Napoli held Juventus to a 1-1 draw as the fans brought the heat for Gonzalo Higuain.

By Ben Lyttleton
April 03, 2017

Perhaps it was the early goal that set the tone for the game. Sami Khedira opened the scoring for Juventus in its fiercely anticipated encounter at Napoli, but then the Old Lady seemed content to sit back and soak up the pressure as the host dominated possession and looked for a way through. It came, eventually, courtesy of a fantastic move culminating in Marek Hamsik sweeping home the ball after a speedy exchange of passes through the middle.

The main event, though, was the return of Gonzalo Higuain, the former Napoli hero who broke hearts by leaving for Juventus last summer. Fans, not to mention owner Aurelio de Laurentiis, were furious at what they saw as his betrayal; some burned Higuain shirts in disgust, while this season you can buy toilet paper with Higuain’s face on it. His name was jeered when the teams were announcedm but there was very little opportunity for the Argentine to have much say in the game. He did not touch the ball in the opposition's box all match. This came partly down to Juventus being happy to sit deep once Khedira had broken the deadlock.

“Higuain had a good performance, especially in the first half, I’m happy with what he did,” Juventus coach Max Allegri said after the game. “At the start we had played well, moving it from side to side, but once we took the lead, we allowed Napoli to take control and in my view we weren’t sharp enough in possession. I had expected it to be difficult. You win titles with games like these, by picking up difficult points on your travels.”

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The score line was probably about right and maybe one you’d expect for the highest scorers in the league against the best defense. But it means that Juventus’s title hopes stay on ice a little longer, given that second-placed Roma, a 3-1 winner over Sassuolo and six points back, hosts the leader on Matchday 36. Before then it’s the small matter of Barcelona in the Champions League; and in midweek, another game at Napoli, in the Coppa Italia semifinal. This time, you can expect that Higuain will be hoping to be more involved.