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UEFA Europa League
March 13, 2014
• 2:00 PM
• Estádio Do Dragão, Porto
Referee: P. Kralovec
• Attendance: 25520
J. Martínez 57'
That's it from me folks, it's been a pleasure.
A tight 1-0 win for Porto on the night gives them a slender advantage for the second leg. Martinez, as he often does, made the difference by scoring the only goal of the game. Napoli had their chances, but profligacy and the inspired form of Helton thwarted them.
90' + 4'
90' + 3'
NOT QUITE! What a chance that was! Pandev whips in a glorious ball that Zapata looks primed to stab home from point blank range, having raced ahead of the defence, but he somehow fails to make contact with the ball! That was the one!
90' + 2'
Fatigue just starting to creep in the Napoli camp, as their bodies can no longer keep up with what their minds want to accomplish. A filed overlap down the left hand side where both players misread each others intentions may be the end of their final chance of the game.
90' + 1'
Into the first of three added minutes.
Just starting to get a little sloppy out on the field as both sides can sense that the end of the first leg is nigh. Porto are milking the clock at every opportunity, taking their sweet time over each free kick and throw in.
Standing ovation for Defour as as he departs the field in the final change for the home side. He is replaced by the man that he originally beat out to a starting berth, Hector Herrera.
Not long left for Porto to hold out now. WIth Higuain off the field, Napoli's main attacking threat has disappeared. And that's not saying much, since the Argentine was rather invisible since Porto opened the scoring near the hour mark.
PORTO HIT THE POST! Oh how unlucky, as a scramble between reina and Martinez sees the ball bobble to Quintero on the six yard line, but he bundles his rebound onto the woodwork from point blank range!
CRUCIAL header from Danilo, who clears a clipped cross from Pandev, who had made a great overlapping run down the right flank. Higuain and Mertens were waiting for the tap in!!
Out goes Callejon, who only really impressed in little bursts tonight. In comes Pandev, as Benitez reshuffles his offensive options in a bid to grab a priceless away goal.
Not much to report in terms of chances in the last few minutes. Quaresma had options ahead of him on a Porto break, but he chooses to lash the ball wildly into orbit instead of picking out one of his better placed teammates.
I have to say that the defensive effort from Porto since conceding has been strong. But as a caveat to that, Napoli have rather made it easy for them with predictable movement and lackluster passing in the attacking third. Do they want this away goal badly enough?
Another substitution from the home side. Varela, who has not had much of an influence on proceedings in his role out on the right flank, makes way for Ghilas, in a like for like substiitution.
Behrami becomes the latest player to enter the referee's notebook for blatantly pulling back his man in an attempt to win the ball. A clear foul and justified booking, don't know why Behrami is complaining.
Yellow CardValon Behrami
But the move does not come off. Insigne attempts a set play, drilling the ball low across the centre of the box, but the intended recipient cannot sort his feet out in time, and Porto are able to clear easily.
Alex Sandro has been shown a yellow card for a high foot on Callejon. It was a bit reckless from the Brazilian, and now Napoli have a free kick in a dangerous area...
Yellow CardAlex Sandro
HELTON NEEDED TO BE QUICK! Higuain had broken the offside trap and was clean through on goal, but the Brazilian keeper raced off his line to boot away the ball just ahead of the onrushing striker! He's been superb today, Helton.
Chance from distance for Insigne, who takes a pass on the turn and slashes a volley towards goal. Helton was never in any real danger there though, as the shot sailed right at him, allowing him to catch easily.
This is about the time in the game when the coaches decide to stick or twist. A few subs are warming up on the sidelines and we could be in for a change or two in due course.
Porto will be quite happy to see out this scoreline as is and take this 1-0 advantage into the second leg at San Paolo. But Napoli showed earlier that they are more than capable of unlocking this defence, a conclusion that looked unlikely throughout an uninspiring first half display.
Reveillere becomes the first booking of the game for going in late on Sandro in a battle out on the flanks. It's been a very clean game so far, with both sets of players and the referee keen to get on with it and let play flow.
Yellow CardAnthony Réveillère
Napoli will be kicking themselves that they are behind now. Somehow they failed to take one of three splendid chances, and Porto then proveed to give them a lesson in clinical finishing.
