Hauge strikes as Milan edge 10-man Sparta

Napoli run out to massive win at Wolfsburg


Rafael Benitez's Napoli all but booked their place in the Europa League semifinals with a stunning 4-1 win over Wolfsburg in Germany on Thursday night.

Gonzalo Higuain scored the first before Marek Hamsik helped himself to a brace in the first leg of this last-eight clash.

Substitute Manolo Gabbiadini piled on the misery as the visitors inflicted a first home defeat on their opponents since they lost to Everton in November.

Nicklas Bendtner grabbed a late consolation for the hosts, but they looked a completely different side to the one which brushed aside Inter Milan in the last round.

The Italians, with boss Benitez celebrating his 55th birthday, were two up after 23 minutes and the Wolves could find no way back, although they did appear to have a strong claim that Higuain's opener should have been disallowed for handball.

Wolfsburg are flying in the Bundesliga, well clear in second place behind Bayern Munich and looking all set for Champions League qualification.

But they were caught cold after 15 minutes when Higuain brought Dries Mertens' ball in from the left under control before poking it first time past Diego Benaglio. Replays showed the Argentinian had controlled the pass with his upper right arm, but the goal was allowed to stand.

Higuain was involved again when Napoli made it two and this time there was no debate as his perfectly-weighted through-ball picked out the run of Hamsik, who finished first time past the exposed Benaglio.

Andre Schurrle almost pulled one back on the stroke of half-time, but the former Chelsea man's shot crashed back off the bar.

Instead things got worse for the home side in the 64th minute as Hamsik made it 3-0, tapping home after Jose Maria Callejon had capitalised on some woeful defending to break into the area and square the ball to him.

Gabbiadini headed home number four 13 minutes from time from Lorenzo Insigne's left-wing cross.

Wolfsburg were dead and buried, but they did at least get on the score sheet in the 80th minute, with former Arsenal man Bendtner on hand to knock the ball home after a fine run by Ivan Perisic.

There was still time for Gabbiadini to almost get a fifth for the visitors, only to be denied by the bar.

Four away goals and a three-goal cushion was still some effort, though, as Wolfsburg were left facing a Herculean task to try and turn the tie around in the second leg.

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