It's over. The match, the season, Napoli's Champions League dreams, the Rafa Benitez Era, all of it. Heck, the Riccardo Bigon era too, for that matter. With that 4-2 loss to Lazio, especially after clawing back level in the second half, Napoli fans have been punched in the gut and left on the side of the road.
Normally I try to keep an air of detached professionalism in these recaps. Unless I'm bored and share a bread or curry recipe instead. I do that sometimes. But this match ... man, this match. I just can't do that today. Not after that. Not after everything we've been through, both today and all year long.
This was hard. Really hard. The first half was almost impossible to watch, with Napoli giving up two awful goals and blowing a couple great chances to score for themselves. They looked lost at sea, sinking without a hope or a sign of recovery.
Then the start of that second half -- that wonderful beacon of hope. Gonzalo Higuain scored, then Marco Parolo picked up two yellows in seven minutes and was sent off, giving Napoli a mad advantage for the last half hour! Then Higuain scored again! It was level! There was hope! Napoli fans could see the Champions League beckoning!
And just like that, with the snap of your fingers, it all changed, and it all fell apart. Faouzi Ghoulam got sent off for his own two yellow cards in just a few minutes. Pipita missed a penalty for the fourth time this season. And Lazio held on, and held on, and held on.
Just to make matters worse? Lazio scored against the run of play. Their third goal took the wind out of Napoli's sails, and when Lazio scored a fourth it almost seemed obvious that such a thing would happen, because why wouldn't it at that point?
God, hope is such a bastard.
It would be nice if Napoli could at least hold their heads high with pride after that match, but, really, they can't. Lazio were there for the taking all match long, but Napoli just never took their opportunities. And really, four goals on five total shots is completely unacceptable. That's just ... ugh.
And so Napoli's season ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper. Hopefully this time next year we'll have something to be happy about, to celebrate. This feeling, right here? This is not something I want to repeat.
Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam (red 71'); Lopez, Inler (Gabbiadini 53'); Callejon; Hamsik, Mertens (Insigne 78'); Higuain
Goals: Higuain (55', 64')
Lazio: Marchetti; de Vrij, Gentiletti, Maurico; Basta, Parolo (red 62'), Cataldi (Onazi 83'), Lulic; Candreva, Djordjevic (Klose , Felipe (Ledesma 65')
Goals: Parolo (33'), Candreva (45'+1), Onazi (86'), Klose (90'+2)
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