Napoli cruised past Swiss side Zurich in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash, winning 3-1 at the Stadion Letzigrund on Thursday night.
The Italian team found possession easy to come by in the early stages of the game, as their hosts were sloppy on the ball with many players guilty of misplacing passes and making poor decisions.
The Serie A side only took 11 minutes to capitalise on a Zurich error, as they were gifted the lead by Zurich goalkeeper Yanick Brecher.
Brecher took an awful first touch from a harmless backpass from Andreas Maxso, leaving Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik with the opportunity to square the ball to Lorenzo Insigne, who tapped into an empty net.
Only ten minutes later, Napoli took firm control of the tie as they doubled their lead.
After some terrific one touch passing, the ball was played out to marauding wing back Kevin Malcuit on the right hand side, who controlled before finding Jose Callejon with a low cross into the box. Callejon made no mistake with the finish, keeping the ball down and placing it to the right of Zurich goalkeeper Brecher.
Despite a rather scrappy second half – which saw Napoli keep possession of the ball and control the play – the Italians added a third away goal to take back to San Paolo for the return leg.
Polish midfielder Piotr Zielinski picked up the ball on the edge of the Zurich area before showing bags of composure as he shifted the ball to his right foot to send two defenders to the turf, before dribbling around them to fire the ball powerfully into the net at Brecher’s near post.
There was however an unlikely lifeline thrown Zurich’s way ten minutes before the final whistle, after Nikola Maksimovic was adjudged to have handled the ball in the Napoli penalty area.
Benjamin Kololli stepped up and converted the spot kick, cheekily chipping the ball down the centre of the net, deceiving Meret in the Napoli net.
Starting XI: Brecher (3), Nef (4), Bangura (3), Maxso (4), Untersee (4), Kryeziu (4), Dorngjoni (4), Kharabadze (4), Winter (4), Kololli (5), Odey (4).
Substitutes: Marchesano (4), Ceesay (4), Khelifi (4).
Key Talking Point
Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked as though they were participating in a training session, rather than a crunch first leg of a European fixture.
Crucially for Napoli, they finished the game without any injuries and they also now have the luxury of a possible chance to rest key players for the return leg.
Starting XI: Meret (5), Malcuit (6), Maksimovic (6), Koulibaly (7), Ghoulam (6), Zielinski (8*), Ruiz (6), Allan (7), Callejon (7), Milik (6), Insigne (8).
Substitutes: Diawara (6), Ounas (6), Luperto (5).
STAR MAN- It was a real classy display from Poland international Piotr Zielinski. Playing on the left hand side of the Napoli attack, he showed creativity on the ball and also plenty of industry when he was without it.
Zielinski topped his performance with a classy goal, showing plenty of confidence and composure to take two defenders out of the game before smashing in Napoli’s third goal.
After a disappointing European defeat, it does not get any easier for Zurich, as they will travel to Swiss league leaders Young Boys for their next fixture.
Napoli are back in Serie A action at the San Paulo on Sunday, as they take on Torino in their hope to close the gap to league leaders Juventus.