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Porto head through as Napoli dream fades

Published: Thursday 20 March 2014, 23.10CET
SSC Napoli 2-2 FC Porto (agg: 2-3)
Goran Pandev cancelled out the visitors' aggregate lead, but Nabil Ghilas and Ricardo Quaresma took the wind from Napoli's sails.
by Ben Gladwell
from Stadio San Paolo
Porto head through as Napoli dream fades
Nabil Ghilas celebrates after equalising in Naples ©Getty Images
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Published: Thursday 20 March 2014, 23.10CET

Porto head through as Napoli dream fades

SSC Napoli 2-2 FC Porto (agg: 2-3)
Goran Pandev cancelled out the visitors' aggregate lead, but Nabil Ghilas and Ricardo Quaresma took the wind from Napoli's sails.

FC Porto ended SSC Napoli's perfect record in Europe at the Stadio San Paolo this season, reaching the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League after a 2-2 draw completed a 3-2 aggregate victory.

Goran Pandev gave the Azzurri hope of recovering from a 1-0 defeat in the first leg when he levelled the last-16 tie, but a series of misses was punished by Nabil Ghilas midway through the second half before Ricardo Quaresma left the hosts a mountain to climb. Duván Zapata's last-gasp equaliser was scant consolation as the 2011 winners progressed.

Napoli began brightly and all they lacked was a telling final ball. Lorenzo Insigne and Pandev both chose the wrong pass while Henrique appeared too reluctant to shoot when an opportunity did present itself.

Henrique eventually pulled the trigger, flashing an effort wide as Napoli stepped up their search for a goal, Gonzalo Higuaín's control subsequently letting him down from Pandev's long ball. The home side's growing pressure finally told when Higuaín put Pandev through and the Macedonian lifted his shot over Fabiano for his first goal in Europe this term.

Dries Mertens' angled attempt was then saved before Porto pushed forward for the first time, Jackson Martínez missing the target by a hair's breadth. Napoli remained more authoritative, though, with a cross from Higuaín picking out Mertens, who could only steer the ball into the arms of Fabiano.

Insigne and Pandev both threatened early in the second period before Quaresma's free-kick was flicked agonisingly wide by Carlos Eduardo. The game, and the tie, was on a knife edge, with Higuaín wasting a chance when he failed to beat Fabiano from close range.

It was a costly miss as substitute Ghilas latched onto Fernando's through pass and dispatched his strike low into the bottom right-hand corner. The Stadio San Paolo fell silent with only the pocket of visiting fans rejoicing in a priceless away goal.

The match was transformed, and Steven Defour hit the outside of the post before Quaresma secured Porto's place in the quarter-finals, skipping his way into the Napoli area before rifling unstoppably into the top right-hand corner. Zapata prodded in a late equaliser on the night, but the tie had already been decided.

Last updated: 22/03/14 0.01CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/season=2014/matches/round=2000471/match=2012662/postmatch/report/index.html#porto+head+napoli

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