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Athletic second-half comeback ousts Napoli

Athletic Club 3-1 SSC Napoli (agg: 4-2)
Three goals in 14 second-half minutes helped the hosts come from behind and return to the group stage for the first time since 1998/99.

Athletic Club players celebrate at the final whistle
Athletic Club players celebrate at the final whistle ©AFP/Getty Images

Three quick-fire second-half goals help Athletic Club come from behind to beat SSC Napoli
• Italian side go ahead through skipper Marek Hamšík in 47th minute
• Aritz Aduriz double turns tie around, putting Basque club ahead on aggregate
• Ibai Gómez's 74th-minute effort seals first group stage spot since 1998/99
• Athletic will learn fate in tomorrow's draw; Napoli go into UEFA Europa League

Three goals in 14 second-half minutes were enough as Athletic booked their place in Thursday's UEFA Champions League group stage draw after beating Napoli 4-2 on aggregate.

After drawing the play-off first leg 1-1 in Naples last week, the onus was arguably on the Italian side to look for an away goal of their own and a fast start ensued. In an end-to-end opening 20 minutes, Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuaín sent a speculative effort just wide of Gorka Iraizoz's left-hand post, before Athletic's Carlos Gurpegi responded in similar vein minutes later.

It was the home captain who had the game's first clear-cut opportunity, escaping his marker from a Beñat corner after 23 minutes; however, he was unable to direct his header on target. Four minutes later, his partner at the heart of the Leones defence, Aymeric Laporte, side-footed over an Iker Muniain cross.

Barely had the second half begun when, against the run of play, Napoli skipper Hamšík chested down a headed clearance before firing a low left-footed drive past Iraizoz from the edge of the box.

The Athletic response was immediate, yet Rafael Cabral in the Napoli goal was equal to Mikel Balenziaga's rasping attempt. Ernesto Valverde's men then took control of proceedings as they sought to level, and on the hour Aduriz was able to escape his marker from a corner before controlling and smashing home from close range. The equaliser breathed new life into the Basque club, and eight minutes later Aduriz latched onto a ball over the top, nipping in to beat the onrushing Cabral and slot into an empty net.

Substitute Unai Lopez's through ball then invited fellow replacement Gómez to catch the Napoli defence cold, collect and turn home, sending the San Mamés public into raptures. There was still time for the outstanding Aduriz to lift a shot over as he sought a hat-trick. The scoreline, though, remained the same as Athletic celebrated their second appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage.