Trabzonspor stunned by Napoli's first-half blitz
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Trabzonspor AŞ 0-4 SSC Napoli
Henrique, Gonzalo Higuaín and Manolo Gabbiadini struck in the opening half-hour for a Napoli side who also hit the bar and missed a penalty.
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• Napoli race into a 3-0 lead inside 27 minutes, Gonzalo Higuaín hitting the bar soon after
• Trabzonspor's heaviest ever home defeat in UEFA club competition
• Dries Mertens side-foots a late penalty wide of the upright
• Manolo Gabbiadini scores after setting up a goal for Higuaín
• The second leg is next Thursday in Italy, with the last 16 draw the following day
SSC Napoli have one foot in next Friday's UEFA Europa League round of 16 draw after leaving Trabzonspor AŞ's ambitions in tatters amid an opening 27-minute blitz.
"Our aim is to win without conceding a goal," home coach Ersun Yanal had said on the eve of the game, but Henrique's first strike in almost a year laid waste to half of that target within six minutes – and further goals for Manolo Gabbiadini and Gonzalo Higuaín soon made the other half seem pretty fanciful. So it proved, and though the second half was a marked improvement on the first for Trabzonspor, Duván Zapata all but ended their hopes in added time.
Napoli hit the ground running, and went in front when Henrique reacted brilliantly to head over the stricken Hakan Arıkan, the ball having ricocheted to him after the keeper had blocked at Kalidou Koulibaly's feet. Terrific work from Gabbiadini on 20 minutes brought the second, the midfielder surging through a gap and leaving defenders in his wake before setting up Higuaín for a simple tap-in.
Gabbiadini was soon on the scoresheet himself after a fine ball from Dries Mertens, with Trabzonspor – already undermined by injury and suspension – now in disarray. Rafael Benítez used the opportunity provided by celebrations to issue a few terse instructions, and the hosts were almost punished again when Higuaín ended a lovely slaloming run by crashing a shot off the bar, before half-time brought sanctuary.
The Turkish outfit were much improved after the restart, with Napoli relinquishing the pressure, and there was some relief when Dries Mertens sent a late penalty wide. Not for long, though, as substitute Zapata condemned them to their heaviest ever home defeat in Europe.