Napoli and Juventus are two of the top teams in the Serie A this season, and they showed it at Stadio San Paolo this Friday. Both teams animated a very intense match and even though Napoli looked slightly superior on paper, Juventus pulled the upset and secured the three points on the road, putting themselves one point away from the top spot in the Serie A standings. The lone goal in the match came in the first half thanks to Gonzalo Higuain.
Both teams decided to play with intensity right from the get go, but Juventus looked better early on. Higuain received a pass inside the box and unleashed a shot towards the right post, but Pepe Reina was stellar to deny the Argentinian’s attempt. Based on how the game started, however, it didn’t surprise anyone that Juventus broke the deadlock rather early. Paulo Dybala grabbed the deal in midfield and charged towards the box in a typical n°10 slot. The former Palermo star took advantage of a great run from Douglas Costa that generated space for Higuain, and the former Napoli and Real Madrid star did not waste the chance. Higuain found himself all alone in front of Reina, and coolly placed the ball into the back of the net. It was Higuain’s ninth goal of the current Serie A season.
The goal apparently woke Napoli up. Lorenzo Insigne had at least three clear scoring chances, but Gianluigi Buffon made three spectacular saves to keep the door shut. Insigne had a shot towards the upper corner in the 32nd minute, a header seconds after that, and another attempt from inside the box in the 37th minute. Buffon denied him time and time again, as the veteran shot-stopper ended playing a key role in Juventus’ win.
Napoli’s Reaction Wasn’t Enough
Napoli flipped the script in the second half, and adopted a more attacking approach. Mertens started to move in and out of the box, and his attacking runs complicated Juventus’ defence since they didn’t have much of a reference inside the box. Insigne created the best chances for Napoli, but unfortunately the Italy international left injured with an apparent hamstring problem. And even though Napoli never gave up until the final minutes, they lacked clarity and creativity to penetrate one of the best defences in the Serie A. They deserved better luck, that’s for sure.
Juventus only had one clear chance in the second half when Kwadwo Asamoah attempted a half volley from close range, but Reina deflected the shot. Although The Old Lady played with a counter-attacking approach for the most part, perhaps knowing the one-goal win was key since it left them just one point behind Napoli on the race for the top spot in the standings.
Napoli tried, tried and tried, but they came empty handed. They dominated possession and created far more chances, but this game showed why dominating a game does not really matter. We have seen Juventus play much better, but somehow they escaped with a huge win here simply because of their accuracy. And sometimes, winning is more important than playing well. Massimo Allegri’s men certainly showed that here.
Napoli: Reina (6); Hysaj (6), Albiol (5), Koulibaly (6), Mario Rui (5); Allan (6), Jorginho (5), Hamsik (7); Callejon (6), Mertens (5), Insigne (7)
Juventus: Buffon (7); De Sciglio (6), Benatia (6), Chiellini (7), Asamoah (6); Douglas Costa (7), Khedira (5), Pjanic (6), Matuidi (6); Dybala (7), Higuain (7)
Goals: Higuain (1-0, 12′)
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Yellow Cards: Chiellini (JUV), Mertens, Mario Rui (NAP)
Red Cards: None
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