Higuain smashes Juve winner over old club Napoli
GONZALO HIGUAIN hit a fairytale winner as Juventus edged the Argentine’s former club Napoli 2-1 in Turin yesterday to stretch their lead to five points at the top of Italy’s Serie A.
Higuain, who hit a Serie A record of 36 goals for Napoli last season, has become a hate figure at the San Paolo stadium after moving to Juventus for an Italian transfer record fee of €90m.
Although he can expect a red-hot welcome from Napoli fans, many of whom burned his shirt in disgust at his move, when the southerners host the champions on April 2, Higuain was mindful not to celebrate after hitting his seventh league goal of the season.
A superb volley by Leonardo Bonucci gave Juventus a 50th minute lead, only for Jose Callejon to beat Gianluigi Buffon four minutes later from Lorenzo Insigne’s superb chip.
A tense and tactically-tight affair, which saw a number of clashes between players, looked to be heading for a 1-1 draw.
But when Higuain’s cross for Sami Khedira spilled back into the striker’s path, he made no mistake with a first-time drive that beat Pepe Reina down low on 70 minutes.
Juventus, aiming for a record sixth consecutive ‘ scudetto’ this season, now have a five-point lead on Roma ahead of their visit to Empoli.
“It was important to win tonight,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. “If we drew, Roma could have pulled level on points with us tomorrow. Instead, we won and now Napoli are seven points behind us. I think whoever came to see us tonight had a good time.”
Napoli could drop to fourth if AC Milan account for lowly Pescara at the San Siro later.
But Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri insists they are Juve’s real rivals: “We have faith in ourselves. We’re Juve’s key rivals, and people know it.”
Sarri admitted Higuain’s departure still hurt. “We lost one of the best forwards in the world and the club made the decision to buy young players. I think the club made the right choice,” he added.
When Brazilian midfielder Allan powered towards goal unchallenged, his tame drive from 25 yards gave Buffon no trouble.
Injury to Chiellini then prompted coach Massimiliano Allegri to introduce Juan Cuadrado shortly before the interval but the Colom- Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina (right) blocks a shot by Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain during their Italian Serie A match at the Juventus Stadium in Turin yesterday. bian, who came off the bench to hit the winner in a 1-0 Champions League win at Lyon two weeks ago, was beaten to the opener.
A messy clearance by Faouzi Ghoulam following a corner caught Bonucci’s attention and he turned quickly to smash a superb volley past Reina and into the roof of the net five minutes after the restart.
“This win is down to Juve never-say-die spirit. Tonight that’s the attitude we had, after being without it at the San Siro (when Juve lost to AC Milan last week),” said Bonucci. – AFP