Juventus vs. Napoli: Winners and Losers from Serie A Game
As Napoli entered Juventus Stadium with a two-point lead at the top of Serie A, they did so knowing the match against the reigning champions would undoubtedly have a major impact on the destination of this year’s league title.
When the final whistle blew, they found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline, with Simone Zaza’s second-half goal placing the Bianconeri at the top of the table for the first time in 2015/16.
It was a high-pressure game, something that visiting striker Gonzalo Higuain had warned against earlier in the week during an interview with Tg1. “Everything depends on us,” the Argentina international said (h/t beIn Sports), “we have to keep calm and keep our feet on the ground," Higuain told the programme.”
While they would fail to maintain their advantage, there was much to admire on Saturday evening, and what follows is a look at the winners and losers from the game, highlighting the best and worst performances from the top-of-the-table clash.
Winner: Simone Zaza (Juventus)
After his red card against Chievo, Simone Zaza had much to do in order to regain favour with fans of the Bianconeri. Introduced as a second-half substitute here, he would work relentlessly to do just that, with his efforts rewarded with less than five minutes of a difficult clash remaining.
Collecting the ball just outside the Napoli area, the former Sassuolo man would fire a shot past the helpless Pepe Reina, handing the Bianconeri an advantage they would not relinquish before the final whistle blew.
Loser: Raul Albiol (Napoli)
The game looked to be heading for a draw until Simone Zaza’s late strike—a goal no player will regret more than Napoli defender Raul Albiol. The Spain international was responsible for the deflected effort that beat his compatriot Pepe Reina—a goal that ultimately cost the Partenopei all three points here in Turin.
Having also squandered the two best scoring chances for the visitors, it is a night Albiol will look to quickly forget.
Winner: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus)
If Juve’s back line was hampered by injury, then the Bianconeri were fortunate to be able to rely on Andrea Barzagli here. While Giorgio Chiellini missed the game with a knock and Leonardo Bonucci was withdrawn shortly after half-time, the former Palermo man was superb throughout this encounter.
As he has been countless times over the past five years, Barzagli was a reliable member of the side from start to finish, ensuring Serie A’s best defence retained its shape over the course of 95 difficult minutes.
Loser: Maurizio Sarri (Napoli)
While his side came incredibly close to taking a share of the spoils, there is little doubt Maurizio Sarri will rue the way events unfolded at Juventus Stadium on Saturday evening. The Napoli coach arrived in Turin determined to lead his side to victory, but ultimately oversaw a loss that saw his team relinquish first place.
"It was a very even game with few chances. It's a pity that we conceded shortly before the final whistle," he said at the post-match press conference (h/t FourFourTwo.com). "We have to remain calm. A deflected shot will not destabilise us. We put in a good performance. It's quite rare that Juventus hardly create any chances in a home game. We could perhaps have done more going forward, but this was a good performance.”
Adding that he hopes his players will “react right away,” there is little doubt he will be disappointed with the result.