Juventus destined for Scudetto after hard fought win in Naples

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Napoli 1-2 Juventus

Juventus look certain to make it eight Scudetto’s in succession with a hard fought win over Napoli at the San Paolo Stadium.

Fans were treated to an entertaining game which saw two red cards and a penalty missed late on as both teams endure periods of dominance. The Gli Azzurri dazzled with their high paced, passing style. But it was Juventus’ efficiency in front of goal which saw them take all three points.

The opening minutes featured very little quality in the final third. Both sides had set piece opportunities from just outside the area but failed to capitalise on them. The first opportunity of real quality fell to Piotr Zielinski of Napoli, who curled an effort just wide of the post.

The match was soon paused, to pay respects to Davide Astori, the former Fiorentina and Italy defender having passed a year ago tomorrow.

20 minutes passed and there was little evidence that these were the top two sides in Italy. Neither team could muster an opportunity on goal. But the game was flipped on it’s head minutes later as Cristiano Ronaldo latched onto a poor back pass by Kevin Malcuit, and Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret took down the Portugal forward outside the area, earning himself a straight red card.

David Ospina replaced Arkadiusz Milik, and had to face the resulting free kick as his first task. Miralem Pjanic beating the wall and narrowly missing the Colombia keepers gloves to give Juventus the lead. The title, it seems, was heading back to Turin.

Lorenzo Insigne stung the gloves of Wojciech Szczęsny from range, but the man advantage Juventus had meant they kept calm in possession and reduced the effectiveness of the Napoli press.

Emre Can doubled the lead on 39 minutes, finding himself in acres of space in the penalty box to power home a header, via a deflection. The break was restbite for Napoli as the ended the half chasing shadows, with gaps appearing across the defensive line of Ancelotti’s side.

Dries Mertens was introduced at half time, replacing Malcuit as the home side looked to get back into the game.

The second half was in it’s infancy when Pjanic was shown his marching orders. A second yellow card was brandished by the referee for using his arms to stop a pass, there were little protests from the Bosnian or his teammates.

Napoli were revitalised as they were back on an even keel, Jose Callejon proving a thorn in the side of the Juventus backline. The Spaniard roamed across the forward line, utilising his pace to attack the space between the midfield and defence.

It was Callejon who got Napoli back into the game on the hour mark. Getting in behind Giorgio Chiellini to tap in from close range and bring the score to 2-1. The home side continued to knock at the door in search of an equaliser. Allan let fly from outside the box before Mertens flashed a teasing cross along the six yard box.

Fabian Ruiz began to enjoy some freedom in the middle of the park. The summer signing from Real Betis thundered an attempt at goal from 30 yards before bustling his way through several challenges but could not find a teammate with the final pass.

Mario Mandzukic made way for Rodrigo Bentancur after suffering a knock to the head from his own goalkeeper.  Manager Carlo Ancelotti opted to replace Callejon with young Algerian, Adam Ounas.

Alex Sandro was penalised for handball after the referee consulted VAR. The Brazilian full back was shown a yellow card and a penalty awarded to the home side. Insigne stepped up to take it but struck the post and the score stayed 2-1 to the Bianconeri.

Tempers flared with minutes to go as Allan and Bentancur clashed over a challenge on the recently introduce Paulo Dybala, the referee brandishing a card to each and diffusing the situation with great effect.

Napoli continued to push for an equaliser, pinning Juventus in their own half as Kalidou Koulibaly joined in the attacks for the five minutes of injury time added on by the officials.

The celebrations at the full time whistle showed Juventus know the title is all but in their hands. Napoli need to recover from this result to ensure they do not get dragged back into the scrap below them in Serie A.

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