Higuain brace for Napoli sinks Marseille

06 November 2013 10:32

A Gonzalo Higuain brace helped Napoli to a 3-2 win over Marseille on Wednesday as the Italians moved up to second place in Champions League Group F.

Marseille came to the San Paolo still without a point having lost their opening three games in the section, including a 2-1 defeat at home to Rafael Benitez's Serie A side last month.

Andre Ayew gave Elie Baup's men an early lead, but Napoli hit back to lead at the interval thanks to strikes by Gokhan Inler and Higuain in the space of two minutes.

Florian Thauvin pulled Marseille level just after the hour mark as Marseille enjoyed a dominant spell, but the visitors were caught out when a low Dries Mertens cross was turned in by Higuain at the back post to make it 3-2.

Napoli's third win in four group games lifted the Italians up to second, level on points with leaders Arsenal after their 1-0 win away to Borussia Dortmund in the night's other game in the section.

Napoli are next away to Dortmund before hosting Arsenal on December 11 when the Germans, three points further adrift, are away at Marseille.

It points to a tight group finale, and although Benitez was buoyed with the win he told Sky Sport Italia: "Our next game will be very difficult. Tonight's results changed things a little in the group but we're still not qualified.

"But I'm happy we now have nine points, it's very positive for us. Of course, there are things we can improve on, but after Marseille levelled we showed great character to come back into it and get the winning goal."

Pre-match reports centred on the huge police presence in Naples to contain the threat of possible violence between fans of the Group F rivals following incidents in Marseille on October 22.

But if there was any tension among the visiting support, it was soon eased when Andre Ayew gave Marseille a 10th-minute lead with a header from a corner which beat a static Jose Reina in the Napoli net.

Barely 14 minutes later, however, Marseille were already trailing.

Inler chested down a loose ball 20 yards from goal and fired a precision volley past flailing Marseille 'keeper Steve Mandanda in the 22nd minute.

And Napoli then took the lead on the break moments later when Marseille were caught in possession in midfield.

When the ball found its way to Goran Pandev, the Macedonian's header came off the head of Souleymane Diawara and fell to Higuain, who smashed a low drive into the net.

Marseille were fired up at the start of the second half but Jordan Ayew's cross was just too high for Mathieu Valbuena and while Thauvin threatened with a drive, it was off target.

Just before the hour Baup replaced Valbuena with Dimitri Payet, and he had a direct role in Marseille's leveller, crossing for Thauvin who sneaked in behind Pablo Armero at the back post to bundle the ball past a stunned Reina.

Three minutes later, Benitez replaced Pandev with Marek Hamsik and the Slovakian played an indirect role in Higuain's winner.

Hamsik was several yards offside when Federico Fernandez sent a long ball from midfield to the left of the area but it was collected by Mertens, and he squared for Higuain to beat a confused Mandanda with ease at his back post.

Napoli could have scored more with Jose Callejon sending a long-range free kick wide while late substitute Lorenzo Insigne turned on the style to send a curling effort off the post in the closing minutes.

Source: AFP