SSC Napoli will head home from south Wales the happier team after earning a goalless draw at Swansea City AFC in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie.
Swansea failed to capitalise on a string of first-half chances and eventually had to settle for a result that favours the Serie A side ahead of next Thursday's return match in Naples.
On paper this should have been Napoli's night. They were unlucky to exit the UEFA Champions League with 12 group-stage points and can call on the know-how of coach Rafael Benítez, who won this trophy with Chelsea FC last May and Valencia CF a decade ago. At the Swansea helm, by contrast, is Garry Monk, the novice head coach who recently replaced Michael Laudrup and has never before managed in Europe.
Yet although Napoli threatened first – Marek Hamšík drawing a fingertip stop from home goalkeeper Michel Vorm – the opening period was all about Swansea's sparkling attacking play. This may be the first time they have competed in Europe after Christmas but their lack of experience did not show as they asked serious questions of a Napoli defence including new signing Henrique, making his first start alongside Miguel Britos.
The lively Nathan Dyer got the ball rolling when he played a one-two with Pablo Hernández and curled in a shot that Rafael Cabral clawed behind. Wilfried Bony then missed at least three good opportunities, notably when he was played through by Hernández but failed to beat Cabral. Ashley Williams and Ángel Rangel could also have scored with headers, the latter foiled by the busy Cabral.
By half-time Cabral had picked up an injury and made way for Pepe Reina. Further upfield Napoli improved as the second period unfolded, and Gonzalo Higuaín and Callejón both went close. Yet Swansea stuck at it and might have nicked a late goal. Reina saved from Williams and Wayne Routledge before Chico planted a free header straight at him – the story of Swansea's night.
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