Napoli beat Arsenal 2-0, but a late Borussia Dortmund winner knocks them out of the Champions League.
A victory would’ve been enough for qualification had the Germans failed to win away to Olympique Marseille, something they only achieved 2-1 against 10 men at the 87th minute.
Pepe Reina was not even fit for the bench, so Rafael got his Champions League debut and only his second game in a Napoli jersey. Marek Hamsik, Juan Camilo Zuniga and Giandomenico Mesto missed out. Arsenal won 2-0 at the Emirates, but were without Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo, Bacary Sagna, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby. Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere were surprisingly benched.
It was practically Misson: Impossible for the Partenopei, who needed to beat the Gunners by three clear goals or better Borussia Dortmund’s result away to Olympique Marseille in order to qualify. The second option immediately seemed unlikely when Borussia took the lead after four minutes.
Goran Pandev had the first real chance when running on to an inspired Dries Mertens pass over the top, but fired straight at Wojciech Szczesny. The hosts, playing in yellow, were decisively more aggressive in the opening stages and Laurent Koscielny intercepted a dangerous Pandev pass for Gonzalo Higuain.
Rafael parried an Olivier Giroud strike at the near post and Mathieu Flamini slipped when trying to get on the rebound.
Jose Maria Callejon curled over the bar and news filtered through that Marseille had gone down to 10 men.
Christian Maggio burst into space down the right on a Higuain pass and drew out Szczesny, but the lob was over an empty net.
Pablo Armero was cutting it fine with his shoulder-charge on Flamini running into the box. Szczesny ran a huge risk before the break when he hit his clearance straight at Higuain and was fortunate the rebound didn’t beat him.
After the restart Rafael rushed off his line to clear from Giroud on the counter. Lorenzo Insigne was thrown on for Pandev and immediately set Armero through, but the finish was straight at Szczesny.
Mertens had a volley charged down, but Callejon wasted a great chance when he flashed his angled drive across the face of goal rather than pass to Insigne or Higuain.
Szczesny smothered an Insigne snapshot and Higuain blasted over the bar from a tight angle, but the pressure eventually paid off.
Higuain knocked the ball down for Callejon and turned between two defenders just inside the box to fire low into the far bottom corner. As Borussia Dortmund were still 1-1 with Marseille, as things stood Napoli would qualify at the expense of the Germans.
There was another boost moments later when Mikkel Arteta rather harshly received a second yellow for his challenge on Callejon, reducing Arsenal to 10 men.
Insigne and Mertens failed to make the most of an Armero cross from the left, but news filtered through that at the 86th minute Borussia Dortmund had finally taken the lead against 10-man Olympique Marseille.
They left it too late to turn things around, as Callejon lobbed Szczesny for 2-0 deep into stoppages. It wasn’t enough, as they needed three clear goals, but Napoli go out despite finishing joint top with 12 points.
Napoli 2-0 Arsenal
Scorers: Higuain 73 (N), Callejon 93 (N)
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Armero; Behrami, Dzemaili; Callejon, Pandev (Insigne 57), Mertens; Higuain
Arsenal: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Arteta; Rosicky (Monreal 74), Ozil, Cazorla (Ramsey 68); Giroud
Ref: Kassai (HUN)
Sent off: Arteta 76 (A)