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Sunday March 3 2019
Everybody wins and loses in Naples

Juventus practically secured the Scudetto, writes Gaby McKay, but Napoli might emerge from this match with more satisfaction.

At the very least the Scudetto race didn’t end with a whimper. At half-time at the San Paolo it seemed that was exactly what would happen, Kevin Malcuit selling Alex Meret short in a sequence of play which saw the goalkeeper sent off and Miralem Pjanic scoring the resulting free-kick.

It was a moment of madness from the Frenchman, and while the contact on Cristiano Ronaldo was minimal, Gianluca Rocchi was left with no choice but to dismiss the Napoli ‘keeper. When Emre Can added the second, it looked like the rest of the match would be a procession, but the second half proved to be something of a classic.

Carlo Ancelotti boldly switched to a back three, withdrawing the hapless Malcuit and going hell for leather. His cause was helped when Pjanic saw red for a stupid handball, and thereafter the Partenopei dominated the game.

Juve were pinned into their own box for almost all of the second half, and it looked like only a matter of time until the equaliser came. It didn’t, and the title race is now over, if it was ever really alive, but oddly it will be Napoli who take more satisfaction from this match.

Everyone knows on which side Juventus fall when it comes to the old ‘beauty or results’ debate. Ideally you’d have both, but this is a club whose shirts have borne the words of club legend Giampiero Boniperti, who famously said that winning “is the only thing that matters”.

By that score tonight was a triumph for Massimiliano Allegri’s side. They inflicted on Napoli their first home defeat in a year, and moved 16 points clear at the top of Serie A in the process. The Old Lady will be crowned queen of Italy once again, the only question now is when the coronation ceremony will take place.

And tonight’s performance raised more questions than it answered. The Bianconeri were once again anaemic in midfield, with Emre Can particularly guilty of giving away possession in stupid positions. Allegri’s side no longer look capable of controlling a game, and on this form it’s hard to see how they can overcome a 2-0 deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

In previous seasons the Coach has found a magic formula after the winter break to spur Juve on at the business end of the season, but this still looks like a squad winning matches with individual brilliance rather than any cohesive plan. The results have been impeccable, domestically at least, but you’d have to cast your mind back a long time to identify the last match in which the Bianconeri actually played well.

And so to Napoli, who basically surrendered the Scudetto on their own patch and yet have plenty to be pleased with. Even with 10 men the Partenopei matched Juve for long spells, and when Pjanic evened things up, they dominated the match.

There will be regrets about Lorenzo Insigne’s missed penalty, though those of a Juve persuasion may argue justice was done.

Does anyone actually know what constitutes handball anymore? The rulebook will tell you only deliberate handball should be punished by a penalty, but there’s surely no way Alex Sandro’s handling offence could have been intentional. Yet Rocchi’s VAR assistants deemed it worthy of a review, and the man himself then pointed to the spot, just as happened with Fiorentina-Inter last week. If referees are being advised to give penalties for unintentional handball, then it’s surely something which should be shared with the rest of us.

In the end it didn’t matter, Insigne’s shot hit the post and Juve ensured the Scudetto will remain under lock and key for another season. Even then there’s a sense of ennui around the Bianconeri, one which will only deepen if and when Atletico complete the job in the Champions League.

Allegri, brilliant as he’s been, appears to be nearing the end of his era, and it seems even Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be enough to deliver the Champions League. There’s a certain melancholy behind the Old Lady’s smile, even on a night when she won the Scudetto.

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Have your say...
Is it too much to ask for a Juventus match that doesn't involve any kind of controversy? Why is it so hard?
on the 5th March, 2019 at 5:31pm
@david ferrini, are you mad?
Referees are terrified of being perceived as pro-juve they make horrible decisions each week against them. How was koulibaly not given a second yellos for kicking out his frustrations on Dybala? Not to mention that horrendous penalty decision at the end. Fortunately justice was done with insigne missing. Where are you to call out these errors?
on the 5th March, 2019 at 1:27pm
you wanna change serie - A ? then change your fking management haters - JUVE FANS, its disguisting when you always blame ref and juve everytime you can keep along with juve in a table.
on the 5th March, 2019 at 2:08am
AC Milan will win the UCL again before Juventus ever does. I think they are at most 3 more Juvescudettos away from winning it again;-)
on the 4th March, 2019 at 8:58pm
You are not allowed to call out refereeing blunders and one sided officiating just look at La Giostra dei Gol Enrico Varriale sidelined by Rai directors for his true commentary on the horrid officiating in Seria A and Juve in particular. Need not say more to all Juve fans that keep beleiving how great they are. UCl has been ur tru test and u keep failing. All of italy has great satisfaction from ur failure year after year.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 8:03pm
When it comes to this constant nagging and whining of the fans of other top level Serie A teams, it's really just embarrassing. You say Juve is so boring and that Juve cheats. Well, Juve may well be boring but they are still BETTER than the rest of the sorry bunch that make up Serie A.

You say Juve cheats, I say your opinion is not that of a grownup. Buhu all you want, nobody gives a damn, it actually makes the victories taste sweeter since we know it REALLY gets under your skin.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 7:15pm
As a fan of Juventus, but first and foremost a fan of football, it saddens me to see such dismal display from Juventus under Allegri. It's useless to discuss what constitutes good football, everyone has their own idea. For me, winning is not everything, there's also an aesthetic dimension to football. Juve under Allegri make me want to change the TV-channel almost every time, but my Juve heart persists and make me keep watching. It'd be wonderful to watch Juve with Zidane at the helm.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 7:09pm
I considered turning off yesterday's game at the half thinking it was over... really glad I didn't as it was one of the more exciting matches I watched in a while. Felt really bad for Insigne, but wasn't terrible surprised he missed it either.

