28.02.2017 22:55 - in: Match report S

    Second-half salvo puts Juve in control

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    Juventus come from behind to defeat Napoli 3-1 and seize the upper hand in the two-legged Coppa Italia semi-final tie

    One of the second-half showings of the season took Juventus to within one step of the Coppa Italia final on Tuesday night as two penalties from Paulo Dybala and a poacher’s finish from Gonzalo Higuain set up a barnstorming 3-1 semi-final first-leg victory over Napoli at Juventus Stadium.

    Behind early on to Jose Callejon’s close-range strike midway through a disappointing first period, the Serie A leaders roared back after the interval in style, overwhelming their thereto impressive visitors with three goals in the space of 22 minutes.

    Beginning with the confidence of a side that had won every single one of their last 34 home matches across league and cup, it was up to the hosts to land the first meaningful punch of the evening, Paulo Dybala racing through onto Leonardo Bonucci’s raking crossfield pass only to be denied by the onrushing Pepe Reina.

    Moments later, Mario Mandzukic headed narrowly over the bar via a deflection from the resulting corner and Kwadwo Asamoah slashed wide on the half-volley after Miralem Pjanic’s free-kick had come back off the Napoli wall.

    Half-chances came and went for Napoli at the other end, the lively visitors twice testing the reflexes of Neto from distance, first through Marek Hamsik and then Marko Rog.

    Then, moments after Higuain had fired narrowly over the bar after excellent link-up play with Kwadwo Asamoah, Maurizio Sarri’s side silenced Juventus Stadium to take the lead, albeit temporarily courtesy of Callejon’s tap-in from Lorenzo Insigne’s low, early cross.

    Despite a dip in intensity towards the break, Massimiliano Allegri’s men were desperately unlucky not to be heading to the dressing room on level terms as Mario Mandzukic and Stephan Lichtsteiner were expertly denied at the back post by Reina in first-half stoppage time.

    Given what was to come, the spurned chances would matter little.

    Tellingly, Allegri sent his side out for the second period several minutes before their opponents and the move had its desired effect as the Bianconeri restored parity within an instant of the restart, Paulo Dybala converting a penalty he had won himself.

    Suddenly Juve were reinvigorated – triggered in part by the introduction of Juan Cuadrado from the bench - beating Napoli to every second ball and making their passes stick in the final third as Sami Khedira and Higuain both failed to test Reina after making incisive runs into the box. With the away defence creaking, it was only a matter of time before Juventus struck again.

    Right on cue, two critical errors from away keeper Reina – keeping his team in the game until that point – swung proceedings decisively in the Old Lady’s favour. On 65 minutes, the Spaniard left his goal unguarded for Higuain to sidefoot in on the volley after flapping at Pjanic’s corner before illegally halting an electrifying Cuadrado sprint from deep when clean through. Dybala once again flawless from the spot.

    Three goals in 22 second-half minutes. Juventus flying, Napoli reeling.

    Khedira would see a shot blocked by Kalidou Koulibaly at point-black range as the rampant hosts came within a whisker of adding a fourth but three would be more than enough on the night as the 11-time champions took a huge step towards another Coppa Italia final in Rome.

    We go again in Naples on 5 April.

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