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Napoli vs. Lazio: Final score 0-1, Napoli's season summed up in a match

Napoli's loss to Lazio was a painful microcosm of the season so far.

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The match was miserable. The performance was miserable. The result was miserable. Watching Lazio celebrate was miserable. Everything about watching Napoli lose 1-0 at home with a trip to the Coppa Italia final was miserable. But you know what? That's just kind of how things are going for the club right now.

It was a result far too typical of this club's struggles this season. The first half was something of a dull affair, but what chances there were tended to favor Napoli. They struggled mightily in the final third, though, too often having a man in space in the defense, but lacking either the support to finish a move off or the finishing touch to score himself. Gonzalo Higuain in particular had problems, with his touch or his positioning letting him down time after time. Unlike against Roma on the weekend, it didn't take a particularly great defensive performance to keep Pipita at bay, just his own individual struggles.

The best chance of the half came off a free kick, when Manolo Gabbiadini curled a shot over the wall that looked destined to beat Etrit Berisha the the low corner at the near post. It almost did, too, but the shot pulled just a hair too far and cracked off the base of the post instead of snapping the net. Lazio also had their share of chances, though their own struggles in the final third and some desperate scrambles from Napoli's defense kept them at bay.

The second half was a more wild affair, with chances racing down from end to end. There were some truly head-shaking moments for Napoli, like Dries Mertens not finishing a run that would have gifted Napoli a goal after a combination with Marek Hamsik, Gabbiadini, and a backheel from Higuain. Pipita wasn't innocent himself, with his struggles from the first half only seeming to grow as the match went on.

That gave Lazio the chance to get their feet under them and grow more in to the match, and suddenly a once-isolated from three became a rampant force, cutting Napoli's back line to ribbons over and over. Subbing in Senad Lulic seemed to make a particularly big impact, as the left winger spun Christian Maggio around time and again almost as soon as he stepped on to the pitch.

That advantage was exactly what Lazio needed to find their breakthrough, and with just a little over ten minutes to go in regulation, they got it. Felipe Anderson was allowed to waltz in to the box unmolested and virtually unchallenged, coming in from Napoli's left. Eventually, the defense started to react and close on him, and he took the chance to flick in a low cross to the far post. That cross found Lulic, who had run in seemingly unseen, moving around Maggio like he was a training dummy and tapping in to give Lazio the lead.

The sad thing is that, after scoring, Lazio's defense actually seemed to fall to pieces, inviting Napoli in to score. They almost did, with substitute Lorenzo Insigne firing in a shot that beat Berisha  with ease, but Lulic was racing back against the counter and got there in time to clear the ball away before it crossed the goalline.

Other than that, it was actually Lazio that had the best chance to score the second goal of the match, when Anderson was allowed against to just waltz in to the box unchecked. Before he could get his shot away, though, it was Marek Hamsik streaking back from halfway up the pitch to put in the last-gasp challenge to knock the ball away.

The entire thing was endlessly frustrating, and the worst part was that you could see the result coming almost all match long. Napoli now haven't won on Italian soil since late February, six weeks of endless frustration and madness and infuriating inconsistency. Such is the pit this season has fallen in to, and it's a pit that looks deeper and deeper by the week. Now with Napoli having failed to reach the Coppa Italia final, the top of that pit is getting mighty hard to see.

Napoli: Andujar: Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Inler, Gargano (Insigne 85'); Gabbiadini (Callejon 73'), Hamsik, Mertens (De Guzman 67'); Higuain

Goals: none

Lazio:Berisha; Basta, De Vrij, Mauricio, Braafheid (Cavanda 83'); Cataldi (Mauri 55'), Biglia, Parolo; Candreva (Lulic 67'), Klose, Anderson

Goal: Lulic 80'