Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A to 16 points as they defeated Napoli 1-2 on Sunday evening.
Napoli’s evening was made incredibly difficult after their goalkeeper Alex Meret was controversially sent off for a challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo just 25 minutes into the clash. Miralem Pjanic and Emre Can punished the hosts with two subsequent goals, seemingly bringing an end to the contest.
However, Napoli were given a lifeline moments after the interval when Pjanic was sent off for a second booking, levelling the game to ten players a-piece. Jose Callejon took advantage of the level playing field to find the back of the net just after the hour mark and were given the chance to draw level from the sport following a VAR review.
In yet another twist, Lorenzo Insigne smacked the post from the penalty spot and Juventus were able to hang on for the win.
Check out the full report from a dramatic evening in Naples.
Key Talking Point
The upshot was simple for Napoli heading into this one. It was imperative that they secured nothing less than a win to keep any faint hopes of winning Serie A alive – lose and they would fall 16 points behind Juventus.
The early red card for Meret made it seemingly impossible for I Partenopei to take anything away from the game, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men rallied in the second-half and were much the better side once Juventus were also reduced to ten men. Given the fact that Insigne missed a late penalty, Napoli will ultimately see this as a huge missed opportunity.
The Europa League remains I Partenopei’s main priority and, with the league out of sight, it could be the perfect chance to earn some silverware.
Starting XI: Meret (4); Malcuit (4), Maksimovic (6), Koulibaly (7), Hysaj (5); Callejon (7), Allan (6), Ruiz (7), Zielinski (6); Insigne (6), Milik (5).
Substitutes: Ospina (6), Mertens (6), Ounas (N/A).
STAR MAN – Not only is Kalidou Koulibaly one of the best centre-backs in world football, but tonight proved that he is more than capable of putting in a decent shift on the left flank.
The Senegalese defender was in inspired form, consistently driving forward to provide support to Napoli’s attacks in the second-half. Despite his tendencies to drive forward, he was rarely caught out at the back and always seemed to be in the right position at the right time.
Key Talking Point
Juventus came into this one knowing that a point would have been satisfactory in order to maintain their sizeable gap at the top of Serie A.
Despite looking to be in control at 0-2 up, things took a turn for the worse when Pjanic was given his marching orders. I Bianconeri were all over the place in midfield and found it difficult to pry the ball away from Napoli, who mounted an oppressive assault on Wojciech Szczesny’s goal. They’ll take pride in the fact that they were able to hang on to the win, but they were certainly fortunate.
Now that Serie A looks to be all but wrapped up, Massimilanio Allegri will surely be keen to focus his attentions on ending the league season unbeaten as well as finally securing the Champions League trophy.
Starting XI: Szczesny (7), Cancelo (6), Bonucci (6), Chiellini (6), Sandro (6); Can (6), Pjanic (5), Matuidi (6); Bernardeschi (5), Ronaldo (6), Mandzukic (6).
Substitutes: De Sciglio (6), Bentancur (5), Dybala (N/A).
STAR MAN – Very few players stood out for Juventus, but Szczesny was a calming influence at the back and he made a string of impressive saves to keep the Old Lady ahead.
He kept out plenty of decent looking attempts effortlessly and commanded his box impressively. It is clear to see the Polish keeper has struck up an impressive relationship with his back line and there is no reason to suggest that he can’t be Juve’s number one for years to come.
Napoli get their Europa League campaign back underway on Thursday as they welcome RB Salzburg to the San Paolo, whilst Juventus host Udinese in Serie A action on Friday evening before attempting to reverse their Champions League fortunes against Atletico Madrid.