SSC Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri praised the reaction of his players after the Partenopei recovered from three down to draw 3-3 at ten-man FC Steaua Bucureşti in UEFA Europa League Group K. "The three goals conceded in the opening stages would have put any team on their knees," he said.
Steaua had never registered against an Italian team in 11 previous encounters but put that statistic firmly to bed inside two minutes when the unfortunate Emilson Cribari scored an own goal. A bizarre free-kick from Cristian Tănase and Pantelis Kapetanos's back-post strike on 16 minutes stacked the odds firmly against the visitors, who received a much-needed lift when the latter was dismissed on the half-hour mark.
"We came here to get the three points," said Mazzarri. "All our plans, however, were destroyed after ten minutes when they scored two quick goals. My players were shocked and made a mistake allowing them to score another so soon.
"However, I can only praise them," he continued. "I'm enthusiastic about their reaction; any team would have been on their knees after such a start.
My players had the strength to stand up and finally earn what I think is a deserved point."
Mazzarri started with Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamšík on the bench and, after Luigi Vitale reduced the deficit before half-time, it was the latter who set up a frantic finale with a long-range strike on 73 minutes. "I have to preserve the energy of players who are playing every three days," added Mazzarri, who watched Edinson Cavani equalise in the eighth minute of added time."Still, I wanted to field a solid team which could come here and win the game.
Aside from Lavezzi and Hamšík, 18-year-old striker Nicolao Dumitru also made his entrance as a second-half substitute and took great pleasure from the unlikely comeback given that his father is Romanian. "This draw is like a win for us," said the Swedish-born player. "It was very emotional for me to play in Romania even if I didn't receive a warm welcome.
At the final whistle we celebrated almost like after a victory because coming back from 3-0 is just fantastic."
While Mazzarri breathed a sigh of relief, his counterpart, Marius Lăcătuş, felt fatigue played a part after Kapetanos's dismissal. "I have to congratulate my players for their attitude, but it is very hard to play more than a half with one player less," explained Lăcătuş, who started his third spell in charge of Steaua on Monday. "My players could not withstand the pressure of such a good team in such a situation because of tiredness. They could not keep the ball in the last few minutes."
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