April 19, 2021

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Juventus hold on for crucial win over Napoli in top four race

Juventus held on to secure crucial 2-1 win over Napoli in Turin after Lorenzo Insigne’s 90th birthdaye a one-minute penalty threatened to provoke a late retaliation.

Cristiano Ronaldo 25e League goal of the season put his side in the lead with 13 minutes on the clock, before Paulo Dybala’s return added a second shortly after coming on in the second half.

Insigne calmly sent in his penalty as the game entered injury time, after Giorgio Chiellini collided with Victor Osimhen, but there was no more drama as Juventus held on to secure all three points.

The Bianconeri faced each other on Wednesday night without a win in their last two Serie A outings following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Torino.

Andrea Pirlo made two changes to his side of the Derby della Mole with Gianluigi Buffon and Adrien Rabiot, replacing Wojciech Szczesny and Dejan Kulusevski.

Juventus: Buffon, Danilo, de Ligt, Chiellini, Sandro, Cuadrado, Bentancur, Rabiot, Chiesa, Morata, Ronaldo

Napoli headed north to Turin in a rich vein of form with Saturday’s spectacular 4-3 win over Crotone, six wins in seven across all competitions for the Partenopei.

Gennaro Gattuso made six changes to Saturday’s squad as Kalidou Koulibaly, Amir Rahmani, Elseid Hysajs, Diego Demme, Hirving Lozano, Piotr Zielinski all returned to the starting XI.

Konstantinos Manolas, Nikola Maksimovic, Mario Rui, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Matteo Politano and Victor Osimhen fell on the bench.

Naples: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Hysajs, Ruiz, Demme, Lozano, Zielinski, Insigne, Mertens

It was the home side that started the strongest, and Juventus really should have been ahead within two minutes as Ronaldo headed wide with the goal at his mercy, after a brilliantly whipped cross from Danilo.

However, it only took the five-time Ballon d’Or winner 10 minutes to make amends, as he guided the opening game of the games in the 13th minute.

Federico Chiesa showed off brilliant work on the right side as he glanced past Demme and cheated on Hysajs before cutting the ball off for Ronaldo to strike home.

Cuadrado showed nimble footwork to dance past three Napoli players moments later, however, the Colombian took power and his shot was fired directly at goalkeeper Alex Meret.

Napoli’s first real chance of the game came five minutes before half-time, as Insigne found himself with space on the edge of the box and his diving shot flew just above, with Buffon scrambling.

Claims for a Napoli penalty on the stroke of half-time were quickly dismissed by referee Daniele Doveri as he failed to see sufficient contact from Alex Sandro on Zielinski.

Gattuso’s men came out strongly in the second half, and Insigne deftly held down three Juventus players before sliding Giovanni Di Lorenzo down the right side in the 48e minute, but the effort of the right-back was repelled by the grateful Buffon.

Cuadrado’s second chance of the game came 10 minutes into the second half, as Ronaldo’s smart turn and pass sent Alvaro Morata face to face with Koulibaly who caught up with the winger, only to its effort to illuminate away from the target.

As the game drew on time, Buffon cleverly saved d’Insigne at his nearby post after the Napoli captain showed quick feet to get away from Matthijs de Ligt in the box.

Dybala made his long-awaited return to Juve’s side replacing Morata with 20 minutes remaining, and it was the Argentine who extended the old lady’s lead moments later.

The forward, hampered by injuries and illnesses this season, made it a dream comeback as he picked up Rodrigo Bentancur’s ball in the box and buckled a glorious effort around Koulibaly in the far left corner.

His emotions were clear as he roared towards the corner flag before being assaulted by his teammates.

Paulo Dybala is mobbed by his teammates after his return from sideways goal

Juventus’ second goal of the game seemed to have settled the tie, but their seemingly comfortable victory seemed to be in question when Napoli received a penalty in the later stages.

Chiellini recklessly fell on Osimhen after the replacement walked away from de Ligt’s initial challenge.

Insigne was right on the spot by sending his penalty to the lower left corner, sending Buffon the wrong way in the process.

However, there was not to be any final twist in the tail as the reigning champions held on for three crucial points, moving up to third place.

Napoli remains fifth in the Serie A standings, two points behind Atalanta, which occupies last place in the Champions League.

Man of the match: Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa’s brilliant work on the right wing allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to score his 25th league goal of the season.

In a completely disappointing season for the Turin giants, who look set to give up their nine-year Scudetto reign, Chiesa has posed as a silver lining throughout.

The right winger’s brilliant trickery to strike Ronaldo added to the first game he scored in Saturday’s draw in Turin.

The loaned Fiorentina winger now has 17 goals in 27 Serie A appearances this season, scoring eight and registering nine assists.

However, as efficient as the playmaker is on the ball, his movements and pace of work have been clear throughout the 2020/21 campaign.

The 23-year-old was the first with every shot lost, always keen to shake things up as he terrorized the Napoli defense throughout.

He is, without a doubt now one of the first names for Pirlo on the squad sheet, and will prove essential in Juventus’ push to a successful end to the season.

After that?

Both teams are back in Serie A this weekend on Sunday, as Juventus face Genoa (2 p.m.) while Napoli face a trip to Sampdoria (2 p.m.).

Also read: 2020/21 Champions League quarter-final – Results and highlights