Napoli took an early lead, but could not hold it as Villarreal came back to draw the match 1-1 and win the tie 2-1 on aggregate. It was a letdown, it was disappointing, and it continued Napoli's unfortunate recent trend of finding ways not to win.
Things seemed to get off to a fantastic start when Marek Hamsik punished Villarreal for a mistake, blasting a volley off a headed clearance from a Villarreal defender that went to exactly the wrong place. Or the right one, depending on what team you root for. Regardless, Hamsik's shot snapped the back of the net, and for awhile, there was reason for optimism in Naples.
But just like last weekend's match, the rest of the game can be summed up with the sound of flatulence.
As the match went on, Napoli got flatter and flatter, and less effective in attack. They still got forward a lot, make no mistake, but Villarreal's compact and deep defense kept them at bay by forcing Napoli to go wide and try to launch crosses -- easily their weakest attacking mode. Between that and Gonzalo Higuain getting frustrated and taking chances he shouldn't have, including one from a poor position that Vlad Chiriches was less than a second from smashing home himself from a better spot, Napoli's attack was almost completely stymied.
Then, the gut punch. On recent form, it was not a huge shock to see Napoli give up a goal against the run of play and seemingly out of nowhere. Tomas Pina fired off what looked like was intended to be a cross, but it wandered close to goal and caught Pepe Reina wrong-footed -- then nestled itself into the back of the net. Villarreal had equalized the match out of nothing, gone up on aggregate, and picked up an away goal tiebreaker.
Napoli were pretty much sunk.
They tried, and tried, and tried some more, but nothing came of their efforts. They were eliminated from the Europa League with depressing ease, and their winless spiral of poor form and agonizing performances continues. Ever since that damn goal from Simone Zaza, things have not been very fun for Napoli.
Now they need to find a way to turn things around for their match this weekend against Fiorentina. If things don't turn around soon, Napoli can kiss the title race goodbye.
On to the next.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Chiriches, Strinic (Maggio 64'); Lopez (Gabbiadini 79'), Valdifiori (Jorginho 75'), Hamsik; Insigne, Higuain, Mertens
Goals: Hamsik (17')
Villarreal: Areola; Mario , Musacchio, Ruiz, Costa; Rukavina (Castillejo 77'), Pina (Trigueros 84'), Bruno, Suarez; Soldado (Adrian 70'), Bakambu
Goals: Pina (59')