AZ started the group stage of the Europa League on Thursday with a handsome 0-1 win on a visit to Napoli. Dani de Wit made the only goal for Arne Slot’s team, who missed no fewer than thirteen players due to corona infections.
Napoli gets the chances, AZ scores
Midfielder De Wit started in Naples at the point of the attack, because Ferdy Druijf and Myron Boadu were among the players who had to stay behind in Alkmaar. The 22-year-old midfielder was crowned match winner by signing for the 0-1 after an hour with a real striker goal.
Napoli impresses this season with three resounding victories in Serie A. The only defeat of coach Gennaro Gattuso’s team was a regulatory 3-0 against Juventus, because ‘I Partenopei’ did not show up for the game in Turin due to several infections. AZ is still waiting for the first victory in the Eredivisie; the North Hollanders drew four times.
The other game in group F between HNK Rijeka and Real Sociedad ended in 0-1 in Croatia. Jon Bautista scored the winning goal for the Spaniards in the 93rd minute. AZ will take on HNK Rijeka in its second group match at home next Thursday.
AZ celebrates the decisive goal. (Photo: Pro Shots)
AZ reported eight new infections within the players group on Tuesday, making it uncertain whether the game with Napoli could continue. But according to UEFA rules, a European match can only be crossed if a club can raise less than thirteen players (or no goalkeeper) and AZ had seventeen players left.
The visitors started reasonably in the empty Stadio San Paolo, without leading to great opportunities. Most of the excitement in the opening stages came when a goal by Napoli forward Victor Osimhen was rightly disallowed for offside.
The home team had the upper hand, also due to some carelessness at AZ. Dries Mertens got the biggest chance on behalf of Napoli ten minutes before half-time, but the former PSV player aimed just wide after a wrong pass by Pantelis Hatzidiakos. Just before that, a shot by De Wit went wide after a counter by AZ.
In the second half, the best opportunities were again for Napoli, but AZ scored. Right back Jonas Svensson made it to the back line and gave a good, low cross to De Wit, who was completely free at the first post and extended the ball to the far corner in one go.
The home team increased the pressure again after the 0-1 and with Osimhen, substitute Andrea Petagna and Matteo Politano also had chances for the equalizer, but AZ held up well.
View the results and the standings of the Europa League