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Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk vs. Napoli: Final score 1-0 (2-1 aggregate), Napoli drop the ball and fall out of Europe

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Once again, Napoli fell completely short of the mark in a huge moment, losing to Dnipro and failing to make the Europa League final.

For some reason, we have no pictures of this match. Luckily, most of last week's work just as well! *sob*
For some reason, we have no pictures of this match. Luckily, most of last week's work just as well! *sob*
Getty Images/Getty Images

That pretty much just sucked. Napoli played poorly, gave up a poor goal, and just looked poor all day long as they slumped to a 1-0 loss and fell out of the Europa League, just one step from a chance at playing in the final.

Things seemed to start brightly for Napoli, with lots of possession and a few good-looking attacks. Then the same frustrations of the first leg started to set in, with Dnipro defending resolutely, Napoli almost hapless in front of goal, and Denys Boyko standing firm in it when they did get things together.

It wasn't fun to watch.

Especially with Marek Hamsik stranded on the bench, Napoli lacked any sort of consistent creativity, and couldn't take advantage of all the space and vulnerability Dnipro were handing away in the middle of the pitch. Instead, they were forced to play much more direct, which against Dnipro's deep and tight defense played right in to the Ukrainians' hands. Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne kept getting shunted in to isolated and helpless areas out wide, Manolo Gabbiadini kept running in to brick walls, and Gonzalo Higuain was, by the end of the match, even worse than he had been in the first leg, and that performance was fairly poor.

Hamsik was finally brought on in the second half, but by then Higuain had reached the point of his frustration where he became useless, and Dnipro tightened up their midfield to account for Hamsik's presence. It wasn't long after that when Napoli surrendered a goal off a pretty poor run of defending, with Christian Maggio letting Yevhen Konoplyanka have his way with him and no one bothering to track Evgen Seleznyov's run.

Now, let's deal with the elephant in the room. Many fans felt that the goal shouldn't have been allowed, thanks to the shirt-tug on Miguel Britos that wound up pulling him over. In the end, though, the goal being allowed as it was is fine, for two reasons: first, a shirt tug against a defender in that scenario is rarely called in that situation, especially that far off the ball. That second factor is also important, because Britos really wasn't in a good position to influence the play as it developed and ended. Maybe, maybe, he could have gotten over to block Seleznyov's header, but it was awfully unlikely, shirt-tug or no.

Plus there's the fact that Napoli really should have covered every element of that play better. If the defense had actually, you know, defended properly, the whole sequence wouldn't have happened. That doesn't play in to the referee's decision, but it's hard to be too upset at the referee when he wouldn't even have had the chance to make that decision if it wasn't for that poor defending.

The rest of the match played out ... predictably. Dnipro was content to sit back and defend in numbers, though they still had the better chances of the rest of the match because Napoli's defense against the counter was poor. Napoli's better chances were mostly limited to set pieces, which Dnipro were shakier at defending. Napoli lacked their best players to attack set pieces, though, with Kalidou Koulibaly rotting on the bench and Duvan Zapata the victim of a mind-numbing decision to be left on the bench.

And so it was that Napoli were hapless and incapable of finding the equalizer they needed to force extra time. It was a truly miserable match for the partenopei, and fans were left frustrated and angry as their team failed their way out of Europe, just one step away from a cup final. The tactical haplessness is almost infuriating as the result, and is just a continuation of a long and aggravating line of such "performances" since Rafa Benitez showed up. European expert my past white Irish...

Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Lopez (Henrique 79'), Inler; Callejon, Gabbiadini (Hamsik 55'), Insigne (Mertens 61'); Higuain

Goals: none

Dnipro: Boyko; Fedetskiy, Douglas, Cheberyachko, Matos; Kankava, Fedorchuk, Luchkevich (Matheus 67'); Rotan, Konoplyanka (Gama 86'), Seleznyov (Kalinic 75')

Goal: Seleznyov (58')