Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said his side forced Serie A leaders Juventus to adopt more negative tactics as the teams played out a tight 1-1 draw at Stadio San Paolo on Sunday.
While the league leaders took an early lead thanks to Sami Khedira’s brilliant goal, Marek Hamsik levelled for the hosts and Napoli created the better chances to go on and win the game.
The draw means Napoli are 10 points behind the defending champions, while they are only four points ahead of fourth-placed Lazio in the race for Champions League places, but Sarri was happy with his side’s display.
“When a team plays the way Napoli did tonight, a coach can go home a little cross for the result, but certainly not disappointed,” Sarri said. “Rarely in Italy have we seen Juventus struggle so much.
“The game started really badly, as going behind after seven minutes to a side like Juventus who defend so well could have really caused huge problems. However, we did very well to avoid allowing Juventus any other real chances or counter-attacks.
“Going behind to a side like Juventus could have knocked the wind out of our sails, but instead we continued to play with quality, character and style. It means this team is on the right track and if we adjust those little details, we can be great.
“I like to think Juve’s approach was also down to us, because we forced them to be defensive, we pressed them the moment we lost possession and made sure their first pass was never clean or simple. We deserve credit for that.”
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) April 2, 2017
Napoli fans jeered and whistled former striker Gonzalo Higuain on his first return to the Stadio San Paolo since joining Juventus in July 2016, but Sarri said the anger towards the Argentinian will fade over time.
“We saw each other at the end of the game, but that’s normal,” Sarri said. “The stadium was extraordinary tonight, a wonderful atmosphere, but as always the Neapolitan fans showed themselves to be very sporting.
“The jeers were inevitable for Gonzalo, they will pass with time. I am only disappointed I didn’t make these fans happy tonight, so we’ll try again on Wednesday [in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final].”
3 – Juventus have made only 3 touches in the opp box in the 1st half, joint negative record in this Serie A for the Bianconeri. Defensive. pic.twitter.com/DEyqXYAbsj
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) April 2, 2017
Hamsik agreed with Sarri’s assessment, insisting it was a credit to Napoli the way Massimiliano Allegri’s men were set up.
“It should be an honour for us to see Juventus defending like that. It shows how good we are,” Hamsik told Mediaset Premium.
“Considering how we played throughout the 90 minutes, I think we deserved something more than a point. We focused on our game and beating Juve. We only got a point, but can be content with the performances.”
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