Napoli 3 Swansea 1: Three talking points

Napoli 3 Swansea 1: Three talking points as the Swans exit the Europa League at the last-32 stage

Napoli
3
Swnasea
1

A night of firsts for Swansea

Swansea City have performed admirably in their first season in the Europa League. The Swans managed to reach the knockout stage of a European competition for the first time in the club’s modest history and acquitted themselves well against a strong Napoli side. Securing a credible goalless draw last Thursday, Garry Monk’s side travelled to Naples with enough encouragement from the first leg to suggest that Pepe Reina could be beaten. Swansea responded to an early setback with their first goal on Italian soil. Wilfried Bony’s deft pass released Jonathan de Guzman, who had drifted infield, with the midfielder slotting past Reina. With Napoli pressing for a winner, Swansea were holding out and looked favourites to reach their first-ever last-16 tie in Europe. But Napoli’s £35m man Gonzalo Higuain capitalised on a cruel ricochet in the Swansea area to steer a winner past Michel Vorm. Rafael Benitez’s bid to win back-to-back Europa League titles gathered further momentum thanks to Gokhan Inler’s injury-time goal.

Irrepressible Bony left to reflect on miss

With Michael Laudrup’s transfers – or lack thereof in January – reportedly among the grievances of the Swansea board, it was Dane’s big summer purchase that sparkled in Naples. Bony was brought to the Premier League by the former Swans boss boasting a big reputation following his scoring feats in the Eredivisie. After a slow start, the 25-year-old has netted 10 goals in 23 Premier League games, and he is carrying his form into Europe. Napoli’s centre-half pairing, and in particular, Brazilian Henrique struggled to temper Bony as the Swansea striker exhibited all the positive elements of his game. The Ivorian was aware of de Guzman’s angled run and was able to produce a perfectly-weighted pass for the midfielder to level proceedings. The Swans striker held up the ball to bring team-mates into the play and was unafraid to unleash a shot filled with venom, giving Reina a workout in the Napoli goal. But for all his good work, Bony wasted Swansea’s best chance of the second half as he guided a header straight at Reina with the goal at his mercy. It was his one mistake in an otherwise near-flawless performance.

Swansea highlight Premier League’s depth

It has been a forgettable fortnight for the Premier League clubs in the Champions League. Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United all suffered comprehensive 2-0 losses in the first leg of their respective last-16 ties. Only Chelsea could rescue some English pride as Jose Mourinho’s men secured a credible 1-1 draw at noisy Galatasaray. In particular, Barcelona and Bayern Munich highlighted the edge that the top teams in Germany and Spain currently have on their Premier League counterparts. Whilst it can be argued that the English top-flight is at its weakest in Europe’s premier club competition in the Champions League era, Swansea’s performance in Naples highlighted the Premier League’s strength. Don’t be fooled by the 3-1 scoreline. Monk’s side, currently 12th in the Premier League, went down fighting and looked set to book their place with 77 minutes gone at Stadio San Paolo. But for Napoli’s talisman Higuain, Swansea could well be contemplating potential opponents in the last 32 as opposed to a Premier League encounter with Crystal Palace this weekend. While the Premier League may no longer boast the biggest forces in Europe, Swansea’s valiant loss proves that the English top-flight boasts greater depth than its German and Spanish counterparts.

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