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The Spanish coach insists he was proud of his players' efforts in Sunday's defeat to Fiorentina and stressed Gonzalo Higuain did not react angrily to being substituted

Napoli boss Rafa Benitez has conceded that second place in Serie A may be beyond his side's reach following their 1-0 defeat to Fiorentina.

Joaquin headed home in the closing stages to snatch maximum points for Vincenzo Montella's side after Faouzi Ghoulam was sent off for the hosts.

Benitez was proud of his side's efforts, especially in the aftermath of their Europa League exit to Porto, but admitted that the eight-point gap to Roma may now be too big to bridge.

"I have to congratulate my players for what they showed in this match," he told Sky Italia.

"Clearly [second is difficult] but playing at this level we can still win a lot of games.

"Something is still missing but the team is growing. Now I have to look at all the positive things and to play a match at this level just three days after Porto is positive.

"We're prepared for the last nine games."

Gonzalo Higuain was visibly angered as he was susbtituted during the clash but Benitez insisted his reaction was simply down to frustration at how the match had gone for his side.

"No, he [Higuain] was angry about what happened in the game, not for being replaced," he added.

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