NEWS
Wednesday April 5 2017
Coppa: Higuain ends Napoli hopes

Napoli won 3-2 on the night, but Gonzalo Higuain’s brace at the Stadio San Paolo sent Juventus through to the Coppa Italia Final 5-4 on aggregate.

See how the entire evening unfolded on the LIVEBLOG.

These sides had already met here three days ago for a 1-1 Serie A draw, but this was the fight to see who’d take on Lazio for the Coppa Italia Final. The first leg ended 3-1 in Turin amid controversy, so the Partenopei needed a 2-0 win tonight to go through on away goals.

There were numerous changes from Sunday’s game, including the return of Pepe Reina from a calf injury, Arkadiusz Milik replacing Dries Mertens, Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado stepped in with Mario Mandzukic unavailable.

In the opening stages it was wide open, as Leonardo Bonucci made a decisive last-ditch tackle after Lorenzo Insigne had already skipped past Dani Alves, then Reina rushed out to meet a risky Amadou Diawara back-pass.

On 12 minutes it would’ve been a stunning goal for Napoli, as Milik’s back-heel flick saw Insigne roll across for Jose Callejon, only to fire straight at Neto from point-blank range.

There was a double howler, as Vlad Chiriches rolled a terrible back-pass straight to Tomas Rincon, who did even worse by blasting over undisturbed from 12 yards.

Moments later, Juve did take the lead, as Higuain’s shot from 20 metres went through Chiriches’ legs and Reina got down very late as it squirmed into the near bottom corner. Pipita celebrated by turning to the stands and pointing to where Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis usually sits. Higuain had made the same gesture during the warm-up, seemingly telling the fans to blame the patron for his departure.

Napoli fought back, Marek Hamsik’s volley going wide, then Alex Sandro made a decisive interception as Callejon tried to control an Insigne chipped pass.

Kalidou Koulibaly nodded a free kick over the bar in stoppages. After the restart, Milik’s screamer from distance whistled just wide, then Neto got down to palm Milik’s header off the line.

Moments later Insigne’s pass ricocheted into the path of Hamsik just inside the box and he wasted no time drilling in at the near post to equalise.

Just as Napoli were pouring forward with shots from Insigne and Hamsik, Juve struck on the counter-attack. Cuadrado pulled back an intelligent pass and Higuain again got in front of Chiriches to sweep into the roof of the net from 12 yards, completing his double.

Sarri introduced Dries Mertens for Milik and the little Belgian scored with his first touch, pouncing on a terrible howler from Neto, who tried to control a throw-in with his feet. Mertens had been on the pitch for 10 seconds.

It sparked a reaction, as Callejon pulled back for Insigne to fire in at the base of the near post from seven yards and give Napoli the lead for the first time.

Mertens curled well over and Sarri threw on Leonardo Pavoletti, who harassed Neto into another error with his feet, but this time the goalkeeper got away with it.

A Mertens back-heel flick send Elseid Hysaj down the right and Andrea Barzagli crucially intercepted the pass for Pavoletti. Miralem Pjanic was booked and will be suspended for the Final, but Napoli were pouring forward and Pavoletti’s turn and strike was deflected just over the bar.

On the night Napoli won, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to stop Juventus reaching their third consecutive Coppa Italia Final.

Napoli 3-2 Juventus (4-5 agg)

Higuain 32, 58 (J), Hamsik 53 (N), Mertens 61 (N), Insigne 67 (N)

Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Chiriches, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Zielinski (Allan 81), Diawara, Hamsik (Pavoletti 75); Callejon, Milik (Mertens 61), Insigne

Juventus: Neto; Dani Alves, Bonucci, Benatia, Alex Sandro; Rincon (Pjanic 70), Khedira; Cuadrado, Dybala (Barzagli 75), Sturaro (Lemina 85); Higuain

Ref: Banti

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