A trademark Paul Pogba pearler, close-range strike from the returning Martin Caceres and late Arturo Vidal blockbuster enabled the Bianconeri to taste success on Neapolitan soli for the first time since 2000 with this evening’s fine 3-1 triumph over in-form Napoli.
Looking to complete an early double over their visitors following December’s Super Cup triumph, Napoli and their home crowd at the San Paolo were stunned into silence by Pogba’s sumptuous volley that tipped the balance in a closely-fought opening on 29 minutes.
The hosts got themselves back on level pegging midway through the second half when Miguel Britos pounced to convert a corner, but their joy proved shortlived as Caceres tucked Andrea Pirlo’s inswinging free-kick home moments later.
Under siege from heavy Napoli pressure in the final minutes, Juventus dug deep to turn the tide and settle matters once and for all with a classic counter attack, finished with aplomb by Vidal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
The result gets the Bianconeri back to winning ways in formidable fashion and, after Roma’s draw with Lazio in the Rome derby earlier on in the day, lifts them three points above their nearest challengers at the top of Serie A.
Predicted to be an open, attacking affair from the very first whistle, both sides struggled in the opening stages to stamp their authority on the game, with play often becoming bogged down in a congested midfield battle.
Although the Bianconeri looked to be getting into their stride from the tenth minute onwards, moving the ball around with composure, it was Napoli who created the first opening on goal, albeit from a slightly fortuitous situation.
Marek Hamsik’s though ball, originally intended for Jose Callejon, deflected into the path of Jonathan de Guzman, who took one touch before firing over the bar in an early let off for the visitors.
There was, however, to be no mercy shown when the opportunity came for the Bianconeri to test Rafael on goal, Pogba sending a sumptuous dipping volley beyond the goalkeeper’s despairing dive on 29 minutes after Carlos Tevez’s initial shot had been charged down.
With the shackles firmly shaken off following the opener, Massimiliano Allegri’s men began controlling possession with greater freedom and could have gone into the break with a two-goal advantage, only for Caceres to guide his strike straight at Rafael after seeing his driving run into the box picked out by Tevez’s through ball on 43 minutes.
The Partenopei, who had lost just one of their last 14 appearances going into the encounter, emerged from the half-time break with a spring in their step, forcing a couple of early corners in their attempts to exert increasing pressure on the visitors’ rearguard.
Their added thrust, increased following the introduction of tricky winger Dries Mertens, produced an equaliser on 64 minutes, with Miguel Britos meeting the substitute’s corner to guide a left-footed shot into the bottom corner.
This advantage lasted just a matter of minutes, though, as Caceres celebrated his return to first-team action by finding himself in the right place at the right time to hook Pirlo’s free-kick home at the back post with little over 20 minutes to play.
With Napoli pushing forward in search of an equaliser, Gonzalo Higuain, the Bianconeri’s nemesis in the Super Cup clash, went desperately close to fashioning an equaliser midway through the six minutes of stoppage time.
But the Argentine’s misfortune was the Bianconeri’s gain, as a formidable break on the counter, involving Tevez, Vidal and substitute Alvaro Morata, saw the Chilean control on the edge of the area before crashing home his third goal in six games to rubber stamp a victory the visitors’ determination thoroughly deserved.