SSC Napoli gave their UEFA Champions League prospects a shot in the arm with an impressive first Group A win at the expense of Villarreal CF.
Two goals in the space of three first-half minutes proved the Liga side's undoing, as Marek Hamšík's strike and an Edinson Cavani penalty put the Partenopei in charge before their passionate home support.
Many of Napoli's fans, eager to savour their first match in Europe's premier competition for 21 years, had been at the ground since lunchtime, and their devotion was repaid through three points for Walter Mazzarri's charges, orchestrated by the excellent Ezequiel Lavezzi. The Argentinian forward was involved in both of Napoli's goals and remained a potent threat throughout, causing Villarreal endless problems on the right flank.
The visitors had begun the match well, Cristián Zapata and Nilmar both trying their luck in the opening ten minutes with efforts that missed their target. The Brazilian striker then passed up a gilt-edged chance when he anticipated an untidy back pass by Cavani only to prod wide.
By then, however, Napoli were a goal up. Lavezzi, who had earlier drifted past two opponents before firing over, this time looked up to pick out Hamšík with a superb right-wing cross that caught the defence looking in vain for an offside flag. The unmarked Slovakian international rifled left-footed past Diego López to open the scoring after a quarter of an hour.
The hosts doubled the lead from their very next attack, the livewire Lavezzi reaching a through ball just before Gonzalo Rodríguez, whose late lunge brought the 26-year-old to ground in the area. Cavani duly sent López the wrong way from the penalty spot for his second goal in as many UEFA Champions League sorties.
Villarreal, without the suspended Borja Valero, looked largely subdued, although Giuseppe Rossi, who forced saves from Morgan De Sanctis either side of half-time before being brought down on the edge of the area by Paolo Cannavaro, helped the Yellow Submarine carry a greater threat as the match wore on. Indeed, Napoli became more entrenched in their own half, awaiting a chance to counterattack.
The Azzurri might have made life harder for themselves had Juan Carlos Garrido's side taken advantage of a break of their own with ten minutes remaining after Walter Gargano's pass was intercepted by Marcos Senna. Zapata twice teed up Rossi ten metres out, but the Italy striker was thwarted by Cannavaro on both occasions as Napoli kept their advantage intact.
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