Napoli withstands Marseille's surge
MARSEILLE, France (AP)
Spanish winger Jose Callejon opened the scoring in the 42nd minute with a low strike into the bottom corner. Substitute Duvan Zapata curled a shot into the top corner to double the lead in the 67th before Marseille winger Andre Ayew netted a consolation goal in the 86th.
Napoli went level on six points with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal in Group F while Marseille slumped to a third straight loss to stay in last place. Dortmund won 2-1 at Arsenal in the other group match.
''The coach (Rafael Benitez) told us they had lost a few games lately,'' Napoli winger Dries Mertens said. ''Therefore we had to put pressure on them, and that's what we did.''
The Italian club dominated possession in the opening minutes with Mertens wreaking havoc on his left wing. The Belgium international had a curling free kick palmed away by goalkeeper Steve Mandanda by the third minute. Mertens then fired over the bar from the edge of the box in the eighth before releasing Pablo Armero, who missed the target from a tight angle in the 13th.
Marseille struggled to find space against a well-organized Napoli side. Marseille veteran Benoit Cheyrou somehow caught the Napoli defense off guard with a run from midfield could only volley wide from a cross by Jeremy Morel.
A corner from Dimitri Payet gave Marseille a chance to take the lead in the 34th but centerback Souleymane Diawara sent his powerful header straight into the gloves of goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
From that corner, Napoli hit the French club on the break with Mertens and Higuain facing defender Nicolas Nkoulou. Mertens slipped the ball to Higuain with just Mandanda to beat. But the Argentina striker dragged his shot wide from 14 meters (yards).
Higuain made amends in the 42nd by dropping back to find Callejon with a pinpoint long ball. The Spanish winger cut inside fullback Rod Fanni to fire past Mandanda.
''We are once again disappointed,'' Andre Ayew. ''We could have done better in the first half. The goal we conceded three minutes before halftime hurt us because we could have reached the break with a score of 0-0 (.) It's a rough period for us, but we will show character, we won't keep our heads down.''
Napoli managed to protect its lead in the second half despite efforts from Morel, whose cross in the 52nd was headed wide by Payet. An unmarked Pierre-Andre Gignac also failed to convert a cross from Morel in the 76th.
A counterattack again exposed the frailties of the Marseille defense in the 67th. Callejon provided a pass for Mertens, who fed Zapata with a backheel flick and the Colombian striker scored from the edge of the box.
Ayew ensured a nervy finish after the Ghana winger chested down a pass from his brother, Jordan Ayew, to fire home a diagonal drive from 20 meters (yards).