NAPLES - Two goals in three
first-half minutes from Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani gave
Napoli their first victory in the Champions League on Tuesday
with a 2-0 home defeat of Villarreal in a frenetic Group A
Slovakian midfielder Hamsik opened the scoring on 15 minutes
when he controlled an Ezequiel Lavezzi cross and fired into the
corner after a defensive slip before Uruguay's Cavani struck
home the perfect penalty after Lavezzi had been tripped.
Nilmar had Villarreal's best chances as the visitors pressed
but the Brazilian striker left his shooting boots at home,
poking wide when clear on goal just before half-time as the
Spanish side suffered their second straight defeat.
Napoli, who face leaders Bayern Munich in their next
fixture, go second in Group A with four points while Villarreal
stay rock bottom. The Naples club drew 1-1 in their opener at
Manchester City, who lost 2-0 at Bayern on Tuesday.
"We approach every game in the same way and the players are
following the game plan to the letter," Napoli coach Walter
Mazzarri told Italy's Sky Sport channel.
"There are very few occasions when we enter the pitch not
playing as a squad. It's first for the team and then for
yourself. Up to now these players have followed me and I'm proud
Mazzarri admitted Napoli suffered in the dying stages.
"We were tired in the second half. [Gokhan] Inler and [Walter] Gargano have run themselves into the ground," said the
"We couldn't manage at such a high rhythm and we conceded
ground. If we only played once a week or had more experienced
players like [AC Milan's Alessandro] Nesta or [Clarence]
Seedorf, we could do it for 90 minutes."
Villarreal, who had knocked Napoli out of the Europa League
last season, began well with Cristian Zapata and Cani going
close with shots within the first 10 minutes.
But fired up by an impassioned 60,000-capacity crowd in the
first match in Europe's top competition at the thunderous San
Paolo since the days of Diego Maradona in 1991, the home side
On 12 minutes Lavezzi almost took the roof off the stadium,
following up a speedy dribble with an opportunistic left-foot
strike that flashed just over.
Three minutes later though and the crowd was on its feet
after Hamsik broke the offside trap to control Lavezzi's centre
before calmly slotting the ball into the far corner.
Napoli doubled their lead shortly afterwards when Lavezzi
was carelessly fouled by Gonzalo Rodriguez with Cavani stroking
the penalty across into the corner.
Villarreal, who had lost at home to Bayern in their opening
group game, had two good chances before half-time to get back
into the match.
On 27 minutes, Nilmar shot weakly at Morgan De Sanctis from
just inside the area before the Brazilian striker squandered a
glorious opportunity five minutes later, toe-poking Cavani's
wayward backpass wide of the post with the goal at his mercy.
Italian forward Giuseppe Rossi, who had passed a late
fitness test, headed straight at De Sanctis from a good position
on 50 minutes as Villarreal continued to pour forward in a
frantic second half.
But despite winning a succession of free-kicks around the
edge of the box, the Yellow Submarine was unable to find the
target as the Neapolitan fans tasted triumph at the top European
table for the first time in a generation.
"It was disappointing to concede two goals early on,"
Italian Rossi told Sky.
"We played well after that but couldn't find that crucial
goal. We need to take the good things out of today's match and
see if we can turn things around in the group.
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