Napoli needed another strong and confident performance in the second leg of their Champions League playoff tie with OGC Nice in order to advance, and that’s exactly what they got. Utter domination and second-half goals from Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne saw Napoli run out 2-0 winners on the day and 4-0 on aggregate in the tie, and now they’re set for the Champions League group stage and all the potential glory therein.
The early goings of the match saw Nice gain the upper hand, even getting the first shot on target of the match. But that shot, from Wesley Sneijder, was quite tame, and Napoli’s response to it was anything but.
Napoli quickly turned the momentum around and throttled their opponents, shutting down most of their forays forward and launching their own attacks with almost wild abandon. The presence of Mario Balotelli was shut down utterly by Kalidou Koulibaly, and Sneijder was well contained by a switch-off combination of Jorginho and Allan, who constantly kept the Dutchman guessing as to which midfielder would be where in his attempts to push the ball up.
The first half was goalless despite Napoli creating some excellent scoring chances, but it didn’t stay that way for long — Jose Callejon connected on an excellent ball from Marek Hamsik to give his team a 1-0 lead and a vital away goal that all but shut down the tie then and there. Nice are a good team, but they just weren’t going to score four goals in 43 minutes without conceding, not with the way Napoli were outclassing them in every area of the pitch.
And that class continued on in style until the final whistle. Napoli would concede more possession to Nice after scoring than they had in the rest of the tie, but set themselves up in ways to keep Nice from doing much of anything effective with that possession. Napoli were still plenty lethal on the counter attack, though, and showed that with a lovely goal from Lorenzo Insigne in the 89th minute, a well deserved strike after Insigne has started the season in absolutely torrid form for Napoli.
In the end, Nice just weren’t up to the task of beating Napoli in this tie. They’re a good team who should actually do quite well in the Europa League, but against Napoli they were simply outclassed and outplayed in every area of the pitch. It’s wonderful for Napoli to be on the good side of that kind of comparison in a big European tie for a change, and now they’re set to take their scintillating style of play to the Champions League group stage.
On to the next.
Napoli: Pepe Reina; Elseid Hysaj, Raul Albiol, Kalidou Koulibaly, Faouzi Ghoulam; Allan (Marko Rog 71’), Jorginho (Amadou Diawara 85’), Marek Hamsik (Zielinski 63’); Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne
Goals: Callejon (48’), Insigne (89’)
Nice: Yoan Cardinale; Arnaud Souquet, Dante, Maxime Le Marchand, Christophe Jallet; Adrien Tameze (Pierre Lees Melou 66’), Jean Michael Seri; Remi Walter (Vincent Marcel 79’), Wesley Sneijder, Allan Saint-Maximin; Mario Balotelli (Ignatius Ganago 77’)