Saturday 21 May 2022
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Napoli seals berth in Champions League

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Coppa Italia winner Napoli guaranteed itself a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot with a comfortable 3-0 triumph over 10-man Cagliari.

Dries Mertens put Napoli ahead from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute before Goran Pandev made it 2-0 before half-time.

Cagliari had goalkeeper Marco Silvestri sent off for a red card in the 54th minute after he brought down Pandev inside the area.

Pandev saw his resulting penalty denied by the crossbar before Blerim Dzemaili put the game beyond Cagliari’s reach in the 57th minute.

The win has lifted Napoli 11 points clear of nearest rival Fiorentina with two games remaining.

Cagliari, which had won its previous two league games, has dropped to 15th place.

Mertens had the first chance of the game early on when his 12-yard effort was kept out by Silvestri.

Cagliari’s Nicola Murru forced Pepe Reina into action with a stinging drive which the Napoli goalkeeper saved.

At the other end, Silvestri twice denied Dzemaili’s attempts as Napoli got closer.

The referee then pointed to the penalty spot after Cagliari’s Daniele Conti fouled Pandev inside the area.

Mertens stepped up and calmly slid the penalty towards the bottom left corner of the goal and out of Silvestri’s reach.

Napoli doubled its lead in the 43rd minute when Pandev scored with an easy tap-in after a perfect pass from Jose Callejon.

The home side picked up where it left off after the re-start. Pandev nearly made it 3-0 but his penalty hit the woodwork.

It did not take long for Napoli to strike again. Vlada Avramov was unable to hold onto Pandev’s powerful strike and Dzemaili pounced on the loose ball and slotted home from close range.

Cagliari defended deeply in the stages of the game to deny Napoli any more goals.

The host went into the game at the San Paolo with heavy hearts, with Napoli supporter Ciro Esposito fighting for his in a hospital in Rome.

Esposito was shot prior to Napoli’s Coppa Italia against Fiorentina and is in a coma. [The World Game, SBS]

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