NAPOLI advanced to the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday evening, with a 2-2 draw against Wolfsburg seeing Rafael Benitez’s side progress 6-3 on aggregate.
Second-half goals from Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens looked to have put the Serie A outfit out of sight after their 4-1 first-leg triumph in Germany last Thursday.
Timm Klose and Ivan Perisic scored in the space of three minutes to make the scoreline more respectable, but that was as good as it got for the Bundesliga side.
Dieter Hecking’s men had headed to the Stadio San Paolo knowing they had it all to do, and without midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and forward Andre Schurrle after the pair picked up injuries at the weekend.
They started on the front foot, though.
Home goalkeeper Mariano Andujar had to be alert in the opening minute to preserve his side’s three-goal cushion, clawing the ball away after Perisic’s effort went into the ground and looped dangerously goalwards.
The visitors continued to have the lion’s share of the chances as the half wore on.
Christian Trasch lashed wide on 19 minutes, and Nicklas Bendtner rose highest at far post just after the half-hour mark but directed his header wide.
The Denmark forward had another chance in the 41st minute when he burst into the penalty area and got his left-footed shot away from the left corner of the six-yard box, but Andujar got down well and got a strong left hand to it.
Napoli’s first opportunity arrived just before the interval, Gonzalo Higuain despatching a well-struck left-footed volley just wide from Faouzi Ghoulam’s cross.
The hosts were altogether brighter at the start of the second period, and could have taken the lead within two minutes of the restart when Mertens curled one just wide with Callejon inches away from connecting with the header.
Two minutes later, however, the tie looked to have been put to bed. Higuain sprayed a splendid left-footed pass to Callejon, who closed in on goal before unleashing a long-range shot which was deflected past Diego Benaglio by defender Ricardo Rodriguez.
Mertens played Callejon in again moments later, but Benaglio was off his line quickly and made the block.
Lorenzo Insigne was introduced by Benitez in place of Marek Hamsik on the hour mark, and was soon involved in Napoli’s second goal of the night.
His cross from the left was cushioned down by Higuain for Mertens, who beat Benaglio at the second attempt with a neat, instinctive finish.
Klose gave the Wolves a glimmer of hope by powering a fine header past Andujar from a corner on 71 minutes and Perisic spurred the visitors even further moments later when he nodded home a Josuha Guilavogui cross, getting a boot in the face for his troubles.
Hecking’s men could make no further inroads, though, as Napoli saw the game out to reach the semi-finals of a major European competition for the first time since 1989.
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