Napoli 2 Man City 1: Cavani double puts Mancini’s men on brink of exit
Edinson Cavani scored twice as Napoli defeated Manchester City to leave the English side with an uphill struggle to reach the last 16
Manchester City’s Champions League fate is no longer in their own hands after an impressive Napoli display condemned the Premier League side to their second European defeat of the season.
Roberto Mancini’s men must now beat Group A winners Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium on 7 December to stand any chance of reaching the last 16, while also hoping that Villarreal can take at least a point off Napoli in Spain.
Edinson Cavani scored either side of the break to give the Serie A side a memorable victory after Mario Balotelli equalised with a first-half tap-in.
The visitors started brightly and could have taken the lead in the seventh minute – but Balotelli’s shot flew just inches past the right post.
Napoli then carved out their own opportunity moments later when Marek Hamsik headed Ezequiel Lavezzi’s cross at goal, but Joe Hart saved well.
Lavezzi fired a rasping effort just wide of Hart’s post after having played a superb one-two with Cavani as the Serie A side began to ramp up the pressure on Mancini’s men.
Gokhan Inler then forced a brilliant save from Hart with a dipping long-range effort – and the home side took the lead from the resulting corner.
Lavezzi whipped in the set-piece to the near post and as Cavani nodded it on, Hart could do nothing to prevent it deflecting off the goalkeeper’s foot and into the roof of the net.
The goal was no less than the home side deserved and Cavani almost doubled Napoli’s lead just moments after netting the opener – but he fired into the side-netting.
However, Napoli were unable to conjure a second and City drew level in the 33rd minute. Careless defending allowed David Silva a shot on goal and Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis could only parry into the path of Balotelli, who gratefully tapped into an empty net.
City failed to click into gear early in the second half and the instrumental Cavani restored Napoli’s lead in the 49th minute, firing a low effort past Hart from Andrea Dossena’s cross.
Balotelli could have hauled City level once again in the 61st minute – but he was unable to make contact with Silva’s teasing cross.
The Serie A outfit then went agonisingly close to stretching their lead in the 69th minute. Hamsik threaded a perfectly-weighted through-ball to Lavezzi – but his shot forced a good save from Hart at his near post.
As the game became stretched, Hamsik hit the post before Balotelli spurned a glorious opportunity to equalise, but his shot was well saved by De Sanctis.
Mancini threw Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero into the fray late on – and the Argentinian had a close-range effort saved by De Sanctis at the near post.
But the hosts came out of a final few minutes of sustained pressure unscathed, leaving City with an uphill battle if they are to reach the last 16.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said:
“I don’t think we deserved to lose the game, but we did concede two stupid goals. We knew Cavani would be on the near post for the first goal, and we didn’t mark him for the second. After our equaliser we had two chances to go 2-1 up so it was strange that we conceded. [On qualification] This is the Champions League, never say never.”
Napoli: Morgan De Sanctis, Salvatore Aronica, Hugo Campagnaro, Paolo Cannavaro, Andrea Dossena (Federico FernÃ¡ndez, 88), Christian Maggio, Walter Gargano, GÃ¶khan Inler (Blerim Dzemaili, 59), Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani (Goran Pandev, 83).
Manchester City: Joe Hart, Aleksandar Kolarov, Joleon Lescott, Pablo Zabaleta (Adam Johnson, 86), Vincent Kompany, David Silva, James Milner, Nigel de Jong (Samir Nasri, 70), Yaya TourÃ©, Edin Dzeko (Sergio AgÃ¼ero, 81), Mario Balotelli.