Three out of three for Italian teams in Europe. After Fiorentina (2-0 vs. Slavia Prague) and Juventus (4-0 vs. Artmedia Bratislava), Napoli also put their next round UEFA Cup qualification on ice, as they travelled to Albania and defeated Vllaznia with a score of 3-0. Main man of the night: Brazilian striker Inacio Pià, who despite not being the preferred choice of coach Edy Reja (Ezequiel Lavezzi was with the Olympic team and Marcelo Zalayeta was injured) scored a beautiful double on Thursday night.
In two weeks’ time, the Neapolitans will rendez-vous with history at Stadio San Paolo, as they attempt to return to the UEFA Cup 14 years since their last appearance.
(From Gazzetta): So indeed, with El Pocho out to Beijing and El Panterón in the infirmary, super-sub striker Pià was given the responsibility to put the ball in the net. And so he did and quite well too, forming a good scoring partnership with last year’s Argentine league topscorer, German Denis (still trying to find his mark in Naples, but on a good road to progression with his goal today). It’s no coincidence that Pià’s been a main protagonist in Napoli’s pre-season so far (scoring 2 goals against Eubelbach and 1 against Zte), because his explosive pace was just what the doctor ordered to overcome the Vllaznia defenses (very far from the Serie A standard, mind you).
The first half ended with a score of 1-0 Napoli, but the Azzurri’s lead could have been far more severe. After the match opener (minute 28: forward push by Christian Maggio on the right wing, deflected cross and volleyed effort by Pià), the Brazilian striker squandered at least two other scoring chances, all the while the Napoli defense easily controlled the proceedings. The only “scares” for the Azzurri supporters were a missed intervention by goalkeeper Iezzo, and a Sukai header off target.
Just after the restart, Napoli made it two. Through on goal, Pià (once again) delivered a beautiful chipped shot over the keeper, leaving him no chance and increasing his team’s lead. With two away goals, it became clear that Napoli had virtually clinched their qualification, but opposing striker Sukai had other ideas. Indeed, his left-footed effort through a wall of Napoli legs almost surprised Iezzo, who was skilled however at parrying the shot.
Then, as Vllaznia appealed for a penalty for a Rinaudo foul on Lici (referee booked the player for diving instead), Napoli made it 3-0 about 15 minutes from the end. De Zerbi delivered a perfect assist for Denis, who despite being closed down by two defenders, managed to fire a one-time effort to beat the Albanian keeper for the third time. 3-0 Napoli FT, and Serie A teams with a great beginning in Europe…
|GOALSCORERS: 28’, 46’ Pià (N), 75’ Denis (N)
| VLLAZNIA (4-4-1-1): Bishani – Beqiri, Bashic, Tell, Belisha (46’ Lici) – Smajlai (64’ Bohadu), Nalbani, Osja (83’ Hoti), Lika – Sukai – Kali. (bench: Grimaj, Sinani, Hoti, Doci, Shtubina). Coach: Canaj.
| NAPOLI (3-5-2): Iezzo – P.Cannavaro, Rinaudo, Contini – Maggio, Pazienza, Blasi, Hamsik (80’ Montervino), Vitale (73’ Grava) – Pià (69’ De Zerbi), Denis. (bench: Gianello, Santacroce, Amodio, Bruno). Coach: Reja.