Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Higuain punishes Napoli as Juve close in

Published:Saturday | December 2, 2017 | 12:06 AM
Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain scores his side's goal during the Italian Serie A match between Napoli and Juventus at the San Paolo stadium in Naples, Italy, yesterday. Juventus won 1-0.

Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain punished his former club with an early goal in a 1-0 win at Serie A leaders Napoli yesterday that tightened the title race. Playing with a broken left hand that was operated on four days earlier, Higuain took a pass from Paulo Dybala and finished off a swift counterattack with an accurate shot inside the near post past charging goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Six-time defending champions Juventus moved ahead of Inter Milan into second place and within one point of Napoli, which were handed their first loss of the season.

Conceding a goal to Higuain was particularly painful for Napoli. Two seasons ago, the Argentina international scored 36 goals for Napoli to break a 66-year-old Serie A record. Then he transferred to Juventus for an Italian-record US$100 million and he has now scored five goals in five matches against Napoli. Earlier, fourth-place Roma beat 10-man Spal 3-1.

 

Inter a threat

 

Inter can take the lead with a win over Chievo Verona tomorrow.

Juventus have won Serie A a record 33 times, while Napoli are aiming to win their first Italian league title since Diego Maradona led the southern club to their only two championships in 1987 and 1990.

Higuain was animated right from the pre-match warm-ups when he incited Napoli fans who were heckling him, waving his arms in encouragement.

After he scored, Higuain put his hand next to his ear as if asking the Napoli fans, "What do you have to say now?" Then he extended his hand from his forehead while looking towards the stands where Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis sits.

While Napoli dominated the possession, Juventus sat back and protected their lead, preventing the Partenopei from unleashing their normally devastating counterattacks.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was in top form, deflecting numerous chances from Lorenzo Insigne, who exited with an apparent muscular injury in the second half.

Napoli striker Dries Mertens had hardly any chances.

Blaise Matuidi should have made it 2-0 for Juventus, but Reina somehow deflected his close-range effort in the 68th.

Juventus, Napoli, and Roma will each attempt to secure a place in the Champions League knockout stages next week. Juventus visit Olympiakos, Napoli play at Feyenoord, and Roma host Azerbaijani side Qarabag.