Juventus conquered Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo for the first time in 14 years after their 3-1 win last night.
Fourth placed Napoli came into this game full of confidence after their Super Cup win over Juventus in December along with an impressive away win at Cesena. New signing Manolo Gabbiadini was on the bench while Lorenzo Insigne, Michu, Juan Zuniga and Faouzi Ghoulam were all unavailable. Stephan Lichtsteiner had an ankle problem so Martin Caceres got his first start in over three months. Andrea Barzagli, Kwadwo Asamoah and Romulo were all sidelined. The home side sat back to invite Juventus pressure with the aim of hitting them on the counter. Summer signing Jonathan de Guzman should have given Napoli the lead when a Marek Hamsik pass was deflected onto his path by Giorgio Chiellini but he ballooned over from 12 yards. The deadlock was broken by a moment of magic from Frenchman Paul Pogba whose spectacular volley from just inside the area gave Juventus the lead. Pogba has a habit of scoring spectacular goals against Napoli, and this latest one was no less stunning than his first two. Moments later Carlos Tevez did brilliantly to find the onrushing Martin Caceres whose angled drive was smothered by Rafael Cabral.
Straight after the restart Napoli started on the front foot and after going close on a few occasions they finally equalized as the impressive Dries Mertens whipped in a corner for Miguel Angel Britos to volley in from six yards with the inside of his left foot. But Juventus immediately restored their advantage when Caceres turned home Andrea Pirlo’s pinpoint delivery to give Juventus the lead. Napoli thought they had equalized when Caceres turned the ball into the back of his own net but the referee had already blown for a foul on Gigi Buffon. Napoli were furious and had plenty to say about this incident after the match. The Partenopei continued to press for the second goal and had a glorious chance when substitute Duvan Zapata capitalized on Angelo Ogbonna’s mistake to go clean through on goal but inexplicably went down rather than slotting the ball into the empty net. The Colombian was correctly booked for simulation and Juventus made sure of the three points when Chilean superstar Arturo Vidal smashed a left footed drive into the top corner in the 94th minute of the match.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis ranted on Twitter after this defeat.”We are tired of this! Juve are a strong team, so if they are helped by referees as well then they become unbeatable. It is unacceptable that with six officials they cannot see two players who are offside. Either it’s incompetence or not in good faith. These six officials have to be frozen out for a long time.”
Rafa Benitez made more controversial comments after Napoli’s defeat. “We all know Juve are a very strong side, that is beyond doubt. They taught me a phrase when facing Juventus: ‘It can happen.’ On the offside it is very difficult to tell, as Maggio is right behind Caceres, so it is very tough. It can happen. I say when the team recovered its intensity and got back into the game, we conceded that goal. It can happen.”
“I 100 per cent believe the decisions were in good faith. Chiellini is offside and jumps, so he is interfering with play. Last season it was 15cm, this time it was millimetres.”
“The Koulibaly goal that was disallowed – it can happen. Koulibaly jumped, the goalkeeper fell into him, it was Buffon’s momentum that took him towards the defender. It is not a foul. Juve are a very strong side and can win the Scudetto, but we are allowed to complain. Anyway, I don’t want to talk about refereeing decisions, especially after losing 3-1. I have the right to be angry at the way the game went, we can make all the comments and analysis we want, but in the end we still lost.”
“There was another incident too, when Buffon picked up a back-pass from Chiellini. When the team works so hard, I don’t enjoy losing like this. We give credit to Juventus because they have quality and hard work, which is why they’ve been winning for three years and will win again. Our rage comes from the fact we couldn’t play on level terms due to these errors.”
“I say that Juventus will win the Scudetto. After seeing so many Juventus games, that is all I can say.I am sorry for Roma, but I realised Juventus will win the Scudetto…”
Juventus head coach Max Allegri blasted Aurelio De Laurentiis for stirring up controversy at the end of the game.”It makes me smile, because if we start protesting at refereeing decisions then it’ll be chaos. When they go against us, everyone is happy, but when they go in our favour it’s controversy,” Allegri told Sky Sport Italia.
“In that case, shall we complain about the two incidents that went against us with Sampdoria? Mistakes happen, they are made by Coaches, players and Presidents, so why not referees? Why do we want to stir up controversy after a great game? It’s disappointing to see someone trying to stir up trouble after such a wonderful night of football. Unfortunately this is football in Italy, as nobody accepts defeat or decisions.”
“If we had to drop referees every time they made one mistake, there’d be nobody left. Are we meant to be the referees instead?”
Buffon called Napoli sore losers after the game.”After the referee blew the whistle, I told Koulibaly he fouled me and he laughed. If in such a tense moment of the game your opponent laughs, it means he knows it was a foul.”
“It can happen when someone is upset at the end of a game they lost, that they can go overboard and see reality a different way. I’m surprised, frankly, as it’s not like Benitez to say such things, but I accept it and understand his mood at this moment. It’s just a shame we always end up talking about rubbish that is bad for football and doesn’t do honour to losers or winners. I think at times silence is the best medicine, as otherwise we hurt football for no reason.”
“In football and in life, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Don’t forget three weeks ago we maintained our dignity in defeat and expected others to do the same in our position. It’s too easy to be dignified only in victory.”
Juventus director general Giuseppe Marotta has slammed Napoli after comments made following the Bianconeri’s win yesterday.”Every time Juventus win, and we get a decision in our favour it’s interpreted with suspicion. Bad decisions happen with other teams too.The teams that wins the League will be the best team, over a season decisions going for and against you even out. I haven’t spoken to De Laurentiis. I want to give credit to Napoli, a great team, and I respect De Laurentiis but every time that Juve win we’re accused of stealing and it’s something I firmly reject because it’s unacceptable.”
“Caceres being offside by millimetres reduces our performance to a series of incidents, and there’s no doubt that’s unfair on the club and the Coach. It was a well deserved victory against a Napoli side who played well, our club should be proud.”
This result saw Juventus go three points clear of second-placed Roma, who were held to a 2-2 draw by Lazio.