Swansea’s Europa League adventure ended in heartbreak as they were sunk by late goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Gokhan Inler at the Stadio San Paolo.
Jonathan de Guzman’s away goal had looked to be enough to send Garry Monk’s men through to the last 16. The Dutch midfielder had levelled after Lorenzo Insigne’s early strike, but Higuain capitalised on a defensive slip to lash the ball beyond Michel Vorm before Inler sealed matters in stoppage time.
“I’m disappointed but I’m not going to put that on the boys,” Monk said. “I could not have asked for any more from my players. We had more than enough chances in the 180 minutes but my players should be proud of themselves.I thought we dealt very well with the atmosphere.”
Swansea had to survive an early scare when Higuain took aim on the edge of the area, but captain Ashley Williams got in a crucial block.
The Welsh club knew an away goal would tilt the balance heavily in their favour, and it so nearly came on 11 minutes. Pablo Hernandez’s lovely pass found Marvin Emnes and the winger dinked the ball over the advancing Pepe Reina, only for Raul Albiol to clear. At the other end Higuain fired high over the bar.
Insigne showed him how it should be done in the 17th minute. Higuain’s flick beat the Swansea offside trap and the forward calmly lobbed Vorm. Swansea took time to settle, but when they did they hit back to stun the raucous crowd. Emnes came inside to find Wilfried Bony, whose lovely pass set up De Guzman to slide a left-footed shot beyond Reina.
Suddenly it was Napoli’s turn to look shaky, and Reina had to race off his line as another excellent Bony pass slipped Wayne Routledge in on goal. Bony then fired straight at Reina, before Ben Davies made an important challenge on Higuain as he tried to turn in the box.
Swansea were 45 minutes away from one of the greatest results in their history, but they showed no signs of simply trying to protect their advantage. Hernandez was a constant nuisance to the Napoli defence and the dissatisfaction of the partisan crowd was clear to hear.
De Guzman worked Reina with a swerving strike and Hernandez skewed an ambitious attempt at a first-time volley towards the touchline.
The visitors felt they should have had a penalty just before the hour when Dwight Tiendalli was clipped by Faouzi Ghoulam as he surged on to a loose ball. Napoli stepped up the pressure, and it took an excellent intervention by Chico Flores to deny Insigne after the striker had skipped past Tiendalli.
Swansea broke with purpose as Bony and Hernandez linked, but the striker could only head into Reina’s arms from point-blank range. It proved a costly miss as Higuain struck. Davies and Flores looked to have dealt with Dries Mertens’ ball into the box, but the ball bobbled between them, allowing Higuain to volley home before Inler provided the final blow.
Man of match Hernandez.
Match rating 8/10.
Referee O A Hategan (Rom).
Attendance 27,000.Reuse content