Napoli secured their place in the Quarter-Finals of the Europa League with a 4-3 aggregate victory against Salzburg, despite losing 3-1 in a scintillating clash at the Red Bull Arena.
Leading 3-0 from the first leg, Arkadiusz Milik’s early volley proved crucial as he gave the Partenopei an away goal, in addition to bolstering their healthy lead.
Salzburg forward Moanes Dabour pounced on a mistake to draw level soon after, and a second half Fredrik Gulbrandsen strike saw the Austrian side claw back the deficit further. Napoli were made to sweat as Christoph Leitgeb struck in stoppage time, but had their first leg efforts to thank for progression.
After a scrappy start, Napoli eased any early tension as they broke the deadlock with barely a quarter of an hour played. Mario Rui intercepted a wide pass and collected a one-two with Piotr Zielinski in the box before whipping in a low cross. As the ball ricocheted in the penalty area, Milik took advantage of the confusion to acrobatically volley in.
Salzburg soon struck back, as Dominik Szoboszlai took advantage of a sloppy Allan pass to thread Dabour in and, after stepping inside Vlad Chiriches, the Israel international made no mistake in firing beyond Alex Meret at the near post.
An end-to-end clash saw the Azzurri almost put the tie beyond all doubt as Ruiz rifled in from range, forcing Walke to fingertip the ball against the post at full stretch.
Napoli were made to sweat on the hour mark as Salzburg ate into the deficit further. Slick interplay saw Andreas Ulmer released on the overlap and the captain’s teasing low cross was tucked away at the back post by substitute Gulbrandsen.
The hosts were in the ascendancy and were throwing bodies forward in search of an unlikely comeback, with Meret on hand to prevent a vicious Takumi Minamino effort before blocking Dabour’s close-range header.
With the match approaching stoppage time, Dabour met Stefan Lainer’s clever cross with a low bicycle kick that crashed against the post before bouncing out, as Salzburg pushed forward.
Salzburg eventually found a well-deserved third with minutes remaining, as Leitgeb was left unmarked at the back post from a corner and rifled in. It proved to be too little too late however, as Napoli clung on to secure their place in Friday’s Quarter-Final draw.