Napoli fought back valiantly but was unable to score the winning goal and Juventus maintained its six-point lead atop Serie A after a 1–1 draw Friday at San Paolo Stadium in Naples. It was a thrilling draw, but the most satisfied are the Bianconeri.
This was Italian Serie A taking center stage: A hot night in a packed stadium with 55,000 spectators, 200 television stations connected from all over the world, a new turf, and Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri asking for earthquakes of passion from his supporters before the match to carry the Blues to a victory.
All the emotions, or nearly so, took place in the first half. Juve took the lead on 10 minutes with a header by defender Giorgio Chiellini, making his return to action for this big challenge.
Shortly before the end of the first half, Napoli struck back with a shot from outside penalty area thanks to Gökhan Inler.
“A test of personality and character,” said Juventus coach Antonio Conte on Sky TV, pointing out that the game “was very difficult.
“We were good to stay calm and keep our mind in the game. However, there are still 11 matches to be played, everything is still open, we have to be strong to be able to repeat what we did last year.
“We have six points, which is a good lead, but we still have tough obstacles: We have to go to Rome against Lazio, to Milan against Inter—in short there is no time for jokes or missteps,” Conte said.
“Then there is the Champions League that will drain us physically,” Conte said.
On the other hand Mazzarri is still positive. “Do I believe we can make up those six points on Juventus? If we can play our best, we can do get four to five consecutive victories,” Mazzari said.
The Napoli comback is thanks to the attack Edinson Cavani, Goran Pandev with Marek Hamsik behind the strikers. The strategy is clear: Intensity on the wings with the incursions of Christian Maggio and Juan Zuñiga.
Andrea Pirlo, Juventus playmaker par excellence, was almost caged, but he did not fall into the trap. The pianist played sweet music. He carefully calibrated the Juventus attacks and masterfully tamed the midfield with the tactical intelligence of a veteran champion.
The atomic ant—Sebastian Giovinco—stayed close to Mirko Vucinic and it was he that really got the match going. At the seven-minute mark, he fired a shot after an attack orchestrated by the Juventus team, weaving the action with a refined plot.
Napoli started with a proactive attitude, but they had to kneel down soon. In the 10th minute, Pirlo found some space on the left wing and focused a perfect cross for Chiellini. The Juventus defender rose imperiously from the ground and headed the goal defended by Morgan De Sanctis. It was 1–0 for Juve.
The game was wonderful. The two teams were two erupting volcanoes and the cries of the San Paolo Stadium grew bigger and bigger, when the ball was in possession of the Bianconeri.
Juve was dictating the game. In the space of three minutes, Vucinic came very close to scoring twice. First in the 15th minute, when his header touched the post, then in the 18th minute, the Montenegrin in the penalty area just in front of the Napoli goalkeeper was unable to score. An amazing De Sanctis made the save for a Juve corner.
Napoli was in trouble: They were unable to get out of the vice in which Juve began squeezing more and more intensely. They often found themselves in a hurry instead of waiting and making the ball do the work.
Juventus showed their great experience, blocking all the spaces and thwarting any attempts. The team was compact and impenetrable.
In defensive phases, strikers also move back behind the line of the ball. The Juventus defense canceled out Hamsik and left Cavani, often too high and out of the game.
Inler appeared confused and discouraged, disappointing for much of the first half, losing a lot of balls.
But in the 43rd minute, the Swiss made amends. His 30-meter slingshot deflected slightly to the left of Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal. The San Paolo exploded and like a rhino charge, Napoli emerged, besieging Juventus.
The first half ends in a glow after a flood of adrenaline that transformed the playing field into an arena of battle. Cavani was lucky to escape with only a yellow card after hitting Chiellini. The Juventus goalscorer had been harassing the Napoli striker all half.
In the second half the game cooled off. Napoli relied on shots from outside the area by Hamsik and Ilner who frustrated Buffon several times.
Midfielder Valon Behrami was a tireless workhorse for Napoli, retrieving a large amount of balls.
Juventus brought on Alessandro Matri for Giovinco and he took over the left wing, left undefended by Maggio who often remained high.
The Serie A highlight match of the week ended in a stalemate and Juve still has first place in the standings to themselves. Napoli consoles itself cashing in 2 million euros, but unable to make Diego Maradona happy. Maradona, who was in town, hoped for the victory of his beloved Italian team.
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