A rampant Napoli made light work of Red Star at the Stadio San Paolo with a 3-1 win to put themselves on the brink of qualification from Champions League Group C, and maintain their unbeaten record in Europe.
Marek Hamsik opened the scoring after just 11 minutes as Napoli set the tone for the game, before a Dries Mertens double made sure of the points with El Fardou Ben Nabouhane bagging a consolation for Red Star.
Qualification could have been secured if Liverpool had beaten PSG in Paris, but the Premier League side succumbed to a 2-1 defeat. However, they could displace Napoli in the next round if they better the Partenopei’s 1-0 scoreline from in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign, when they meet in the final matchday.
Nevertheless, Napoli started the match with a point to prove after a weekend draw with Chievo and Mertens went close after Jose Callejon raced down the right and fed the Belgian, who tried a backheel, but Milan Borjan was able to block.
The breakthrough came moments later as Mertens delivered a corner, which was flicked on by Nikola Maksimovic into the path of Hamsik, who ghosted in at the far post to tap in.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the home side as Marko Marin slipped the ball through to Simic on the left, leaving him one-on-one with David Ospina who was able to make a decisive block.
Mertens gave Napoli some comfort just after the half hour as he doubled the lead, finishing off a free flowing move, started by Kalidou Kouliably, via Mario Rui and Fabian Ruiz before the Belgian poked past Borjan.
A third came early in the second half as Hamsik found Mertens with a delightful curling ball, then a clever touch took the Belgian away from the defence, before his shot slipped through the fingers of Borjan and into the top corner.
Somewhat of a surprise consolation came just five minutes later as Marin held off the Napoli defence on the edge of the area, and played a clever reverse pass between the Partenopei defenders into the path of Ben Nabouhane who made no mistake.
One hundred not out
Two wonderful goals for Mertens brought him to 100 for Napoli in all competitions, as he blew away Red Star with his touch and running. He was able to find space befitting of a top striker and showed the San Paolo how good he can be. Not only that, he is in stunning form, getting involved in 11 goals – eight, plus three assists – in his last eight appearances for Napoli in all competitions.