Napoli see off nine-man Nice in CL Qualifier


August 17, 2017
Napoli's Jorginho celebrates after scoring during a Champions League playoff round, first leg football match between Napoli and Nice at San Paolo stadium in Naples yesterday. (Cesare Abbate/ANSA Via AP)


Dries Mertens started this season where he left off the last, setting Napoli on its way to a 2-0 win over nine-man Nice in the first leg of their Champions League play-off yesterday.

Mertens scored more than 30 goals last season for Napoli, with five of them in the Champions League. And it took the Belgium international less than 13 minutes to open his account for this campaign.

Mertens sprung the offside trap to race on to a through ball, take it past onrushing goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale and slot it into the empty net.

The 30-year-old forward was instrumental in Napoli's second, winning a penalty when he was tripped by Christophe Jallet just inside the area. Jorginho converted the spot kick in the 70th minute.

Nice's night went from bad to worse 12 minutes from time when midfielder Vincent Koziello was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Napoli's Piotr Zielinski, and teammate Alassane Plea followed him off the pitch after receiving a second yellow for dissent.

Nice struggled to create anything without injured duo Mario Balotelli and Wesley Sneijder, who both used to play in Italy. The French side will hope to have them back for the second leg on Tuesday.

A look at the other playoff first legs:

Yesterday's results:

Napoli 2-0 Nice

Celtic 5-0 FC Astana

Hapoel Beer Sheva 2-1 Maribor

Istanbul Basaksehir 1-2 Sevilla

Olympiacos 2-1 Rijeka