Napoli saw their chance of making the group stage of the Champions League for the fourth time brighten with a 2-0 defeat of OGC Nice of France at the Stadio Paolo in Naples.
Dries Mertens gave the home side the lead in the 13th minute, before winning a penalty that Jorginho converted in the 70th minute to be in a comfortable position heading into the second leg next week.
Nice were reduced to nine men, when two players were sent off in the space of few seconds, first was youngster, Vincent Koziello, for a nasty tackle and then, Alssane Plea was given his second yellow of the match, before been shown a red for protesting Koziello’s red card
Speaking moments after the match, Napoli’s manager, Maurizio Sarri praised his side’s clever play, despite starting slowly.
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“I think we could not do much more than this at this stage of the season, it was our first competitive game,” Sarri said.
“We created many opportunities and we could score more, but we also hit the bar and upright so we were unlucky too.
“Maybe we could’ve done more in the final 10 minutes. I did not expect Nice to play with five defenders so at half-time we had to adapt something. In the second half I was afraid that Nice could be in better condition than us having played more competitive games.
For Nice manager, Lucien Favre, he remained hopeful of progression despite losing the first leg in Naples.
“If you take a third, it’s cooked,” he said. “At 2-0, there is still hope.”
Elsewhere, there were wins for Sevilla, Olympicacos, Hapoel Beer-Sheva and Celtic, who smashed Astana 5-0, in Wednesday’s play-off first legs.
The second keg ties are scheduled for next week.