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Napoli move forward as Marseille bow out

SSC Napoli 3-2 Olympique de Marseille
The Italian side came from behind to stay in Group F contention, Gonzalo Higuaín scoring twice to secure a win that ended the visitors' slim hopes.

Napoli move forward as Marseille bow out
Napoli move forward as Marseille bow out ©UEFA.com

SSC Napoli were made to work hard for a win over Olympique de Marseille that keeps them on course for a place in the UEFA Champions League last 16 while eliminating the French side from the competition.

André Ayew put the visitors in front, but two quick-fire goals from Gökhan Inler and Gonzalo Higuaín changed the complexion of the Group F contest. Marseille levelled through Florian Thauvin before Higuaín's second sealed victory and edged Napoli closer to qualification, which they can obtain with a draw at Borussia Dortmund.

Keen to sustain their challenge for a knockout stage berth, and extend an impressive overall UEFA Champions League home record of four wins and a draw, Napoli were straight on the attack. José Callejón spread the ball to his left for Dries Mertens, who showed good composure but less precision with a shot that curled beyond the far post. It was by no means only Napoli attacking, though, and Marseille gained the upper hand in the tenth minute when Ayew rose to meet Thauvin's corner with a stooping header.

Napoli were shocked, but they responded by turning the game around in just two minutes. Another corner provided the initial danger, with Mertens sweeping in a ball from the right which Raúl Albiol rose to meet, nodding straight at Mandanda. Marseille failed to clear their lines and Inler picked up possession outside the penalty area, striking a sweet left-foot volley into the far corner to bring the hosts level.

The fans had barely finished celebrating that goal when they were on their feet again, congratulating Higuaín after he drilled a venomous shot past Mandanda following Goran Pandev's knock-down.

Marseille continued playing with the kind of honour coach Élie Baup had demanded on the eve of the match, Thauvin dragging an effort wide early in the second half and rippling the side netting with another, before substitute Dimitri Payet also missed the target.

The livewire Thauvin then silenced the Napoli crowd for a second time when he showed more determination than Pablo Armero at the far post to turn Alaixys Romao's cross in, forcing Napoli to re-emerge from their shells for the last half-hour. Rafael Benítez's men obliged, providing the final twist of the game when Higuaín ghosted in unmarked at the back post to notch his third of the current campaign – and Napoli's third on the night – before substitute Lorenzo Insigne hit the upright late on.

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