Napoli made it a nightmare return for Maurizio Sarri, as they beat leaders Juventus 2-1 with Piotr Zielinski and Lorenzo Insigne goals.
The Bianconeri had the opportunity go six points clear at the top, as Inter and Lazio were held to draws today. It was Maurizio Sarri’s first time back at the Stadio San Paolo and he was greeted by loud jeers and insulting banners.
Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly, Allan, Faouzi Ghoulam, Kevin Malcuit and Amin Younes were injured, with David Ospina pulling out after flu symptoms, so Diego Demme started. Rodrigo Bentancur returned from his three-match ban, though Merih Demiral, Mattia De Sciglio, Sami Khedira and Giorgio Chiellini missed out. Sarri threw caution to the wind by starting the all-star trio of Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.
It was an aggressive start from the hosts, Arkadiusz Milik’s header over from a corner, then Jose Callejon only glanced a Lorenzo Insigne cross into the arms of Wojciech Szczesny.
Milik twice ran on to promising balls over the top, only for Leonardo Bonucci to read his movements and block the shot.
Mario Rui also read the pass for Dybala, getting in front to ensure La Joya ran into him rather than go clear on goal.
Pjanic had been limping since a Demme yellow card offence in the first half and eventually had to come off, replaced by Adrien Rabiot.
Juventus had an actual shot on target on 53 minutes, but it didn’t count, as Higuain was offside in the build-up before Dybala hit the upright and Ronaldo turned in the rebound.
Piotr Zielinski fired not far over first time from the D and Meret made his first save of the game on the hour mark, smothering Higuain’s weak attempt after a Ronaldo counter.
The deadlock was finally broken moments later. Insigne’s scorching strike from outside the area was only parried by Szczesny into the path of Zielinski, as Cuadrado was caught napping on the rebound.
Napoli had penalty appeals for handball, but it seemed to graze Cuadrado’s hand during an awkward rebound with his arm down in a natural position, so could not be called intentional.
Sarri made radical changes, throwing on Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi for Dybala and Blaise Matuidi. Insigne attempted an audacious over-head kick, while Mario Rui got away with a very risky header back to Meret.
Insigne tried another tough volley on 86 minutes and this time it worked, as Callejon’s cross found him from 12 yards out, he volleyed it into the ground to bounce up at the back post, perhaps also glancing off Matthijs de Ligt.
However, just as the San Paolo crowd was singing at full voice, Ronaldo flicked in a long Bentancur ball at the far post from point-blank range to silence them. It was his eighth consecutive Serie A match on target.
Juve poured forward to the final second, Higuain’s overhead kick on target, but too central, allowing Meret to smother.
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