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Napoli Beats Nine-Man Nice In Champions League Playoff

Maurizio Sarri felt Napoli “did the best we could at this stage of the season and are lacking sharpness” after beating Nice 2-0.

Napoli won the Champions League play-off with a Dries Mertens strike and Jorginho penalty, but considering their domination on the night and the fact Nice went down to nine men, there must be regrets that the only scored twice.

The second leg is at the Allianz Riviera next Tuesday evening, when Mario Balotelli and Wesley Sneijder may well be back, though Alassane Plea and Vincent Koziello will be suspended.

“We did the best we could at this stage of the season. We are lacking some sharpness in front of goal, as we created so much, then we hit the bar and upright, so were unlucky too,” the Coach told Mediaset Premium.

“At this moment, I am satisfied with the team. We could’ve done more in the final 10 minutes, but I made different choices for the bench because I thought our midfielders couldn’t get to the end of the 90 minutes and that was the main risk.

“I honestly did not expect Nice to play with five at the back, as we prepared against four. At half-time I had to change some things and economise certain movements to go up against their system. I think my side is now mature enough to face any opponent.

“I was afraid of the opening stages, as they have already played four competitive games this season. We tried to prevent more problems in the final 20 minutes by introducing fresh legs in midfield.

“Tomorrow we’ll have a look at the fitness levels and change something for Saturday against Verona.”

Arkadiusz Milik failed a tap-in after replacing Mertens in the second half.

“Milik missed a chance, but he did some very important work for the team and provided assists. He has been working well over the last six or seven days in training. Unfortunately, he missed a fairly easy chance tonight, but he certainly wasn’t the only one.

“We are lacking a change of pace and wasted two or three big opportunities on the counter because we didn’t come forward in numbers. We’re not at 100 per cent right now and at this stage, mentality counts for a great deal. If you don’t have the spirit of sacrifice, it’s difficult to push through those difficulties.”

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