Juventus went 16 points clear at the top of Serie A after coming through a second-half onslaught at Napoli to win 2-1 in an engrossing match that saw both sides have a man sent off and the hosts miss a late penalty.
First-half goals from Miralem Pjanic and Emre Can were enough for Juve to sneak the three points, with Jose Callejon pulling one back just after the hour mark and Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne crashing an 84th-minute penalty against the post.
From the first minute the atmosphere at San Paolo was nothing short of electric and cagey, and that was evident when Emre Can was brought down on the edge of the box in the fourth minute by Hysaj. A free-kick was awarded to Juventus, which saw Cristiano Ronaldo play it short with a back-heeled pass to Miralem Pjanic, who then saw his effort hit the wall.
Zielinski came close to opening the scoring when he pounced on a defensive error. It allowed him to fire from inside the box, only to see it skip wide of Szczesny’s goal. Juventus’ first shot at goal came in the 20th minute when he was fed the ball. He turned the defender and fired high at goal, however, it was offside.
The game was delicately poised, and it saw both teams go at it. Napoli were sentenced to 10 men in the 24th minute when Meret was deemed to have brought down Ronaldo on the edge of the box to , with the goalkeeper being shown an immediate red card. Milik was then sacrificed to allow David Ospina to come on, and his first call to action was to defend a set-piece on the edge of the area. Pjanic stood over the ball and struck a wonderfully curling free-kick that sailed over the wall and glided into the back of Ospina’s net to make it 1-0 in favour of the Bianconeri.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side almost responded immediately through Zielinski, who broke free of the defence and fired a low drive that rattled the upright. Juventus then doubled the lead in the 39th minute when Bernardeschi fed in a cross into the box after a short corner. His effort is met by Can, who headered it into the back of the net.
Juventus were also reduced to 10 men when Pjanic was shown a second yellow card for what was deemed an intentional hand ball, at the start of the second half. Napoli pulled one back on the stroke of the hour when Callejon tapped in from a yard out after he connected onto the end of Insigne’s cross.
Massimiliano Allegri made an immediate change by bringing on Mattia de Sciglio in place of Cancelo. Napoli started to pile on the pressure and forced Szczesny into making a crucial save off Zielinski’s shot at the near post. Mandzukic was then forced into a substitution after picking up an injury, and he was replaced by Rodrigo Bentancur.
The referee awarded Napoli a penalty in the 84th minute, after it was deemed that Alex Sandro had handled the ball in the box. Insigne stood up to take the spot-kick but couldn’t find the equaliser as his effort struck the upright. The final minutes of the game saw both teams battle it out, but Juventus held on to secure another victory and further extend their lead at the top of the table.
Juventus XI: Szczesny; Cancelo (De Sciglio ‘60), Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Emre Can, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi (Dybala ‘84), Mandzukic (Bentancur ’73), Ronaldo
Substitutes: Perin, Pinsoglio, De Sciglio, Caceres, Barzagli, Rugani, Spinazzola, Bentancur, Dybala, Kean.
Napoli XI: Meret; Malcuit, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Callejon (Younes ’77), Allan, Fabian, Zielinski; Milik (Ospina ‘26), Insigne
Substitutes: Ospina, Karnezis, Chiriches, Ghoulam, Luperto, Mario Rui, Diawara, Verdi, Ounas, Mertens, Younes
Image: Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (R) celebrates with his teammates his side’s second goal during the Italian Serie A football match between Napoli and Juventus on March 3, 2019, at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples.CARLO HERMANN / AFP