It wasn't pretty and it wasn't fun, but Napoli held Dynamo Moscow to a scoreless draw today in Russia and advance to the Europa League quarterfinals on the strength of their 3-1 win at home last week. It's Napoli's first quarter final berth in 26 years, and it is very well-earned after today's battle.
The first half was absolutely insane, with chances abound at both ends of the pitch but none actually impacting the final score. The tone was set early when a perfectly-served corner from Manolo Gabbiadini found Christian Maggio with space in the box right in front of goal, but the fullback completely whiffed on his chance to score. Napoli followed the chance up by putting massive pressure on Dynamo's back line, but couldn't quite get the final ball they needed to get the job done.
Napoli would come to hit the woodwork twice in the first half, first when Dries Mertens thundered the ball off the crossbar from range, then later when Jose Callejon was through on goal, but just pushed his shot wide, grazing the post as it went by. Dynamo had their own chances, getting the ball in net twice, but both goals were ruled out for offside. The second was clear as day, with a shot deflecting off a well-offside Aleksander Kokorin, but the first was more questionable. Chris Samba had headed home off a free kick, and at least one of his teammates was offside, but it looked as though Callejon was holding Samba on. The referee's decision stood, though, and the match went to the half scoreless.
Chances were much harder to come by in the second half for Napoli, as Dynamo's attack seemed much more cohesive and dangerous than it had in the first. The partenopei spent long stretches of the second half virtually pinned back and forced to weather the storm, but weather it they did. Faouzi Ghoulam and Raul Albiol were absolutely tremendous, and Mariano Andujar had to make a couple good stops, but they held on. As Dynamo finally started to wear down, Napoli were able to go long on the counter to take off the pressure, and came close to scoring a couple of times, most notable a bad miss of an open net from Gonzalo Higuain.
When the final whistle finally blew, Napoli had held Dynamo to a scoreless draw. It wasn't a sexy scoreline, but you could hardly call it a "bore draw," as the high stress level of the match showed it was anything but boring. Napoli came through on top, though, having accomplished what they needed to. Now let's hope we see them start doing what's needed in the league, too.
Dynamo Moscow: Gabulov; Kozlov, Samba, Hubocan, Buttner (Ionov 85'); Vainqueur, Dzsudzsak; Valbuena, Kokorin, Zhirkov; Kuranyi
Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Jorginho, Lopez; Callejon, Gabbiadini (Hamsik 71'), Mertens (De Guzman 63'); Higuain (Zuniga 81')