Nilmar and Giuseppe Rossi scored in the final minutes of the first half to cancel out Marek Hamsik’s 18th-minute opener and secure the Yellow Submarine’s progression to the last 16 of the competition where they will meet Bayer Leverkusen.
Napoli captain Hamsik nodded the visitors in front with a deftly-taken diving header, as Villarreal’s defence was caught napping at a corner. The hosts’ back line moved forwards in a hideously misjudged attempt at an offside trap, leaving Hamsik at the head of a queue of four sky blue shirts waiting to nod the ball past Diego Lopez.
Given that Villarreal had only scored two goals in its five previous matches and Napoli were controlling possession, the picture looked grim for Juan Carlos Garrido’s side. However, Villarreal goalkeeper kept his side in the match in the first half, foiling Ezequiel Ivan Lavezzi from close range in the 28th minute, before tipping a thunderous striker from Hassan Yebda around his left-hand post three minutes later.
Bu then three minutes before half-time, Borja threaded a good pass towards the overlapping Nilmar who scored across De Sanctis.
With the score level at a goal apiece, the visiting side were still in the driving seat for the tie – heading into the last 16 of the Europa League courtesy of their away goal – until Rossi popped in the final seconds of added time.
Nilmar won the ball superbly and fed Borja. For the second time the Spanish international passed with vision and Rossi’s goal-bound shot deflected over the custodian.
Napoli’s response was admirable, substitute Edinson Cavani performing heroically, hitting the post with a fearsome shot and generally causing havoc. Lavezzi also struck the frame of the goal, direct from a 76th-minute corner but to no avail.