Hamsik, Higuain lead Napoli to Europa League rout vs. Wolfsburg

BY foxsports • April 16, 2015

Rafael Benitez's Napoli all but booked their place in the Europa League semi-finals with a stunning 4-1 win over Wolfsburg in Germany on Thursday night.

Gonzalo Higuain scored the first before Marek Hamsik helped himself to a brace in the first leg of this last-eight clash.

Substitute Manolo Gabbiadini piled on the misery as the visitors inflicted a first home defeat on their opponents since they lost to Everton in November.

Nicklas Bendtner grabbed a late consolation for the hosts, but they looked a completely different side to the one which brushed aside Inter Milan in the last round.

The Italians, with boss Benitez celebrating his 55th birthday, were two up after 23 minutes and the Wolves could find no way back, although they did appear to have a strong claim that Higuain's opener should have been disallowed for handball.

Wolfsburg are flying in the Bundesliga, well clear in second place behind Bayern Munich and looking all set for Champions League qualification.

But they were caught cold after 15 minutes when Higuain brought Dries Mertens' ball in from the left under control before poking it first time past Diego Benaglio. Replays showed the Argentinian had controlled the pass with his upper right arm, but the goal was allowed to stand.

Higuain was involved again when Napoli made it two and this time there was no debate as his perfectly-weighted through-ball picked out the run of Hamsik, who finished first time past the exposed Benaglio.

Andre Schurrle almost pulled one back on the stroke of half-time, but the former Chelsea man's shot crashed back off the bar.

Instead things got worse for the home side in the 64th minute as Hamsik made it 3-0, tapping home after Jose Maria Callejon had capitalised on some woeful defending to break into the area and square the ball to him.

Gabbiadini headed home number four 13 minutes from time from Lorenzo Insigne's left-wing cross.

Wolfsburg were dead and buried, but they did at least get on the score sheet in the 80th minute, with former Arsenal man Bendtner on hand to knock the ball home after a fine run by Ivan Perisic.

There was still time for Gabbiadini to almost get a fifth for the visitors, only to be denied by the bar.

Four away goals and a three-goal cushion was still some effort, though, as Wolfsburg were left facing a Herculean task to try and turn the tie around in the second leg.

Dynamo Kiev 1, Fiorentina 1

Substitute Khouma Babacar's goal in stoppage-time gave Fiorentina a 1-1 draw and a crucial away goal in their Europa League quarter-final first leg against Dynamo Kiev.

The Italian side had started the game strongly, but were stung by Jeremain Lens' deflected opener before half-time and looked to have faded.

The game tailed off in the second half - until the 92nd minute, when Babacar's intervention dramatically altered the momentum of the tie.

After a couple of wayward long-range shots, Fiorentina had the first clear chance when Joaquin had a shot blocked by the sprawling Yevhen Khacheridi and, instead of chasing the rebound, appealed for handball and a penalty which was not forthcoming.

Mario Gomez failed with two attempts to convert Mohamed Salah's cut-back, eventually putting the ball into the side netting from a prohibitive angle.

Dynamo's Andriy Yarmolenko and Jeremain Lens saw shots blocked by Stefan Savic but Salah tested Olexandr Shovkovskiy at the other end.

Matias Fernandez curled a low shot just wide after lovely interplay with Joaquin and Gomez as the Italian side continued to dominate.

But Savic had to make a good tackle to prevent Lukasz Teodorczyk threatening Neto's goal and the breakthrough then came from Lens.

The Holland winger cut inside onto his favoured right foot and his 20-yard shot looped off the heel of Fernandez and over the helpless Neto.

Aleksandar Dragovic brought down Borja Valero to collect a booking which will rule him out of the second leg. Fernandez's free-kick was deflected over.

Sergiy Rybalka fired wide for Dynamo early in the second half but Teodorczyk's determined run into the box was halted by Gonzalo Rodriguez.

Shovkovskiy misjudged two crosses in succession and was fortunate Valero was penalised after tangling with Domagoj Vida as he attempted to convert.

Fernandez's low drive was blocked by the sliding Rybalko and Fiorentina went close to an equaliser when Valero headed Fernandez's cross against the post.

They immediately introduced Babacar for Gomez to pep up their attack and it proved an inspired decision when, in stoppage time, Khacheridi headed Fernandez's cross straight up in the air and the Senegal international remained alert to hook the ball over his head and into the net.

Babacar then volleyed away Younes Belhanda's free-kick to snuff out the chance of a last-gasp Kiev goal.


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