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Late own goal hands Napoli Champions League win over Braga


Napoli escaped Sporting Braga with a 2-1 win in their Champions League opener on Wednesday after a Sikou Niakate own goal handed the Italians the points in the final minutes.

Rudi Garcia's side looked to be sharing the spoils in Portugal when Bruma flicked home a perfect header from Rodrigo Zalazar's cross with six minutes remaining after Giovanni Di Lorenzo had opened the scoring for Napoli on the stroke of half-time.

But with two minutes to go Niakate thumped Piotr Zielinski's cross into his own net to give wasteful Napoli a hard-fought Group C win at a soaking Estadio Municipal.

"We could have scored more goals in the first half... and if you don't score that second goal you always risk conceding an equaliser," said captain Di Lorenzo.

"It was a big win, one that we wanted and fought for. We're happy."

Napoli are level on three points with Real Madrid, who beat Union Berlin 1-0 and travel to Naples in their next fixture early next month.

And the Italian champions will need to be more clinical in front of goal against one of the tournament favourites after missing a host of first-half opportunities and allowing Braga back into the match.

Napoli could have been leading Braga, in the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2012, by three or four goals by the break.

And in the end they had to be thankful that Pizzi's stoppage-time effort somehow stayed out after crashing onto the inside of Alex Meret's near post.

Garcia has a difficult job following on from Italy boss Luciano Spalletti, who quit Napoli in the close season after winning their first league title since 1990.

Chances wasted

And Wednesday's win, the only one for an Italian team this week, will be welcomed by the Frenchman after a bumpy start to the campaign which has Napoli fifth in Serie A.

Victor Osimhen was the key protagonist of an action-packed first half in Portugal, unlucky not to score as Napoli created a hatful of chances.

The Nigeria forward was twice denied by Braga goalkeeper Matheus in the first 10 minutes, stopped one-on-one and then left astonished as his header was clawed out just as it looked to be crossing the line after hitting the post.

Seconds later Di Lorenzo had a header of his own kept out and in the 21st minute Osimhen nodded a glorious chance just wide from Matteo Politano's cross.

Four minutes later Osimhen thwacked a shot off the bar and just after the half-hour he thought he had earned Napoli a penalty, only for referee Serdar Gozubuyuk to award Braga a free-kick following a check of the pitch-side monitor.

But the 24-year-old was involved when Napoli finally broke the deadline in the first minute of first-half stoppage time, heading back Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's cross for Di Lorenzo who bounced in his 15th Napoli goal off the crossbar.

Braga had shown signs of being dangerous in the opening period and came further into the game as Napoli slacked off.

Ricardo Horta, who had nearly put the hosts ahead seconds after kick-off, should have done better than firing wide when presented with a great shooting opportunity in the 62nd minute.

Zielinski looked set to seal the win 11 minutes later but after arriving unmarked at the back post to meet Di Lorenzo's cross, miscued his volley, and Bruma thought he had punished Napoli when he glanced his header past Meret.

But the unfortunate Niakate threw away what would have been a precious draw and gave Napoli a win which will relieve some of the early pressure on Garcia.

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