Simone Zaza’s late strike earned Juventus a dramatic 1-0 victory over Napoli that saw them go top of the table for the first time this season after Saturday’s showdown in Turin, extending the reigning champions’ winning streak in Serie A to 15 games.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men knew they would leapfrog their opponents with maximum points, but were unable to break down the Napoli defence right until Zaza netted in the 88th minute with what could be a crucial goal in the title race.
Substitute Zaza tried his luck with an opportunistic shot from outside the box and saw his attempt take a deflection off Raul Albiol to leave goalkeeper Pepe Reina unsighted.
Plenty of spectacle was expected with two of the league’s most in-form attackers on the pitch in Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, but neither managed to make the difference.
Higuain came close once before the break after a good cross from the right, only for Leonardo Bonucci to frustrate him with a sublime defensive action. Dybala, meanwhile, got arguably the best chance of the game prior to Zaza’s winner, but fired his shot over the crossbar from a dangerous position.
The result means Juve also ended Napoli’s eight-game winning league streak and go a point clear.
Juan Cuadrado first tested Reina after 14 minutes with an ambitious shot from a difficult angle, but the Napoli goalkeeper comfortably gathered the Colombian’s attempt.
Juventus continued to dominate proceedings in the opening stages of the game and again threatened when Alvaro Morata earned a free-kick in a dangerous position, yet Paul Pogba’s well-taken shot from 25 yards out went just wide.
Elseid Hysaj sent in a sublime cross for Higuain 10 minutes before the break, but Bonucci prevented the Argentine from heading home from close range with a superb interception.
Claudio Marchisio tried his luck with a powerful shot from the edge of the box shortly after, but Reina was alert and collected with ease as it remained scoreless at half-time.
Lorenzo Insigne nearly gave Napoli a dream start to the second half, dancing past three opponents before poking a shot toward goal from a narrow angle, but Gianluigi Buffon did well to deny the winger with a good save.
Dybala should have opened the scoring on the hour mark after some good work from Pogba, but the gifted attacker aimed too high from 15 yards out as the chance went begging.
Napoli always looked for Higuain in their attempts to open up the Juventus defence, but Andrea Barzagli and substitute Daniele Rugani did well to keep the prolific attacker quiet as he failed to score for the first time in seven league games.
Marek Hamsik tried his luck from long range as the game approached the closing stages, but his powerful shot went harmlessly over the bar.
The match seemed destined to end goalless, but Zaza had other ideas when he let fly with two minutes left.
Key Opta stats:
– Gianluigi Buffon has kept seven clean sheets in 2016 – a record in the top five European leagues.
– Juventus have won 15 Serie A games in a row, a record for the Bianconeri.
– Juventus have scored 12 goals in the last 15 minutes of play this season, only Lazio (14) have a better record.
– Simone Zaza has scored four goals in this Serie A (three as sub – joint record).
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