Well, after cheating death three times with a trio of golden Napoli chances, the home side score on their next attack! A corner is cleared only to the far post, and Martinez lines up a half volley that takes a deflection en route to the bottom corner!
PORTO SURVIVE AGAIN! Henrique opens up the home side's defence with a through ball to Higuain, who cleverly evades his marker with a shimmy, before lashing a shot away on goal! Helton parries, and the ball rebounds fortunately into his arms! How are the Italians not ahead?!?!
Once again, Helton is called into making a save! A point blank header from Albiol on a Napoli corner is directed downwards, but Helton is in the right place at the right time again to parry the ball away from danger! Two excellent chances in two minutes for the visiting side to get that crucial away goal!
HIGUAIN! Nearly Napoli's opener! Callejon escapes down the left hand side and spots Higuain pulling back to the top of the box. His cutback finds the Argentine forward, who bends a shot in that Helton does well to get hands too!
The second half has not quite picked up from that early Fernando chance. Porto have begun the stronger, though there is still not much to suggest that a goal is on the cards any time soon.
LONG RANGE EFFORT! That was heading on target from Fernando, who slammed a stinging shot on goal from quite a distance, but Pepe Reina dived to his left to tip it away from the goal excellently! What a start to the second half! More of the same please!
Here we go again!
Porto have a justified claim to being ahead, having seen a legitimate Carlos Eduardo header chalked off wrongly for offside. The hosts were the stronger side initially, but Napoli fought back to limit their early threat and play out a comfortable, if not overly dynamic, first half. This could be a tactical result for either side, but I doubt that the fans will stand for the lethergy on the pitch much longer. Stay tuned for the restart in just a bit.
45' + 1'
The lone minute of stoppage time passes without incident, and the referee signals the end of the first half. Goalless at the break.
Approaching the end of the first half here with the game still locked in a stalemate. Not a bad scoreline for either coach to take into the interval, though Luis Castro will probably want his side to push for a goal in the second half, as they have been marginally better than the Italians, and will want an advantage to take back to San Paolo.
Speaking of Callejon, he has been in solid goalscoring form for the Naples outfit this season since his move from Real Madrid. He's scored 15 goals in all competitions, with 10 coming in the league, mostly from a wide position. At age 27, he's probably never going to be a world beater, but he's certainly shown that he had more to offer than his second string role at the Bernabeu.
Napoli have some gaps to their advantage on the break, and Hamsik spots Callejon making a diagonal run to the far post. The defence is streched, but Hamsik's lofted pass cannot find the Spaniard in the position that he would like, and he dives at the ball despairingly, making fleeting contact before it goes out for a goalkick. In fairness, it was a very difficult chance all around.
Porto have carved out the game's only two real chances. That effort by Martonez in the 12th minute drew a great save from Reina, before Eduardo had a goalbound header incorrectly ruled out for offside, as replays showed him to be completely level with the last defender.
Whoy would anyone put the five foot four Insigne in a wall? The tiny winger lines up alongside Higuain to help defend a Porto free kick, but the ball sails over the pair of them and is attacked by Mangala, but he comes nowhere near the target with his attempted header.
Both sides waste opportunities to carve apart the defence in quick succession. Porto had a four on three counter, but Martinez's attempted through pass to Valera was extremely poor and intercepted by Britos. Napoli hit back immediately down at the other end, but Henrique's clip for Higuain is just a little too close to Helton.
This is turning into quite the battle between Fernando and Hansik, as a tussle between the two for the ball sees the Brazilian win out with a thumping, but legal, challenge. It sparks Porto on the counter, and Quaresma tortures Ghoulam for a second before Behrami drifts wide to help double team the Portuguese off the ball.
Not much happening in terms of chances out on the pitch. Napoli, to their credit, have rather gotten themselves back onto an even foothold in the game. Porto are not looking as dangerous as they did in the opening quarter of an hour - the gaps to exploit are not as obvious as before.
That's better from the visitors, as Callejon escapes down the right hand side and slides in a delicious low cross that's just a little off the run of Higuain, and comes through on the opposite side too soon for Insigne to attack. First time I've seen the Porto defence look uncomfortable in this game.
