Rafael Benitez failed to deliver Champions League place to Napoli as his final act before leaving the Serie A club for pastures now ended in a 4-2 defeat at home to Lazio.The coach’s last game in charge of Napoli ended in a dramatic defeat to Lazio which cost his side the chance of qualification for the Champions League. The defeat meant Napoli failed to qualify for the top tier tournament.
Benitez announced on Thursday he would be leaving Naples following this match, and was presented with a red horn before kick-off, a symbol of good luck in Italian culture.
The game ended in disappointment after Gonzalo Higuain’s missed penalty in their Serie A finale. From 2-0 down at half-time, hetried to make turnaround as he scored twice in a thrilling fightback but then missed a penalty.Substitutes OgenyiOnazi and MiroslavKlose then scored as Lazio won it. Lazio snatched the win with two goals on the counter-attack in the final five minutes, meaning the visitors to the Stadio San Paolo will make their Champions League match in the next season.
Lazio were three points clear in third place heading into Sunday night’s end-of-the-season encounter in Naples but the hosts’ superior head-to-head record meant a win would see the teams swap places.
Andrea Belotti’s last-gasp goal for Palermo spoiled Roma’s end-of-season party but the 2-1 defeat could not take away the joy of finishing second in the table.Palermo have enjoyed a promising return to the top flight and proved to be unfazed by the bright lights of the StadioOlimpico by taking the lead through a first-half Franco Vazquez penalty.
On the other hand, Marcello Lippi expects ‘a final’ between Napoli and Lazio, but says the game is ‘hard to decipher’.“Napoli-Lazio truly is a final,” he said. “Both teams come to this game in a manner that isn’t completely brilliant, while undergoing a bit of a particular moment.“Lazio, on the other hand, exceeded their expectations. Now we’ll have to see who’s got the most left in them.”
The Champions League awaits Benitez at the Bernabeu, providing his takeover does not fall through, but he was unable to drag Napoli to Europe’s prestigious competition with him.Napoli, like Madrid, missed out on silverware this year, and whistles rang around the Stadio San Paolo after full-time, despite Benitez coming close to an incredible comeback in his send-off.