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UEFA Europa League

  • February 21, 2014
  • • 04:05
  • • Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Referee: I. Bebek
  • • Attendance: 19567

Swansea 0-0 Napoli: Monk's men hold their own against Serie A heavyweights

Swansea 0-0 Napoli: Monk's men hold their own against Serie A heavyweights

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The Swans stood firm against Rafa Benitez's men to give new manager Garry Monk a boost and raise hopes of an improbable progression to the last 16 of the Europa League

Swansea City were made to rue several first-half opportunities as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Napoli in the UEFA Europa League last-32 clash at the Liberty Stadium on Thursday.

Garry Monk - managing in Europe for the first time - witnessed the Swans put in a spirited performance in the first leg against the Serie A outfit at the Liberty Stadium on Thursday, but saw the likes of Wilfried Bony and captain Ashley Williams miss good chances to break the deadlock.

Rafael Benitez's men started at a fast pace, but came close to going behind as Bony almost rounded goalkeeper Rafael Cabral before Williams headed over when unmarked at the back post.

By Ben Cullimore
What a fantastic performance from Swansea! Coming into this game, many had written off their chances against a side that so often impress on the European stage, but Garry Monk's men made Benitez's boys look weak and lacking in creativity and ideas.

Williams and Flores excelled in the centre of defence, while Routledge, Hernandez and Bony combined together to cause the Napoli back four a multitude of problems. Rafael and, after the Brazilian goalkeeper was forced off due to injury, Reina were the heroes for the Italians this evening, and if they weren't constantly on hand to keep Bony & Co. at bay then Napoli could have left South Wales at least two or three goals down.

Next week's clash in Naples is going to be extremely difficult for Swansea, but they will be full of confidence after tonight's impressive performance. And who knows, if they play as well as they did tonight, they may well be able to continue their European adventure...

Napoli headed into the match as favourites to progress and were looking for improvement after the break, but failed to put a stamp on the game and Williams again came close with a back-post header on 68 minutes.

Neither team was able to find a winner, however, leaving the tie nicely poised ahead of next week's return leg at the Stadio San Paolo.

The visitors had two opportunities to take the lead within the opening five minutes. Jose Callejon first dragged an effort wide from the right before a swift counter-attack led to Marek Hamsik forcing a smart stop from Michel Vorm with a strong left-foot shot.

After surviving that scare Swansea launched an attack of their own and a one-two between Nathan Dyer and Pablo Hernandez saw the former scoop an effort towards the far corner that Rafael did well to keep out.

Bony was proving to be a constant threat to the Napoli defence and the Ivorian sprung free of the defence on 22 minutes to latch onto Hernandez's through-ball, but, after failing to round Rafael, his shot struck the goalkeeper in the face and went out for a corner.

Swansea skipper Williams had arguably the best chance of the half five minutes before the break. Hernandez's cross was played deep to the back post, where the centre-back had a free header that he put over the bar.

Rafael picked up an ankle injury shortly before the break, meaning regular number one Pepe Reina appeared in goal for Napoli in the second half.

By and large it was still Swansea who continued to control the tempo, although clear-cut chances were hard to come by after the interval. 

Williams again almost found the breakthrough for Swansea with just over 20 minutes remaining when his towering header from substitute Jonathan de Guzman's free-kick forced Reina into action.

With 15 minutes remaining, Reina had to be on guard to keep the scores level when he parried Wayne Routledge's curling effort from the left-hand side of the box.

There was still time for one last chance for Swansea in the closing stages, but Chico Flores could only head De Guzman's free-kick straight at Reina from close range.