Goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis could barely believe that his side's destiny was now in their own hands after his defiant performance between the posts helped SSC Napoli achieve a thrilling 2-1 victory over Manchester City FC. "We have this big cake and now all we have to do is put the cherry on top," he told UEFA.com.
Edinson Cavani twice put Napoli ahead against City, but De Sanctis pulled off a string of outstanding saves to enable the Partenopei to move into second place in Group A, a point clear of their opponents with one matchday to go. From his first-half stop from Aleksandar Kolarov to his late parry from Mario Balotelli, which Andrea Dossena called "as valuable as a goal", the Italian international formed an imperious last line of defence.
"There were a few men of the match tonight," De Sanctis, 34, told UEFA.com. "Cavani scored two, [Ezequiel] Lavezzi played great and in fact the whole team were fantastic. We are delighted with the win because I think we deserved it. We played well from start to finish and we could have scored a third goal more than once, so we have this big cake and now all we have to do is put the cherry on top in Spain."
A Napoli success on 7 December at a Villarreal CF outfit yet to register a point in this term's competition will take Walter Mazzarri's men through to the knockout stage. Indeed, the Serie A side need only match City's result against already qualified FC Bayern München on matchday six to seal a round of 16 berth. For De Sanctis, such a scenario was inconceivable when the group stage draw was made in August.
"We never thought we would be in this position. To go to Villarreal in the final game knowing it's all down to us and no one else, given the sides we've had to play in this group ... it wasn't possible to hope for this," said the former Sevilla FC and Udinese Calcio custodian, capped four times by Italy. "
Qualification would be an enormous result for this city and for Italian football as a whole, but we have worked hard and we have to play well in Spain because we cannot afford to let this prize slip out of our hands now."
De Sanctis could speak from experience. Having been five minutes away from progress from the group stage with Udinese in 2005, only to lose to two late FC Barcelona goals – in a match also played on 7 December – the 1.90m keeper will be determined not to let history repeat itself. "I remember that night well. It went badly for Udinese, but I won't let it go the same way with Napoli."
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