Rafael Benitez lamented his team’s errors as Napoli crashed out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, losing 3-1 to Athletic Club in Bilbao, and ultimately losing the two-game series 4-2 on aggregate. According to reports in Italy, the exit will cost the club between 20 ($26.4 million) and 25 million euros ($33.9 million).
“We took the lead, but in a few minutes we made some important mistakes and lost control of the game,” Benitez told Sport Mediaset. “We made mistakes on all three goals. Those goals allowed Athletic to gain confidence and we lost ours. Do I blame anyone? No, these are mistakes that happen. These can happen – they are not normal, but they happened anyway. We had worked over the week on specifics like corners, but we still made mistakes and clearly still have work to do.”
Meanwhile, Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde hailed an “historic day” for the Basque club, which enters the UCL group stage for the first time in 16 years. “Of course we kept calm, as we had prepared to face a difficult game against a great team like Napoli,” Valverde said. “The difference was made by the crowd at the San Mames, as they helped push the players on tonight and we kept faith in ourselves.”