VfL Wolfsburg 1-4 SSC Napoli
Marek Hamšík struck twice as Rafael Benítez enjoyed a birthday to remember – and Wolfsburg suffered a night to forget.
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• Gonzalo Higuaín ends seven games without a goal with the opener
• Wolfsburg suffer heaviest ever home defeat in Europe
• Rafael Benítez marks his 55th birthday in style
• Napoli in last eight for first time since their Diego Maradona-inspired win in 1989
• Second leg in Italy next Thursday, before the semi-final draw the next day
Rafael Benítez enjoyed a birthday to remember as SSC Napoli overwhelmed VfL Wolfsburg 4-1 to move to the brink of the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.
Gonzalo Higuaín helped the visitors to a dream start as he recovered his shooting boots, scoring the first and then setting up Marek Hamšík for a second inside 23 minutes. Hamšík grabbed another after the hour before substitutes Manolo Gabbiadini and Nicklas Bendtner exchanged strikes.
The result means Wolfsburg must score only one goal less in the second leg than Napoli have conceded in 11 UEFA Europa League fixtures so far.
Napoli had enjoyed a timely return to form on Sunday after stuttering lately, but few predicted this. Higuaín did the initial damage, an emphatic renewal of his striking instincts after seven long games without a goal.
The wait ended on 15 minutes as Dries Mertens delivered a lovely dinked pass towards the No9. Higuaín, capitalising on Wolfsburg's high defensive line, cushioned the ball before firing high into the net via Diego Benaglio's fingertips.
Suddenly the Argentina striker was everywhere, popping up in midfield not long after to collect the ball from Christian Maggio. A delightful through ball found Hamšík, who slotted in first time.
Higuaín did come second best to Benaglio when he was put through early in the second half but it only delayed the inevitable. Hamšík profited when Josuha Guilavogui contrived to pass straight to José Callejón 25 metres out, then Gabbiadini made it 4-0.
Bendtner at least pulled one back before Gabbiadini hit the crossbar, still rattling from André Schürrle's sumptuous strike just before half-time. A rare high on a night that brought a new low for Wolsburg – their heaviest ever home loss in Europe.