juventus to ten points.

Zurich, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from their Europa League exit when they host FC Luzern in the Raiffeisen Super League at the weekend.

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