Sat, Apr 20, 2019 - Page 16 News List

SSC Napoli fall short of expectations

AFP, NAPLES, Italy

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette, center, shoots from a free-kick during their Europa League second-leg quarter-final against SSC Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Italy, on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

Out of Europe and without a trophy, Carlo Ancelotti’s first season at SSC Napoli has fallen short of expectations.

Alexandre Lacazette’s superb, curling 36th-minute free-kick on Thursday crushed the dream, throwing the Stadio San Paolo into despair.

Napoli never gave the impression of a fightback, with Unai Emery’s Arsenal easing through 1-0 on the night, 3-0 on aggregate, to set up a clash with his former club Valencia for a place in the Europa League final on May 29.

Jeers and whistles rained down on the club’s film producer owner Aurelio de Laurentiis in the stands and captain Lorenzo Insigne, who was substituted in the second half, as the 40,000 home fans started to leave the stadium before the final whistle.

Meanwhile, Arsenal celebrated with their traveling contingent of 1,100.

The defeat was a blow for the reputation of three-time Champions League winner Ancelotti, who took over last summer from Maurizio Sarri, who had led the team to second in Serie A.

The 59-year-old had promised to turn the clock back to the golden days when Diego Maradona inspired the southerners to their two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990, and the UEFA Cup in 1989.

As Napoli crashed out of Europe, Sarri’s new team, Chelsea, advanced to the semi-finals with a 5-3 aggregate win over Czech side Slavia Prague. Chelsea scored three early goals before surviving a second-half scare to advance.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed that the fans weren’t happy, but the season’s not finished yet,” Ancelotti said. “I think the key to qualification was the first 30 minutes in the away match, that’s when we played really badly.”

“After Arsenal scored, the situation became impossible and our heads dropped,” he said.

Napoli’s exit means there are no Italian clubs left in the Champions League or Europa League.

In the other second-leg quarter-final games, Valencia won 5-1 on aggregate after defeating Villarreal 2-0, while Eintracht Frankfurt overturned a two-goal deficit from the first leg. The German team went through on away goals following a 2-0 home victory over SL Benfica and 4-4 overall.

Chelsea enjoyed a 4-1 lead at halftime before conceding two goals after the interval for a 5-3 aggregate win. The London club equaled Atletico Madrid’s record run of 15 unbeaten games in the competition.

Chelsea face Frankfurt in the semi-finals.

For all four semi-finalists, winning the Europa League would secure a route into the Champions League outside of their domestic leagues.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Reuters

Liverpool have taken a cue from Manchester United and hiked prices for away supporters when they host Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals to subsidize tickets for own fans traveling to the Camp Nou, the Premier League club said.

Manchester United had hiked prices for their quarter-final tie with Barcelona when the Spanish club charged £102 (US$132.5), which British media reported was the most expensive ticket to a United game outside of a final.

Liverpool have been allocated 4,620 away tickets priced at 119 euros (US$133.7) each for the first leg in Spain on May 1.

In response, the Merseyside club raised their ticket prices for Barcelona supporters traveling to Anfield to the same amount and would use the extra revenue to ensure Liverpool fans pay only 88 euros for the first leg.

Meanwhile, Ajax’s Champions League hopes got a boost on Thursday when the Dutch Football Association said that Eredivisie fixtures on the weekend before the semi-final first leg against Tottenham Hotspur would be postponed.

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