Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri believes no guilt should be attached to Gonzalo Higuain’s match-winning turn against his former club Napoli at Juventus Stadium.
Argentina striker Higuain spearheaded Napoli’s bid to dethrone Juve as Serie A champions last season before making an acrimonious €90million move to Turin during the close season.
He made light of being the focus of pre-match attention against his former employers by scoring a 70th minute winner after Jose Callejon swiftly cancelled out Leonardo Bonucci’s opener for the hosts.
Allegri went on to praise Higuain, who refused to celebrate what was his first goal in five games having embraced Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri before the match got under way.
“Gonzalo has extraordinary qualities and above all works hard for the team,” he said. “He was very happy. Naturally this was a special game for him. He made a choice to come here and absolutely should not feel like a traitor. Instead, he made a courageous decision.
“He played a good game and has committed as much as [Mario] Mandzukic. They say that they cannot play together, however, I am very satisfied.”
The hard-fought victory was the Serie A leaders’ sixth on the trot at home in the league, taking them seven points clear of their opponents in third and five above second-placed Roma, who visit struggling Empoli on Sunday.
But with the season only 11 games old, Allegri refused to get carried away.
“It is an important result, but is still not a decisive one,” he said. “Roma can still aspire to the title. They are five points behind but can win tomorrow and Napoli are seven points back but can recover.
“We won a direct clash against a team that plays beautiful football.
“This match was hard-fought, intense and quite balanced and in the second half we ran a few risks with one-against-one situations.
“The game was a little bland in terms of tempo at first, but the intensity stepped up. There were few scoring opportunities – as is natural in these big, top-of-the-table matches.
“I liked the second half, we created and conceded a goal that might have been avoided, but I am satisfied.”
Juventus’ other goalscorer, Bonucci, also admitted that it had been a tough night for the hosts and insisted that they had shown great character to grind out the win.
“It wasn’t a great performance and the credit for that goes to Napoli,” he said.”What mattered was winning and channelling our determination. We are happy with the three points.
“We want to be at the top in Italy and in Europe. We want to win and this is the right attitude.”
Next on the agenda for the Turin side is Wednesday’s home Champions League clash with Lyon, followed by a league trip to Chievo on Sunday.
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