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May 14 (Reuters) - Outsiders Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk reached their first European final when striker Yevhen Seleznyov’s header gave them a 1-0 win over Napoli in their Europa League semi-final, second leg on Thursday.
The Ukrainians, backed by a fervent sell-out crowd at Kiev’s Olympic stadium, completed a 2-1 aggregate win after drawing 1-1 in last week’s first leg when Seleznyov was also on target.
They will face holders Sevilla in the May 27 final in Warsaw after the Spaniards beat Fiorentina 2-0 away to wrap up a 5-0 aggregate triumph on a bad night for the Italians.
It was a remarkable acheivement for a side who have never won the Ukrainian league and had to play all their home games in Kiev due to their city’s proximity to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Dnipro were playing their 18th match of a campaign which began on July 30 in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
Napoli’s defeat continued a frustrating season which saw them lose a Champions League qualifier to Athletic Bilbao and a Coppa Italia semi-final.
Rafael Benitez’s side are fourth in Serie A after an inconsistent campaign, although they could still qualify for the Champions League.
“I think over the two legs we created enough chances to score the goals we needed,” Benitez told Sport Mediaset.
“It’s disappointing that we lost after so much control and so many chances when a goal would have changed everything.”
Dnipro goalkeeper Denys Boyko, who denied Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain four times in Italy, foiled the Argentine twice in the first half to keep the sides level at halftime.
Seleznyov struck just before the hour and the hosts defended with their customary tenacity to see out the game.
Boyko has been a key figure throughout Dnipro’s campaign was again fundamental to their performance on a pitch made treacherous by driving ran.
Napoli began well and Gokhan Inler sent Higuain clear but the forward’s shot was too near Boyko, who made a one-handed save to deny the visitors an early goal.
Higuain’s frustration continued when he met Faouzi Ghoulam’s pinpoint cross with a glancing header which was heading for the far corner until Boyko tipped the ball away.
Dnipro broke through in the 58th minute when Yevhen Konoplyanka floated over a cross from the left and Seleznyov, despite grappling with Miguel Britos, managed to head the ball into the net.
Dnipro cleared a looping Higuain effort off the line and held on for a famous victory. (Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)