Napoli beats Braga to advance in Champions League, end three match losing run
NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Struggling to defend its Serie A title, Napoli produced a confidence-boosting 2-0 win over Braga on Tuesday that secured the Italian team a spot in the Champions League knockout round.
A own goal from Serdar Saatci put Napoli ahead then Victor Osimhen added another before the break at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Napoli had lost three straight across all competitions under new coach Walter Mazzarri, who replaced the fired Rudi Garcia last month.
Napoli finished second to record 14-time champion Real Madrid in Group C.
Madrid won the group with 18 points, followed by Napoli (10), Braga (4) and Union Berlin (2) – with Braga dropping down to the Europa League.
Madrid beat Berlin 3-2 in the other group match on Tuesday.
“Our goal was to get through a group that was not easy," Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo said. "We fought our way through and I think we can say that we deserved this.”
Saatci deflected a cross into his own net nine minutes in. Then Osimhen awkwardly redirected in with his backheel a pass from Natan, who had sprinted past the defense.
Ricardo Horta hit the post late in the second half for Braga's best chance.
“Keeping a clean sheet is also a positive,” Di Lorenzo said. “Alex Meret had two great saves. We’re pleased for him and it’s important for the defense to not concede with a victory.”
Napoli is sixth in Serie A, 14 points behind leader Inter Milan.
“There is a lot of work to be done. We need to improve in certain areas," Di Lorenzo said. “The performances have always been there and that gives us confidence going forward into the new year.”
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