Rafa Benitez was happy with Napoli’s performance against a Roma side that “put 11 men behind the ball.”
The Partenopei were beaten 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico by a Miralem Pjanic free kick and penalty, the latter leading to Paolo Cannavaro’s red card.
“I think we had a difficult opening 20 minutes, then for the rest of the first half did very well, in my view better than Roma,” Benitez told Sky Sport Italia.
“After the break we controlled everything, but with the penalty it was over. If Roma defend with 11 men behind the ball, it’s not easy to find space. We got through anyway and hit the woodwork, so were unlucky.”
Cannavaro received a second yellow card for bringing down Marco Borriello, but replays suggest they were holding each other.
“The penalty changed everything. Everyone told me it was not a penalty. You can see 50 of those tussles in every game. I am not here to say whether it was a penalty or not, as that will be down to the referees to judge.
“If we had scored with Pandev or Insigne, we’d be talking about a different match, clearly. Up until the penalty we were pinning Roma back, but that changed everything and we went down to 10 men.
“Marek Hamsik did well to find some space, especially in the second half. Christian Maggio was returning after knee surgery and in my view played well.”
Gonzalo Higuain was only a substitute and there were reports the striker told Benitez he didn’t want to start.
“I made the decision. We watch the players in every training session and I decided it was better to start with Pandev,” insisted the Coach.
“If we find space for the rapid counter-attack, then we make it difficult for anyone. We had a few chances and moved the ball around well, but against a strong side like Roma to concede a goal on the stroke of half-time and another on a penalty it becomes difficult for everyone.
“I look at the performance and in terms of character Napoli did very well this evening. I said beforehand this game would not decide the title, but clearly with the way we played tonight I’d say it was a positive evening. We played well and this bodes well for the future.”