Giuseppe Mascara may not have scored on his first start for SSC Napoli but said it was a "wonderful feeling" to make his European debut against Villarreal CF, while team-mate Hassan Yebda described the 0-0 draw as "perfect".
Mascara arrived for €1.2m from Calcio Catania on transfer deadline day and had made just one substitute appearance for his new side before Thursday. The former US Città di Palermo striker savoured his first taste of European action, though, even if the match did end goalless.
"It was a wonderful feeling to make my first start," he told UEFA.com. "
For me, to finally play in a competition as important as this one was a great honour. It shows that all the hard work I've put in over all these years has finally paid off."
Mascara was unable to mark his full debut with a goal but neither Giuseppe Rossi nor Edinson Cavani – who have fired in five UEFA Europa goals apiece this season – were able to break the deadlock either. Indeed, Mascara felt the visitors' defensive tactics caught them by surprise.
"Villarreal are a seriously good side and they were well-organised," he added. "We watched a lot of footage of them but they changed the way they normally play. Their full-backs normally push forward a lot but tonight they stayed back. They made it very difficult for us to score, because there was no space – and we had to look at other ways to break through."
Those other avenues proved to be dead ends, but Yebda took pride in the fact Walter Mazzari's men prevented the Yellow Submarine from scoring an away goal. "It was a good draw for us," he said. "We didn't concede and that was the most important thing. Now we have to go to Villarreal, which will be a tough match, but I think we can snatch a 1-0 win there, which will be great for us.
"We like to play on the wings with [Christian] Maggio and [Andrea] Dossena and we tried that tonight but we just couldn't score.
I don't know why we have struggled so much to score at home in Europe this season but we're happy with the result; 0-0 is perfect for us."
Mascara added that Villarreal will not play so passively at the Madrigal in the return on 24 February. "It will be a very different game at their place because they will need to come forward to get the win, but with our quality we'll look to catch them on the counterattack. We'll have to play calmly and intelligently, though, because we can't afford to get caught out."
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.