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Why Gianluigi Buffon Was the Star of Napoli-Juventus

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Why Gianluigi Buffon Was the Star of Napoli-Juventus
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Gianluigi Buffon made seven saves - many of them spectacular - against Napoli on Friday.

When you’re playing away from home—especially against a side as good as Napoli and in a ground as intimidating as the San Paolo—you need your goalkeeper to be amongst your best players, and Gianluigi Buffon was exactly that for Juventus on Friday.

The Bianconeri were welcomed in Naples by a barrage of stones, bottles and eggs hurled at the team bus as it approached the stadium. It was a strange, somewhat violent bit of foreshadowing as Buffon would face a barrage of his own over the 90 minutes.

Napoli, who had been kept from scoring for more than six-and-a-half hours before Gokhan Inler tallied in the 43rd minute, revealed their intentions from the outset—Marek Hamsik having a go from distance after only 11 seconds. Juventus, however, had the better first half and took the lead through Chiellini, while Mirko Vucinic missed several chances to put the guests ahead by a brace.

Buffon, all the while, had very little to do during the opening period and was completely helpless when a Napoli shot finally did hit the target. Inler’s blast might well have been stopped by the No. 1 Italian had it not taken a wicked deflection off Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci on its way into goal.

But his time to shine would come.

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Marek Hamsik was denied time and again by Buffon at the San Paolo.

Napoli came out of the tunnel like a fire-wagon to start the second half, and in the 58th minute, Buffon would be forced into making the first of his seven saves of the period. Hamsik, who would end up having a handful of opportunities, unleashed a hard, dipping shot that Buffon had to be at full stretch to stop—forcing a corner.

The very next minute, Inler tried again from distance, although this time the ball was stopped confidently by Buffon without even the hint of a rebound.

Shortly after the hour-mark, Juan Zuniga’s corner wasn’t properly cleared and Hamsik again looked to be in a good position to score, only to be again denied by Buffon. Then another attempt by the Slovakia international was turned aside in the 69th minute as the hosts pressed for a go-ahead goal.

It never came. And not for lack of trying. Inler once again fired off a cannon with six minutes remaining that drew a leaping save from Buffon, who tipped the ball just over the bar. From there, Juventus were able to shut up shop and preserve a point that had looked so completely deserved in the first half, but rather less so in the second.

They kept it all—thanks to the heroics of their goalkeeper.

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