Kalidou Koulibaly’s last-minute header from a corner has given Napoli the victory in this Scudetto showdown and closed the gap from Juventus to one point.
There were four points separating the bitter rivals going into the Allianz Juventus Stadium. The Bianconeri missed Mattia De Sciglio, Claudio Marchisio and Stefano Sturaro, but opted to drop Mario Mandzukic. The Partenopei had Faouzi Ghoulam on a long-term injury and, despite not finding the net for six consecutive rounds, stuck with Dries Mertens.
Gonzalo Higuain’s only goal decided the meeting at the San Paolo on December 1 and if the teams finish level on points, it is head-to-head record and not goal difference that rules the order.
Lorenzo Insigne shinned wide in the opening minute and during that move, Giorgio Chiellini seemed to over-stretch, so he required treatment and spray right behind the knee and eventually had to limp off. This required a reshuffle, so Stephan Lichtsteiner came on, moving Benedikt Howedes to centre-back.
Juventus went so close to opening the scoring on 17 minutes, as Miralem Pjanic’s free kick took a deflection off Jose Callejon to leave Pepe Reina stranded, but it bounced off the far post. On the resulting corner, Gonzalo Higuain’s volley into the ground was cleared with some difficulty.
Gigi Buffon fingertipped a Mario Rui wayward cross-shot out from under the bar and Marek Hamsik’s finish flashed across the face of goal.
Lorenzo Insigne curled off target and had the ball in the back of the net on 38 minutes, but was clearly caught offside as Lichtsteiner stepped up.
Allegri made another change at half-time, introducing Juan Cuadrado for disappointing Paulo Dybala and moving to a more traditional 4-3-3 with Douglas Costa switching to the left.
Hamsik hit the side-netting from an Insigne through ball and Kalidou Koulibaly charged down Cuadrado’s effort. Arkadiusz Milik had been a contender to start the match due to his good form and replaced Mertens on the hour mark, followed rapidly by Piotr Zielinski for Hamsik.
Napoli were keeping more possession and Juve seemed content to allow it, being dangerous only on the counter-attack. Insigne turned Lichtsteiner only to fire straight at Gigi Buffon, while the goalkeeper did well to beat away a Jose Callejon volley, but the offside flag was up in a very tight decision.
Buffon beat away a Zielinski snapshot from distance, but ultimately one got the impression Juventus were more than happy with a goalless draw.
It proved a bad attitude to take, because in the final minute Buffon pushed an Insigne cross-shot out for a corner, from which Callejon found Koulibaly for a towering free header to give Napoli the victory.
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