Juventus hold on for crucial win against Napoli in the race for top four

Juventus held on to secure a crucial 2-1 win against Napoli in Turin after Lorenzo Insigne’s 90th-minute penalty threatened to stir a late fightback.

Cristiano Ronaldo 25th league goal of the season put his side ahead with 13 minutes on the clock before the returning Paulo Dybala added a second shortly after coming on in the second half.

Insigne calmly dispatched his penalty as the match entered injury time after Giorgio Chiellini had collided with Victor Osimhen. However, there was no further drama as Juventus held on to secure all three points.

The Bianconeri headed into Wednesday evenings showdown winless in their last two Serie A outings after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Torino.

Andrea Pirlo made two changes from his Derby della Mole side with Gianluigi Buffon and Adrien Rabiot, coming in for Wojciech Szczesny and Dejan Kulusevski.

Juventus: Buffon, Danilo, de Ligt, Chiellini, Sandro, Cuadrado, Bentancur, Rabiot, Chiesa, Morata, Ronaldo.

Napoli headed north to Turin in a rich vein of form with Saturday’s dramatic 4-3 victory against Crotone, making it six wins in seven in all competitions for the Partenopei.

Gennaro Gattuso made six changes to Saturday’s side as Kalidou Koulibaly, Amir Rahmani, Elseid Hysajs, Diego Demme, Hirving Lozano, Piotr Zielinski all returned to the starting XI.

Konstantinos Manolas, Nikola Maksimovic, Mario Rui, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Matteo Politano and Victor Osimhen dropped to the bench.

Napoli: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Hysajs, Ruiz, Demme, Lozano, Zielinski, Insigne, Mertens.

It was the home side who started strongest, and Juventus really should have been ahead inside two minutes as Ronaldo headed wide with the goal at his mercy, after a brilliantly whipped-in cross from Danilo.

However, it only took 10 minutes for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to make amends, as he guided home the games opener on minute 13.

Federico Chiesa showed brilliant work down the right-hand side as he glanced past Demme and wrongfooted Hysajs before cutting the ball back for Ronaldo to strike home.

Cuadrado showed nimble footwork to dance past three Napoli players moments later, however, the Colombian went for power, and his shot was fired straight at goalkeeper Alex Meret.

Napoli’s first real chance of the game came five minutes before halftime, as Insigne found himself with space on the edge of the box, and his dipping shot flew just over, with Buffon scrambling.

Claims for a Napoli penalty on the stroke of half time were quickly dismissed by referee Daniele Doveri, as he failed to see sufficient contact from Alex Sandro on Zielinski.

Gattuso’s men came out strongly in the second half, and Insigne cleverly held off three Juventus players before slipping Giovanni Di Lorenzo down the right-hand side in the 48th minute, but the right-back’s effort was palmed away by the grateful Buffon.

Cuadrado’s second chance of the game came 10 minutes into the second half. Ronaldo’s smart turn and pass sent Alvaro Morata one-on-one with Koulibaly, who teed up the winger, only for his effort to flash wide of the target.

As the game reached the hour mark, Buffon saved smartly from Insigne at his near post after the Napoli captain had shown quick feet to get away from Matthijs de Ligt in the box.

Dybala made his long-awaited return to the Juve side as he replaced Morata with 20 minutes to go, and it was the Argentine who extended the Old Lady’s lead moments later.

The forward, hampered by injuries and illness this season, made it a dream comeback as he picked up the ball from Rodrigo Bentancur in the box and curled a glorious effort around Koulibaly into the far left corner.

His emotions were clear to see as he roared towards the corner flag before being mobbed by his teammates.

Paulo Dybala is mobbed by his teammates after his goalscoring return to the side

Juventus’ second goal of the game looked to have settled the game, but their seemingly comfortable victory looked to be in question when Napoli were awarded a penalty in the dying stages.

Chiellini carelessly ran into Osimhen after the substitute had stepped away from de Ligt’s initial challenge.

Insigne made no mistake from the spot as he comfortable despatched his penalty into the bottom left corner, sending Buffon the wrong way in the process.

However, there was to be no final twist in the tail as the reigning champions held on for a crucial three points, moving into third.

Napoli remain fifth in the Serie A table, two points behind Atalanta who occupy the final Champions League spot.

Man of the match: Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa’s brilliant work down the right wing set up Cristiano Ronaldo for his 25th league goal of the season.

In a thoroughly underwhelming season for the Turin giants, who look set to surrender their nine-year reign of the Scudetto, Chiesa has posed as silver lining throughout.

The right-winger’s brilliant trickery to tee up Ronaldo added to the opener he scored in Saturdays draw to Torino.

The on-loan Fiorentina winger now has 17 goal contributions in 27 Serie A appearances this season, scoring eight and registering nine assists.

However, as effective as the playmaker is on the ball, his movement and work rate off it has been clear to see throughout the 2020/21 campaign.

The 23-year-old was first to every loose ball, constantly eager to make things happen as he terrorised the Napoli defence throughout.

He is, without question, one of Pirlo’s first names on the team sheet and will prove vital in Juventus’ push for a strong finish to the season.

What next?

Both teams are back in Serie A action this weekend on Sunday (2.00 pm), as Juventus take on Genoa whilst Napoli face a trip to Sampdoria.

Read also: Champions League Quarter-Finals 2020/21- Results and Highlights.