Sevilla rout Fiorentina; Dnipro claw level with Napoli in Europa League

Aleix Vidal scored twice Thursday to lead Sevilla to a crushing 3-0 win over Fiorentina in a wild Europa League semifinal first leg. Sub Kevin Gameiro got the late insurance in the 74th, putting home a Vidal pass from close range. It was the reigning Europa League champs’ ninth-straight home win, one shy of the tournament’s all-time record, and they will take that three-goal cushion to Italy for next Thursday’s return leg. As it stands, they look quite set to defend their crown in Warsaw.

In the day’s other game, Napoli were unable to make a 47th minute goal from David Lopez stand up, conceding a goal in the 81st minute to Yevhen Seleznyov to draw Dnipro 1-1 in their first-leg tie.

Vidal got Sevilla on the board in just the 17th minute after a fine spell of sustained pressure. Carlos Bacca drew all the attention as he ghosted left atop the box to receive from Jose Antonio Reyes, but with defenders approaching, he smartly cut the ball back to Vidal alone top right. Vidal was set, and powered the ball past a helpless Neto to the far post with a low strike.

Vidal then doubled the advantage in the 52nd minute, collecting a fine diagonal ball from Vitolo and forcing keeper Neto to cheat in an attempt to defend the cross. With the keeper caught in no man’s land, Vidal was free to slide the ball home near post with ease and send the home fans into rabid celebrations.

Fiorentina sure had their chances, though, with Marcos Alonso almost drawing level two minutes later but for a bad miss at the near post when it would have been easier to score. Sergio Rico was called into action twice soon after, first when Matias Fernandez bulled his way into the area and fired wildly only to see the keeper parry; then on-loan Mohamed Salah was in alone on the doorstep onto see Rico make another sprawling save.

But after the second goal, it was all Sevilla. Ever Banega and Vitolo almost combined spectacularly on the stroke of the hour with Banega slipping his teammate through with a filthy backheel; then Neto was forced to parry away a strike from Bacca that seemed destined to find the back of the net.

Gameiro’s entrance in the 74th was followed immediately by a goal with his first touch of the ball. Benoit Tremoulinas scampered down the far flank and his return to Vidal simply tore Fiorentina’s back line apart. Gameiro had Neto at his mercy for the simple tap-in to kill the game off.

EUROPA LEAGUE RESULTS

Napoli wasted scoring chances aplenty in the second half, thanks in part to a standout performance from Dnipro goalkeeper Denys Boyko, so finished the first leg of their Europa League semifinal against Dnipro in the Sao Paolo Stadium with a 1-1 draw that they will hardly have found satisfactory.   

David Lopez scored just four minutes after the interval to trigger a Napoli assault, but Boyko kept them off the board with a series of stops and Dnipro snatched a quite unexpected equalizer from Seleznyov nine minutes from the finish to leave the tie delicately balanced. The second leg will be played next Thursday in Ukraine.

Napoli had plenty of possession in the opening 45 minutes but did precious little with it, hardly making Boyko work at all. In fact, it wasn’t until the 44th minute that Boyko even had to make what might be called a save, easily holding a high ball into the box.

Lorenzo Insigne had clipped the outside of the left post with a shot from long range in the 10th minute and the same Napoli player hit the outside of the near side net 12 minutes later, but much of the time Napoli was running into a stone wall defensive performance from the visitors. Gonzalo Higuain, in particular, saw little of the ball, marked efficiently by the Brazilian defender Douglas.

Jaba Kankava did force Mariano Andujar to touch his 18-yard shot past the post in the 23rd minute, but the Ukrainian League side concentrated so much on stifling Napoli that little thought was given to attack. In fact, it was the only save Andujar had all night. He was left stranded on his line by the equalizer.

Everything changed after the interval when Boyko was outstanding to limit the damage which might — perhaps should — have accrued. 

The only Napoli breakthrough came when Lopez rose six yards out to a corner at the near post and headed sharply home. Boyko then produced an excellent stop to deny Higuain in the 54th minute when the Argentine striker broke in on the right side.

Boyko was alert again five minutes later as Higuain found more space on the right side, saving with his legs as Dnipro now seemed unable to cope with Rafa Benitez’ side. The keeper was on the spot in the 70th minute to turn aside a shot from Insigne, then beat Higuain on the left two minutes later as Napoli kept creating chances without finishing them. Higuain then saw Boyko leap to tip a 79th minute chance over the bar.

The Italians’ failure to capitalize on chances meant that when substitute Seleznyov managed to stay onside — or at least the assistant thought he did — to meet a cross from Artem Fedetskiy Dnipro had a goal that was wildly against the run of play but sends the Ukrainians into the second leg on level-pegging with an away goal in their favor.  

Benitez and Napoli will be left to question what went wrong.