If one thing was certain on Wednesday night’s Coppa Italia match, it was the “do or die” nature of Juventus vs. Napoli. Coming from rather poor moments of form in Serie A (two consecutive losses against Udinese and vs. Cagliari for the Bianconeri, a single point scored in their last four fixtures for the Azzurri) both teams had every intention of turning this Cup encounter into a rejuvenating cure.
What transpired in the end was a rather entertaining match, and this despite the misleading 0-0 score at the end of the 120 minutes of play. A rather bleak first-half performance was followed by an exciting second half, in which Juventus and Napoli played open attacking football and quckly shifted the ball from one end of the field to another. It was only through some great moments of defensive brilliance (Mellberg/Cannavaro) or sheer bad luck (Bogliacino/Trezeguet) that the 0-0 score remained unchanged, and in the end (after another battled & tense 30 minutes of extra time) only penalty kicks were able to break the tie at the Olimpico tonight. Ultimately Juventus prevailed, capitalizing on the Neapolitan errors of Lavezzi, Contini and Gargano, and will advance to the Coppa Italia Semi-Finals where they will play Lazio.
At the end of the day though, it must be said that both teams can be satisfied with their performances tonight. After their rough last couple of weeks, Napoli and Juventus have demonstrated they are very far from being dead & buried.
As for match itself, you could say the first half was a catious affair (and if by cautious you meant balanced and by balanced you meant boring, you’d be right). In effect, there were zero goalscoring chances for the highlights reel in the first 45 minutes, and that’s a stretch. Tactically, Claudio Ranieri did his best to provide freshness & still keep his team somewhat competitive, pairing the likes of Giovinco, De Ceglie, Poulsen, and Iaquinta with regulars such as Del Piero, Sissoko, Marchionni, and Legrottaglie.
Alas, the Juve manager’s plans took a dent only 20 minutes after kick-off, as Paolo De Ceglie became the latest addition to the Bianconeri injury ward, a list which is starting to “look longer than the phonebook of the city of Turin” (as Gazzetta would say). Fortunately, De Ceglie’s chest-knock turned out to be nothing serious. In came Molinaro, but even he could do little to change the fate of a boring first half (two shots by Lavezzi and Marchionni excepted).
The second half on the other hand turned to be far more exciting, especially for Napoli, which through the pace & accelerations of Ezequiel Lavezzi really lit up the fireplace. The Argentine forward was at the origin of most of his team’s initiatives, particularly in the last 10 minutes: four scoring chances in as many minutes starting in the 80th, first through Gargano (well tackled by Mellberg), then Lavezzi & Zalayeta (both wide), and finally a Lavezzi cross setting up Zalayeta/Bogliacino 5 yards in front of the net (neither player being able to connect with the ball).
Midway through the half Ranieri had substituted Giovinco & Iaquinta with Nedved & Trezeguet, and it would be precisely the latter duo (with some help by ADP) to construct the last goalscoring chance of regular time. A chance which Juve’s Frenchman scored with a winning opportunistic touch of his, but which the linesman (wrongly) disallowed for offside. 0-0 FT, to extra time we went.
By then the Bianconeri had taken the game by the reins again. Trezeguet came very close to the winning tap-in (Navarro & Contini saved), Del Piero scored a beautiful half-volley (but play had been stopped for handball), Nedved slammed a shot from long-range & Del Piero had his follow-up effort saved by Cannavaro… in other words: a lot of Juve action, but still no goals.
So to penalties it went. Nedved & Sissoko missed their shots, but Napoli did one miss better. Juventus advance to the semi-finals.
0-0 (4-3 p.s.o.)
|PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Del Piero (J) goal, Hamsik (N) goal, Trezeguet (J) goal, Bogliacino (N) goal, Nedved (J) saved, Denis (N) goal, Marchionni (J) goal, Lavezzi (N) saved, Sissoko (J) crossbar, Contini (N) wide, Legrottaglie (J) goal, Gargano (N) wide.
| JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Manninger – Grygera, Legrottaglie, Mellberg, De Ceglie (23′ Molinaro) – Marchionni, Sissoko, Poulsen, Giovinco (69’ Nedved) – Del Piero, Iaquinta (59’ Trezeguet). (bench: Chimenti, Ariaudo, Camoranesi, Amauri). Coach: Ranieri.
| NAPOLI (3-5-2): Navarro – Santacroce, P.Cannavaro, Contini – Montervino (73’ Bogliacino), Pazienza, Gargano, Hamsik, Aronica (91’ Vitale) – Lavezzi, Zalayeta (100’ Denis). (bench: Sepe, Maggio, Russotto, Pià). Coach: Reja.
Tags: Alessandro Del Piero, Claudio Ranieri, Coppa Italia, David Trezeguet, Edy Reja, Ezequiel Lavezzi, German Denis, Juventus, Marco Marchionni, Marek Hamsik, Mariano Bogliacino, Matteo Contini, Mohamed Sissoko, Napoli, Nicola Legrottaglie, Pavel Nedved, Walter Gargano