Rafa Benitez felt “the penalty changed everything” after Napoli were flattened 3-1 by Borussia Dortmund.
“Clearly the penalty changed everything. I think we put in a great performance against one of Europe’s top clubs. To start like that a goal down after 10 minutes, then we conceded a second just after we had the chance to equalise.
“The side showed character, intensity and played at a good level.”
Qualification is now extremely difficult, as Napoli must beat Arsenal by three clear goals, assuming Borussia Dortmund maintain Olympique Marseille’s 100 per cent loss rate.
This was their third straight defeat and Napoli have lost six of their last eight away games in Europe.
“The positive aspect is the great performance, intensity, grit and determination right to the end. I think the lads did great work,” insisted the Coach on Sky Sport Italia.
“Did we allow Borussia too many scoring opportunities? That’s because we were chasing the game.
“We need to think positive. This is a team that is still growing and for long periods tonight we had the kind of performance I want to see in Serie A.
“Let’s not forget Borussia have played with the same Coach for six years and were in the Champions League Final last season.
“I saw character today and the team wanted to score and win today, regardless of the venue. Obviously Borussia are very fast and talented, so they are tough to take on.”
Benitez was asked why he chose to leave Lorenzo Insigne on the bench, especially as he scored their only goal.
“Insigne did well coming off the bench, but so does Dries Mertens, so it’s good for the team to have two players of such quality.”