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Napoli secure top spot in group after victory at Benfica

Napoli secured top spot in Group B with a 2-1 victory at Benfica as both sides progressed into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Napoli knew a draw in Lisbon would be enough to qualify but Benfica needed to win, or rely on Besiktas slipping up against Dynamo Kiev, to seal their last-16 place.

Kiev’s remarkable 6-0 victory against nine-man Besiktas eased any nerves at the Estadio da Luz but second-half goals from Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens helped secure top spot for the Italians, despite Raul Jimenez’s late consolation for the hosts.

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik had the first sight of goal on 20 minutes, after a tense opening, but saw his side-footed shot from just inside the box well parried by Ederson Moraes. Manolo Gabbiadini headed home the rebound from an offside position.

Moments later Hamsik lost possession deep inside his own territory and Franco Cervi almost capitalised by poking home after some hesitant Napoli defending.

Benfica forward Jimenez then tested Pepe Reina shortly after and Nelson Semedo dragged another shot wide for the hosts as the game sprang into life.

The scoreline in Kiev seemed to galvanise both sets of players and this time it was Napoli’s Callejon who tried his luck from the edge of the box, with Moraes again up to the challenge.

The Benfica keeper also saved well with his legs from Gabbiadini as the Italy forward bore down on goal towards the end of the first half.

Moraes could do little to prevent Callejon on the hour mark, however, as the Spain forward dinked the ball over the advancing keeper from Merten’s pass.

Pizzi tried his luck from a free-kick as Benfica sought a route back into the contest but their hopes were dented by Mertens with 11 minutes remaining.

The substitute notched his fourth goal of the season in the Champions League after dancing past Luisao and neatly slotting home, via the post, from 15 yards.

Piotr Zielinski had the chance to add a third for Napoli but Moraes did well to block the Poland midfielder’s powerful shot at the near post.

A mistake from Raul Albiol allowed Jimenez in to reduce the deficit late on but it mattered little in the context of the game, and Group B.

Credit:PA Sport@ESPN STAFF