Napoli bossed Nice at the Stadio San Paolo with Dries Mertens and Jorginho getting themselves on the scoresheet in the 2-0 Champions League play-off first leg victory.
Mertens bagged the first on 13 minutes, then Jorginho doubled the advantage on 70 minutes. With Nice’s attacking threat nullified by the Napoli backline, the Ligue 1 side had life become even more difficult when Alassane Plea and Vincent Koziello were both send off with ten minutes to play.
Ex-Serie A stars Mario Balotelli and Wesley Sneijder both missed the game due to fitness issues, with Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri picking his strongest XI with Allan winning his midfield battle with Piotr Zielinski.
The match also saw Nice play in their first Champions League campaign since 1959/60, while the last time an Italian side was eliminated by a Ligue 1 team in the preliminary stages occurred in 2001 when Parma were beaten by Lille.
The home side had the first real chance of the match, as Lorenzo Insigne found Jose Callejon, who had beaten the offside trap, but the Spaniard could only head over the bar.
Insigne was at it again, a wonderful ball over the defence was latched upon by Mertens who rounded Yoan Cardinale to slot home from a tight angle.
— frequenzazzurra (@frequenzazzurra) August 16, 2017
Although they offered little in attack, Nice did have a couple of chances, first Koziello fired wide from inside the penalty area, then Allan Saint-Maximin saw a drive off target.
Not long before half-time, Insigne tried to beat Cardinale with a beautiful curling shot, but the Frenchman was equal to the effort.
After the break, Insigne could, and should have had the ball in the back of the net after Cardinale parried Mertens’ shot across goal straight to the feet of the Neapolitan, but he could only strike the post.
Allan, Callejon and Mertens combined with the Belgian getting an opportunity on goal, but could only side-foot the wrong side of the post.
— Calciomio (@calciomio) August 16, 2017
A dangerous cross from Hysaj was headed onto the crossbar by Nice defender Arnaud Souquet, then Callejon couldn’t get the rebound on target.
Insigne forced a good save from Cardinale once more, then Mertens was fouled by Jellet on the right hand edge of the penalty area, though it looked to have been just outside the box.
Jorginho stepped up and coolly slotted past Cardinale into the left-hand corner, sending the goalkeeper in the opposite direction.
Things went from bad to worse for Nice who had two players sent off in the space of seconds. First Koziello was given his marching orders for a challenge on Zielinski, then Alassane Plea was handed a second yellow card in the protests.
— Technically Offsides (@TOffSports) August 16, 2017
Substitute Arkadusz Milik missed a guilt-edged chance to get the third but completely missed the ball from Callejon’s cross, from just eight yards out.
The second leg will take place in Nice on August 22, with the Champions League group stage draw two days later in Monaco.
Forza Italian Football aims to provide you with as much up-to-date and insightful Serie A and Calcio content as we can whether it be videos on FIFtv, our weekly podcast, and written articles. However, we have a small favour to ask. Despite more people reading Forza Italian Football, advertising revenues are falling – as is the case in general among media outlets. So to help us on our journey to bring you top quality Italian football content we need YOUR support.
Become a Supporter of Forza Italian Football and make a contribution here