I'm a juve fan, but I'm ready for a new Serie A champion.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 3:58pm
Another gift for Juve. Serie A is an embarrassment of a league now, even worse than before Calciopoli. When are the Serie A writers and journalists going to call out the constant refereeing blunders to get Juventus into unassailable winning positions?
on the 4th March, 2019 at 1:18pm
Our midfield is too weak. We desperately need a couple of players there. And unfortunately our defense is getting oder. De Ligt, Savic and Isco would all be needed acquisitions.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 10:49am
FI, necessary edit, para 1 -- "Miralem Panic"

I don't think the garbage Seria A league is the problem for Juve, as some say it is. Look at the EPL, supposedly the most competitive league, and how often does an EPL team win the CL? Refs aren't the problem either, as Inter fans crying over their keyboards from another loss and Wanda spanking keep saying they are. Timidity is the problem, and that's on the coach.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 10:36am
Serie A is dead.Next year and the year after and so on will belong to Juve.Something has got to change.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 10:15am
There you have it again, and again, the Totti of Napoli, Il magnifico, his Majasty Lorenzo the Great...how stupid can one be to play INSIGNE, jus because he is Napolitan,and have Mertens on the bench, playing him is playing with 10 men against 12.
Ancelotti, like the 2 idiots before him are definitely blackmailed to play this guy who cost Napoli at least 6 scudetti now, he brings unbalance to the team, with Insigne,the UNTOUCHABLE, Napoli will never, never, ever win anything.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 10:09am
Records has shown that teams with most fan base are teams with CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TRIUMPH, name it MADRID, MILAN, BARCELONA, BAYERN, MANUTD N have lots of fan base throughout the world, and it's no wonder jUVE is striving to be amongst them....yet this idiotic coach isn't a good match......despite the absence of Milan for 6years in the champions league yet they still command international attractions and revenue worth noting! What if Milan had been present , I'm sure they could have won 2more , yet Juve keeps embarrassing themselves with their terribly appalling football.....what a shame!
on the 4th March, 2019 at 10:03am
200 million invested in a 34 year old who must be fed up winning the CL and you will win less this year than when you had Zaza and Matri! They will win the scudetto again next year and the next until another calciopoli gets them again!
on the 4th March, 2019 at 9:36am
What so controversial? A player got sent off that would normally get sent off. Maybe Ronaldo made the most of minimal contact, maybe he was avoiding any chance of injury. Your opinion will fall depending on who you follow. A penalty was given for non-deliberate handball. Wrong, but its been the norm this season. All teams have endured that since VAR.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 8:50am
@Maldini's Hairball
Your short comments are embarassing. But not as much as your long waffles.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 8:33am
This Juve has such a soft underbelly, too bad the rest of the league can't punch. Record in points but Juve has never convinced and unlikely will.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 7:58am
Napoli is a joke as their reasoning to keep Ospina is a joke.
Had they only been 2 points behind Juve they / Insigne would still of choked again like last year.
Ok so Juve has wrapped up the scudetto....but so what? They have very tiny chance of going through 2-0 down against Atleti. They, most expected team to win CL ousted in 1st round without even scoring possibly.
I’d rather see Atalanta,Torino,Samp,Fiorentina join Juve in CL. teams 2nd-5th are constant letdowns.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 3:57am
Allegri is too fearful.

Time for Zidane to come in a freshen things up. The more creative players will enjoy his football more and he may get the best out of Dybala playing him in a position he should be in

Isco did well under him too and could be a good signing

Money from Khedira, Sturaro, Cuadrado, Audero, Higuain, Favilli, Pjaca (and maybe Sandro and Rugani) would bring in 100 to 200m

Use that for Isco, De Ligt, Icardi etc. Less squad fillers and more top players should be their target
on the 4th March, 2019 at 1:33am
Juve totally paid the ref to give Napoli a penalty in the 85th minute, am I right inter fans??
on the 4th March, 2019 at 1:15am
Juventus looked so confident in there style of play the first few months of the season but have been god awful the past few months. Sure they are killing it in Serie A but that doesnt say much. Allegri ran this team into the ground the first half of the season, especially bonucci, chiellini, pjanic, and matuidi. He should have rotated benatia with bonucci and chiellini. If so he wouldnt have left. Does anyone track backwards passes cuz if the CLv was based on that they would be amazing.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 1:12am
Serie A is embarrassing.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 12:58am
All I can say

ZIDANE LOADING ...

Glad seeing Allegri leaving, he will never win UCL with his style of play
on the 3rd March, 2019 at 11:47pm
As a Juve fan I can comfortably say that I am smiling this season. We are undefeated and are 16 points clear in the first week in March. Sure I'd like the CL but it seems unlikely this year, we have gone close with weaker squads than this years. You need luck in the CL and Juve haven't had it with drawing Atletico and too many fitness issues before the first leg. We'll give it a go in the home leg but if it doesn't happen there is always next year. I'll never tire of winning Serie A though!
on the 3rd March, 2019 at 11:36pm

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