‘Everything was going wrong’ – Napoli boss hails side’s character in key win

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti after Napoli's 3-2 win against Leicester.

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti hailed his side’s fighting spirit and “soul” after beating Leicester 3-2 to progress to the next round of the Europa League.

The Partenopei knew it was a must-win game to progress to the knockout stages. Having led 2-0 early on, they were pegged back to 2-2 at the back. Eljif Elmas scored the winner in the second half. The North Macedonian’s brace means he’s now scored four goals in six Europa League games.

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Spalletti told Sky Sport Italia: “When you concede two goals as cheaply as we did, evidently there are difficulties and it felt as if everything was going wrong for us.

“Instead, we reacted really well after the break, showing character. Those two goals, we didn’t have the right attitude when trying to just get the ball clear, but we fought back with soul.

“I am convinced that this performance and victory will give the players much more strength going forward to prove all their quality in future.”

Napoli came into the match without several key players, not least key striker Victor Osimhen and top centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly.

Spalletti lauds midfielder

Elmas was the hero of the night and drew praise from his coach.

Spalletti said: “Elmas is first and foremost a splendid young man, but he can also adapt to any role. 

“Where you are struggling, put him in and he’ll bring the goods.

“He was disappointed by something at half-time that hadn’t gone right, so I told him that if he scored, I’d fling myself to the ground in celebration. I held on until the final whistle, but then I did it!”

The victory saw Napoli finish second in the group behind Spartak Moscow. Leicester’s defeat meant they dropped down to the UEFA Conference League.

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Napoli’s attacking injuries pile up

Despite scoring three goals in Thursday’s night 3-2 home win against Leicester, coach Luciano Spalletti saw his team further hit by injuries in attack.

Speedy wide forward Hirving Lozano had to go to the hospital for X-rays after colliding with Wilfred Ndidi. He was stretchered off the pitch whilst bleeding.

Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen is still out injured. Due to this, Spalletti may need to lean even more on Eljif Elmas. The versatile attacker is ready to carry the load.

He said: “It’s an important night for us, I am happy with both goals, but above all that the team can progress in the competition.

“He [Spalletti] said many things, that we are a strong team and needed to prove it on the pitch. We did what he asked, won the game and qualified for the next round.

“I try to do my best where the coach puts me. To be honest, even I am not sure what my natural role is.”

Napoli host Empoli on Sunday hoping to get their title challenge back on track. Recent defeats away at Inter Milan and at home to Atalanta have seen them surrender top spot in Serie A.

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