Napoli went into this match with a comfortable 3-1 cushion from the first leg which meant Ancelotti decided to rest a few of the starters. Chiriches was given the start in his first match back since he tore his ACL in September and Ancelotti also decided to give rare starts to Diawara, Ounas, and Verdi. Ounas was the clear man of the match and played a pivotal role in both Napoli goals providing an assist on the first and scoring the second.
The match began much like the rest of Napoli’s recent matches with abundant chances but no goals to show for it. However, this all changed in the 42nd minute when Ounas went on a darting run and scooped the ball perfectly past the Zurich defense and into the path of Verdi who slotted it into the back of the net. Napoli should have been awarded a penalty in the second half when Ghoulam was taken down in the box from a clumsy challenge. Somehow the ref didn’t see anything wrong with the tackle and the play continued much to the dismay of the crowd at the San Paolo. Napoli didn’t dwell on the missed call long though and added to their lead in the 74th minute through a much deserved Ounas goal. Just as Ounas deserved the praise for the first goal, Mertens was the creator for the second with a beautiful pass through the Zurich back line and into the path of Ounas.
On Ounas, Ancelotti stated “There aren’t many who can create something out of nothing and he is one of them, so he has to make the most of that talent when he’s on the ball, because he is capable.” Ounas made a strong case for more playing time tonight and it would be a surprise if he does not see increased minutes in both Serie A and the Europa League going forward. His playing style is very similar to Insigne but in many ways Ounas is much more direct and possesses the speed that Napoli’s captain lacks. At just 22 years of age, Ounas is certainly a player to watch out for and it’s hard to put a ceiling on his potential.
The draw for the round of 16 will take place on Friday and Napoli will be hoping to avoid the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Sevilla to name a few.