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Rafa Benitez proud of players, unhappy with referee's penalty decisions

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Napoli coach Rafa Benitez was proud of his players after the 1-1 draw away at Sampdoria.

The Partenopei were reduced to ten men in the second half but kept fighting until the very end as they cling on to third place in the Serie A table.

"It was an important draw to achieve against a difficult Sampdoria team," Benitez said.

"I liked the reaction after going down to ten men.

"We didn't perform in the first half but we could have taken the lead through [Gonzalo] Higuain. I however liked the team in the second half, the midfield and defence worked hard as we managed to keep possession."

Napoli were denied a clear penalty when Sampdoria's Luca Rizzo brought down Raul Albiol in the penalty area as the referee waved played on much to the surprise of the Spaniard.

"Maybe we made a mistake when they scored but it's fair to say we had two clear penalties that the referee didn't give," Benitez said.

"Credit to Sampdoria but we finished the game on the attack showing a good fitness level.

"We knew we were playing against a quality and solid team, a team that is doing really well at home. We had Insigne, Michu and De Guzman out injured as well as Mertens who is still not 100% fit.

"So we are a little bit short at the moment but I prefer to focus on the important run of positive results.

"I knew this campaign was going to be intense but I'm optimistic."

Napoli host in-form Empoli on Sunday and the Spaniard knows it will not be an easy game.

"We will play one of the league's best technical teams," Benitez said.

"I don't say so because we will face them next but because I observed them. We have to be focused, that's our objective."

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