Juventus move three points clear atop Serie A with win over Napoli
Juventus beat Napoli at Stadio San Paolo for the first time in 15 years to pull three points clear at the top of Serie A.
Paul Pogba’s fantastic volley lit the touchpaper at a ground where reigning champions Juve have managed to lose five times since last tasting victory back in September 2000.
Defender Miguel Britos tried to prolong the visitors’ poor run in Naples by equalizing midway through the second half, but Martin Caceres hit back before Arturo Vidal confirmed Juve’s 3-1 win with a thunderous stoppage-time goal.
The victory re-establishes Massimiliano Allegri’s men as the outright leaders in the race for Scudetto after nearest challengers Roma were held to a 2-2 draw in Sunday afternoon’s city derby against Lazio.
The Bianconeri, who have reached 43 points, were also able to avenge their Supercoppa defeat to Napoli in Doha.
Despite their recent successes, Juve often appear tremulous in Naples and looked shaky in the early exchanges.
Leonardo Bonucci had to deflect Marek Hamsik’s dangerous cross out for a corner before Jonathan de Guzman blasted over from a one-on-one with Gianluigi Buffon in the 18th minute.
It therefore came as some surprise when Juve took the lead shortly before the half-hour mark.
The Bianconeri had been making up ground in the hosts’ half for some time but, when Fernando Llorente was surrounded with his back to goal after latching onto a through-ball, it looked like a good chance would go to waste.
So when the Spaniard flicked the ball up to Pogba and the young midfielder shaped his body, fans from both sides were left stunned when his perfectly struck volley fizzed off Rafael’s fingers and into the bottom corner.
Juve were brighter from that point forward and might have doubled their lead shortly before the break, defender Caceres slamming the ball against Rafael after being picked out at the far post by Carlos Tevez.
Napoli had an opportunity to equalise immediately after the break but Giorgio Chiellini blocked Jose Callejon’s attempt to convert Hamsik’s pass from deep.
There was a lengthy break in play after Chiellini clashed heads with team-mate Patrice Evra but, despite the fact he was left bloodied, the former was quickly bandaged up and felt able to continue.
Napoli did not let the pause distract them and drew level with a goal from an unlikely source on 65 minutes.
Uruguayan center-back Britos notched only his third league goal in four seasons with the Azzurri as he turned Dries Mertens’ corner home with his left boot.
A rare defender’s goal looked to have changed the game, but another would soon follow in its wake.
Barely five minutes after Napoli’s equalizer, Caceres steered Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick beyond Rafael to restore Juve’s lead.
Now the game was wide open and, with chaos reigning at both ends of the pitch, Napoli were left furious after Caceres’ clumsy own goal was ruled out due to an infringement on Buffon.
As time ticked away the ball continued to ping freely from box to box, but its final resting place was soon determined by Vidal.
Four minutes into stoppage time, the industrious Chilean unleashed a fearsome drive off his left boot that gave Rafael absolutely no chance, meaning that – for once – all three points were definitely heading back to Turin.