Sarri hails Napoli’s ‘piece of history’
|(Raul Jimenez 87)||(Jose Callejon 60, Dries Mertens 79)|
Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens sent Napoli into the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-1 win at Benfica yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The Portuguese champions joined them in the knockout phase after rivals Besiktas were thumped by Dynamo Kiev.
Callejon broke clear and dinked the ball over Benfica goalkeeper Ederson in the 60th minute and substitute Mertens sealed a convincing win for the Serie A side in the Group B match with a superb individual effort.
Raul Jimenez pulled back a late goal for a disappointing Benfica side who were rescued by previously winless Dynamo Kiev after the Ukrainian team thrashed Besiktas 6-0 in the other group game.
Napoli, who reached the last 16 for the second time, topped the group with 11 points, followed by Benfica on eight and Besiktas on seven.
Dynamo, already eliminated, finished with five points.
Benfica, unbeaten at home in all competitions since they lost to Porto last February, started the game needing a win while Napoli needed a draw to qualify without depending on the Besiktas result.
However, a Besiktas defeat meant both sides would go through whatever happened in Lisbon.
"We weren't really looking at what was happening in Kiev," said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri. "We wanted first place to make a little piece of history for Napoli who have never won a Champions League group."
Benfica coach Rui Vitoria, meanwhile, was relieved his team had qualified.
"We wanted to win, but we made sure of our place," he said.
"It was an even match and they were more efficient." - REUTERS