Napoli ease into Champions League knockout stage with win over Braga

Napoli eased into the knockout stages of the Champions League with two first-half goals in a 2-0 home win over Braga on Tuesday.

The Italian side finished second, eight points behind Real Madrid in Group C, on 10 points, while Braga held on to third place and Europa League football with four points. Union Berlin lost 3-2 to Real Madrid and finished bottom on two points.

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"Passing the group was our goal, we deserved to qualify and that's good," Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo said.

"There is a lot of work to do, to improve in some aspects, but we are playing good games, with good performances and this gives us hope for the new year."

Victor Osimhen got on the scoresheet for Napoli as they secured passage into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Napoli's opening goal came in the ninth minute when Matteo Politano's cross into the box was turned into his own goal by Serdar Saatci.

Napoli, who could afford to lose by one goal, wrapped up qualification in the 33rd minute when Victor Osimhen back heeled a Natan cross and then managed to nudge the loose ball into the net, leaving Braga needing to score four without reply.

It was Osimhen's first Champions League goal this season but the Nigeria international, who picked up the African Footballer of the Year award on Monday, did miss both games against Union Berlin through injury.

The Portugal international were quickest out of the blocks and fired an early warning when Rodrigo Zalazar's backheel in the box fell to Bruma, but the striker pulled his shot wide of the post.

The own goal was a sucker punch for Braga as Saatci's attempt at a block caught his heel and flew over the keeper Matheus, who scrambled to claw it away but the referee signalled that the ball had crossed the line.

Before Osimhen doubled the lead, Braga had a chance to equalise in the 25th minute when André Horta was allowed time and space to shoot from distance but his effort was tipped over for a corner by keeper Alex Meret.

"It wasn't easy in the group, it was important not to concede goals, great saves from Meret. We're happy for him, it's important for everyone not to concede a goal," Di Lorenzo said.

Bruma had another chance before the break but his low shot in the 44th minute was straight at the keeper.

In the second half, Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri was able to take off Osimhen and Politano with the result never in danger.

Mazzarri, who replaced Rudi Garcia in November, saw his side return to winning ways after suffering defeat in their last three games.

"I'll have to be good at making the boys understand the difficulty of being champions of Italy," Mazzarri said.

"I was interested in not conceding goals, as well as getting through. We haven't managed to feel solid, we needed balance."

Napoli, Serie A champions, reached the quarter-finals in last season's Champions League, where they were knocked out by fellow Italian club AC Milan.