Juventus 1-0 Napoli: “Claudio Marchisio” Wipes Stamford Bridge Tears Away (Serie A Matchday 26)

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio, right, celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Napoli, at the Olympic Stadium in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009.  (AP Photo)

It may not be champagne football, but Juventus know just what to do to pick themselves up. I wouldn’t say the “Stamford Bridge scar is healing” (Gazzetta‘s words, personally I wouldn’t even call it a scar – things are still very open for the second leg) but Saturday the Bianconeri demonstrated once again maximum efficiency with minimum effort: very few shots on target, one goal in the first half, preservation of the lead in the second.

As for Napoli, yesterday marked the 8th consecutive away loss for the Azzurri, a team which in their last 8 matches has been able to score only two points. And while Edy Reja’s boys at least tried to muster some kind of a pride reaction in the second half, it looks like the Neapolitan manager’s tenure at the club is hanging by a very thin thread indeed.

Serie A 2008-09 - Juventus vs. Napoli

Serie A 2008-09 - Day 26 - Juventus 1-0 Napoli

The first half was, to say the least, insipid. Ranieri had changed six of his starters compared to the mid-week UCL match in London but Juve still seemed tired, and with the added problem of Walter Gargano’s absence Napoli really struggled to do anything when they had ball possession. Thus, there were really only two exciting goal opportunities for either side in the first half: for Juve, it was Trezeguet’s point-blank effort (well parried by Navarro) following a good cross from the right by Marchionni (Giovinco blasted over the bar on the follow-up); for Napoli, Denis’s backheel pass for Hamsik well closed down by a super Buffon close to goal.

The Bianconeri were playing a better and more attractive style of football, yet all the indications seemed to suggest the half would end 0-0. That is when lady luck finally decided to lend Juve a hand: Claudio Marchisio (one of Juve’s best players Saturday for his runs & generosity) received a pass from Poulsen on the edge of the box and went for the one-time effort. You’ll have noticed I put “Claudio Marchisio” in inverted commas in the title and that is not a coincidence: the off-target shot found the feet of Blasi, whose deflection caught Navarro wrong-footed and made the Napoli keeper helpless to save the shot. 1-0 Juventus and Marchisio’s second Serie A goal this season.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, right, presses Napoli's German Denis of Argentina, during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Napoli at the Olympic Stadium in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009. (AP Photo)

In the second half Napoli tried to push forward more, Reja putting on Jesus Datolo (good technical skills but not enough movement) and switching his line-up to a four-man defence. In the 63rd Hasan Salihamidzic made his return for Juve (first appearance for the Bosnian player this season), replacing a rather unhappy Sebastian Giovinco (both for getting the sub and for having to play as a left winger again), thus reverting Marchionni into a trequartista role.

Despite the formation changes both Juve & Napoli struggled to get their game going, even though the final minutes were characterised by the Azzurri all out in attack and without much focus. Ranieri took off Del Piero for Amauri, Lavezzi eventually scored but had his goal disallowed for offside (probably by Cannavaro) and Juve went on to resist the Napoli storm by closing down the hatches and shutting up shop. It was a capital three points for the Old Lady, enough for the night’s efforts and momentarily reducing Inter’s lead to +6. Praying for a good effort from Roma Sunday night…

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio, foreground back to camera, celebrates with teammates Alessandro Del Piero, facing camera midground, Nicola Legrottaglie, far background, and Christian Poulsen, at right midground during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Napoli, at the Olympic Stadium in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009. (AP Photo)


Juventus F.C.
[Match Highlights]
 S.S.C. Napoli
GOALSCORERS: 44’ Marchisio (J).
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Legrottaglie (73’ Mellberg), Chiellini, Molinaro – Marchionni, Poulsen, Marchisio, Giovinco (63’ Salihamidzic) – Trezeguet, Del Piero (69’ Amauri). (bench: Manninger, Tiago, Sissoko, Iaquinta). Coach: Ranieri.
NAPOLI (3-5-2): Navarro – Santacroce, P.Cannavaro, Contini – Montervino (46’ Datolo), Blasi, Hamsik, Pazienza (78’ Russotto), Vitale (78’ Aronica) – Denis, Lavezzi. (bench: Bucci, Rinaudo, Bogliacino, Maggio). Coach: Reja.


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Posted in Juventus, Napoli, Serie A |

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