Europa League - Villarreal sink Napoli

Thu, 24 Feb 21:57:00 2011

Villarreal scored two goals in five minutes to come from behind and claim a 2-1 win in their Europa League last 32 clash with Napoli at El Madrigal.

- 0

Nilmar and Giuseppe Rossi scored in the final minutes of the first half to cancel out Marek Hamsik's 18th-minute opener and secure the Yellow Submarine's progression to the last 16 of the competition.

Napoli captain Hamsik nodded the visitors in front with a deftly-taken diving header, as Villarreal's defence was caught napping at a corner.

The hosts' back line moved forwards in a hideously misjudged attempt at an offside trap, leaving Hamsik at the head of a queue of four sky blue shirts waiting to nod the ball past Diego Lopez.

The Villarreal goalkeeper kept his side in the match in the first half, foiling Ezequiel Ivan Lavezzi from close range in the 28th minute, before tipping a thunderous striker from Hassan Yebda around his left-hand post three minutes later.

Napoli were guilty of a host of missed chances, cutting through a poorly-organized Villarreal backline at will early on but repeatedly failing to punish them.

Lavezzi was particularly profligate, missing an open goal from six yards inside the opening 10 minutes and failing to score from a hat-trick of first half chances.

Villarreal had opportunities of their own early on, but midfielder Borja Valero twice saw tremendously-struck efforts fizz wide of the post.

The hosts could easily have found themselves several goals down going into half-time, but Nilmar broke through the visitors' defence to restore parity against the run of play just two minutes before the interval.

The impressive Valero slipped an inch-perfect ball through Napoli's backline and into the path of Nilmar in the right portion of the area, and the 26-year-old Brazilian fired the ball emphatically past Napoli keeper Morgan De Sanctis and into the back of the net.

With the score level at a goal apiece, the visiting side were still in the driving seat for the tie - heading into the last 16 of the Europa League courtesy of their away goal - until Rossi popped in the final seconds of added time.

The former Manchester United striker latched onto another perfectly weighted through-ball from Valero, and saw his low shot deflected agonisingly inside De Sanctis's near post by the otherwise faultless Juan Camilo Zuniga.

Walter Mazzarri introduced Uruguayan Edinson Cavani for the second half, and the striker - on loan from Napoli's Serie A rivals Palermo - almost gave the visitors a decisive second away goal after a minute on the pitch.

Cavani rose at a corner to glance a header just wide of the far post, and then hit the woodwork 10 minutes later with a thunderous right-foot shot inside the box.

The substitution gave Napoli much more of an attacking threat, but Villarreal continued to look dangerous on the break.

Former Liverpool fullback Andrea Dossena produced a stunning sliding tackle in the 69th minute to block Nilmar's close range shot, and Cani drove a vicious shot just over Napoli's bar from a tight angle with just De Sanctis to beat.

However, neither side managed to force a goal in the second half, sending Napoli crashing out of Europe's second tournament and pondering what might have been if they'd converted one of their many gilt-edged first-half chances.

Villarreal's reward for the 2-1 aggregate victory is a last-16 encounter with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, who beat Metalist Kharkiv 2-0 on Thursday to seal a 6-0 aggregate rout of the Ukrainians.

John Stead / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account