Skip to content

Swansea and Napoli show Europa League nights are about to get good

Feb 20, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

Britain Soccer Europa League AP

For much of the year the Europa League is scoffed at.

The bigger teams wouldn’t be seen dead competing in it, the medium sized teams use it as a reserve league for their squad players and there are a few smaller clubs who take it seriously.

Let’s face it, the Europa League lives a tough life as the UEFA Champions League towers over it, as the competition generally gets a pretty bad rep as the smaller brother.

And in case you didn’t know, the eight teams who finish third in their respective groups during the Champions League group stage are bumped down to the Europa League for the Round of 32 action. That means Europe’s second-tier continental tournament suddenly becomes awash with talented teams that didn’t quite make the cut in the UCL.

(MORE: Europa League holds draw for knockout round and Round of 16)

Such teams this season include reigning Italian champions Juventus, Dutch powerhouse Ajax and the extremely unlucky Napoli who somehow failed to qualify for the UCL knockout rounds, after becoming the only team in history to gain 12 points and not make the next stage of Europe’s top club competition.

Instead Napoli had to settle for a spot in the Europa League, and they faced a fired-up Swansea team at the Liberty Stadium on Thursday in an entertaining 0-0 draw. Yes, there were no goals. But the tempo of the game was impressive as both teams went for broke in an enthralling game.

In the first half the home side came flying out of the traps, as Swansea’s Nathan Dyer curled an effort towards the top corner but was denied, Wilfried Bony smashed over and had a shot well saved by Napoli ‘keeper Rafael Cabral, while just before the break Ashely Williams had acres of space in the box but headed over at the back post. At the other end Marek Hamsik smashed in a shot that Michel Vorm saved superbly, as the end-to-end action continued for the entire opening half. After the break Swansea’s tide of chances continued as Williams had another effort at the back post and then Wayne Routledge saw his shot saved superbly by former Liverpool ‘keeper Pepe Reina, who came on at half time following an injury to Cabral. Swansea kept pushing, but the fact that this game ended scoreless was neither here nor there.

(MORE: Much-changed Tottenham fall to Dnipro, as squad players struggle)

The cut and thrust of knockout soccer on the European stage was exciting and as goals flew in across the rest of Europe, the Europa League came to life again. For most of the group stage games, empty stadiums saw placid games play out as many teams used this competition as an afterthought. But now that some of the biggest clubs in Europe find themselves ensconced in a second-tier tournament, they don’t want to be embarrassed by so-called smaller teams, and smaller teams want to embarrass them.

If this Swansea vs. Napoli tie is anything to go by, Thursday’s between now and May mean we are in for a real soccer treat.

Latest Posts
  1. Watch Live: Sporting KC vs. Philadelphia Union (Lineups and Discuss)

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:56 PM EDT

    KCPhilly Getty Images

    Two Eastern Conference teams on unbeaten streaks meet at Sporting Park in Kansas City.

  2. Wenger says Arsenal defender Vermaelen could be on the move this summer

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT

    Vermaelen Getty Images

    The Arsenal captain saw his games drop significantly last season, and would be a fantastic grab for Manchester United.

  3. Norwich striker Van Wolfswinkel close to St. Etienne loan, manager confirms

    Aug 1, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    VanWolfswinkel Getty Images

    After a very disappointing debut season with Norwich City, the Dutch striker is off to France.

  4. Olave suspended two matches, Cahill and Morales fined for incident Wednesday

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT

    Morales AP

    A head-scratching moment by the New York defender cost him two games, while the ensuing melee dug into the wallets of others.

  5. Learn the chants for every Premier League team!

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT

    Countdown15

    With helpful videos, NBC is getting you ready for the upcoming Premier League season just days away!

  6. Crimean conflict envelops soccer as Russia and Ukraine each lay claim to clubs

    Aug 1, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT

    Ukraine AP

    Despite reports to the contrary a month ago, it appears the newly-added Crimean clubs will indeed play in the Russian leagues next season.

  7. Reports: Frank Lampard likely to take a short-term loan at Manchester City

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:52 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    After 13 years at Chelsea, there’s a good chance Frank Lampard could play at Stamford Bridge again…in a lighter shade of blue.

  8. Updated team-by-team list of Premier League transfers this summer

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:18 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 2.48.16 PM

    Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham are among the teams who’ve loaded up on talent.

  9. VIDEO: Comedian Mike Myers talks Liverpool love, North American soccer

    Aug 1, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT

    article-2711446-2024907900000578-802_634x402

    Myers and actor Daniel Craig were among the luminaries on hand to watch Liverpool take on Manchester City at Yankee Stadium.

  10. Friday transfer rumor roundup: Latest on Hummels, Lampard’s City loan?

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Frank Lampard AP

    Silly season has reached an absurd level, with even sports books creating rumors out of club links.

  11. US U23 list for Bahamas camp unveiled as Olympic prep continues

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Lee Yong, Luis Gil AP

    Birmigham City defender Will Packwood and Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropper are on the list of U-23 stars preparing for the Bahamas.

  12. Guus Hiddink to Netherlands headlines trio of new international hires

    Aug 1, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    dick-advocaat AP

    Serbia and the Ivory Coast also tab new bosses as the race for continental and world glory continues.

  13. Red card salute, swear jar donations help fund for slain Michigan ref

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Soccerly Soccerly

    Fans of Detroit City FC helped raise money for slain Michigan referee John Bieniewicz via a “swear jar”, then saluting him with silent red card salute.

  14. Europa League penalty miss from Tom Huddlestone is hard to watch

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    York City v Hull City- Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    A great save followed up by an awful rebound, as Hull draws Trencin 0-0 in its Europa League debut.

  15. Jenkinson, Hangeland, Ferreyra all find new Premier League homes

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Brede Hangeland AP

    West Ham, Crystal Palace and Newcastle have all added players for 2014/15, according to reports.

  16. New York City FC could be a proving ground for Man City youth

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT

    NYCFC Lampard Soccer AP

    Would City’s best prospects playing in MLS be a boon for the league, or lend the league a minor league image it’s trying to escape?

  17. Liverpool set to land Sevilla, Atletico Madrid backs to boost defense

    Aug 1, 2014, 8:36 AM EDT

    Spain v Bolivia - International Friendly Getty Images

    Alberto Moreno of Sevilla is the key cog of the pair, appearing 40-plus times for Sevilla in its run across La Liga and the Europa League.

  18. Report: Red Bulls meet Ronaldinho’s reps; Reunion with Henry coming?

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:57 AM EDT

    Ronaldinho AP

    Brazilian outlet UOL says Ronaldinho could be on his way to Major League Soccer, as the Red Bulls up the ante in NY rivalry.

  19. MLS weekend preview: Conference leaders, surging Galaxy take to NBC, NBCSN

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:03 AM EDT

    graham_zusi Getty Images

    A nine-match weekend sees MLS return to NBC, with NBCSN set to broadcast games in Kansas City, San Francisco.

  20. José Mourinho insists Chelsea needs Fernando Torres

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    Chelsea's Fernando Torres celebrates scoring a goal against Manchester City during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London Reuters

    Manager remains insistent the Spanish international will stay at Stamford Bridge.