Hamsik tries to spin away from Fernando on the far touchline, but he loses the ball easily. That's the first that I've seen from the Slovakian, who has been a complete non factor so far with almost half an hour on the clock. Credit to Porto for neutralizing his threat so far.
You could spot the idea from Insigne, who spotted the gab between centre back and goalkeeper that had the potential to be exploited by Higuain. He lofts a crossfield ball between the goalkeeper and the back line, but he gets it wrong in the end, and Helton smothers it with little difficulty.
You wouldn't begrudge Porto that opener either. They have been comfortably the better side since the first whistle. There has been some interesting movement across their front six. Martinez has been probing the channels well, allowing the likes of Eduardo to drift centrally into dangerous positions. Quaresma and Valera, as well as the Brazilian full back duo of Sandro and Danilo have also kept play stretched.
PORTO SCORE, BUT THE FLAG IS UP! Wow, I think that Napoli have escaped by the skin of their teeth. Reina had beaten away a shot from Valera, but Martinez collects the loose ball, and clips it back in towards Eduardo, who heads it home ahead of the Spanish keeper. Replays suggest that he was dead level with the last defender! The home fans are seething, and they have every right to be!
It's just not happening for Napoli in an attacking sense, as a hopeful but ultimately hopeless ball from Behrami over the top is dealt with simply by Mangala. Higuain, looking to latch onto it, had no chance.
Porto have two corners in quick succession, but both times, the delivery by Quaresma does not come close to picking out a teammate in a dangerous position. Needs to do better from those situations.
The flank play of the home side is really coming to the fore. Danilo and Sandro are always game for an overlapping run or two, while Varela and Quaresma have swapped flanks a few times already in a bid to confuse their markers.
You would have to say that Porto have had the better of the opening exchanges. They are slowly pushing the Italian side back into their own half, and the likes of Higuain and Insigne have barely had a kick.
FIRST CHANCE! And it's a great one to boot! Danilo whips in an excellent ball that sails above the head of the first defender, but finds Martinez streaking in at the far post. He slams it towards goal, but Reina spreads himself to make a splendid save!
Henrique and Behrami both commit careless fouls within seconds of each other in the middle of the park, but the referee avoids reaching for his pocket in the early goings here. Scrappy start.
Rather disjointed start to the game, with neither side seeming in any real hurry to force the issue in front of goal, or indeed, to hold onto the ball for more than a beat.
A real chance to catch a glimpse of some of the highly coveted players in the Porto XI. Defender Eliaquim Mangala has been courted by Manchester City along with midfielder Fernando, while full back pair Alex Sandro and Danilo are regularly linked with a move away from Portugal. And of course, star striker Jackson Martinez has been linked with everyone from Arsenal to Dortmund.
The Dragoes are of course playing in their familiar blue and white kits, while Napoli have donned their canary yellow away strip. Early chance for Porto from the corner, but it's cleared easily at the near post by the Napoli defence.
Here we go! Porto kick us off.
Porto meanwhile are being helmed by interim coach Luis Castro, who took the reins after Paulo Fonseca's sacking earlier in the month. The former B-team manager has a contract to lead the senior side for the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign.
Benitez can also equal Giovanni Trapattoni's mark of three Europa League/Uefa Cup trophies, and should he triumph in May, he will also become the first coach to win the competition with three different clubs.
Long way to go still, but Rafa Benitez can become the third coach to win the Europa League/Uefa Cup in consecutive campaigns. The Spaniard of course led Chelsea to the trophy in his short spell at Stamford Bridge, and he can match Luis Molowny (Real Madrid, 1985 and 1986) and Juande Ramos (Sevilla, 2006 and 2007).
Both these sides met in a pre-season friendly last summer, with tonight's hosts emerging 3-1 victors. Before that though, you would have to go back to the 1974-75 season for their last encounter. It was the second round of what was then the Uefa Cup, and Luis Vinicio's Napoli won 1-0 in both legs against Aymore Moreira's Porto outfit.
NAPOLI: Reina; Reveillere, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Henrique, Behrami; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain.
PORTO: Helton; Danilo, Maicon, Mangala, Alex Sandro; Fernando; Quaresma, Defour, Carlos, Eduardo, Varela; Martinez.
Welcome to what is sure to be an enticing round of 16 tie between Porto and Napoli in the Europa League. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, your guide for all the action.
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