Late goals from Caceres and Pogba see off title challengers Napoli to lift Juventus three points clear at the summit of Serie A
Late goals from substitutes Martin Caceres and Paul Pogba sent the Bianconeri three points clear of Scudetto rivals Napoli on a pulsating evening of Serie A action at Juventus Stadium.
Within minutes of coming off the bench, Caceres broke free of his marker to power a header past De Sanctis and gain the advantage the hosts had been craving.
And moments later the points were made safe when French starlet Pogba – a summer capture from Manchester United – announced his arrival in style by slamming home a sumptuous long-range volley.
The meeting of the league’s meanest defences was always destined to produce a cagey affair, and the first half kept to the script as both sides struggled to break free of a congested midfield area.
That said, Juventus started brightly and could have taken the lead inside the opening exchanges.
September’s player of the month Giovinco was the first to try his luck with just two minutes on the clock, wriggling into space and rifling in a low strike which travelled through a crowd of players before being parried clear by De Sanctis.
Vidal then sent an ambitious strike over the bar, and Giovinco almost stole in to prod the ball home amid a moment of hesitation between Campagnaro and De Sanctis.
But Napoli, in search of revenge following August’s 4-2 Super Cup defeat, possess plenty of dangerous players in their ranks and went the closest of the two sides to breaking the deadlock in a combative first half.
With 26 minutes played, Uruguayan frontman Cavani almost added to his tally of six goals with a curling free-kick that cannoned back off the upright.
The second half brought more of the same. Juventus increasingly looked to impose their attractive style of football but were prevented from doing so by frequent stoppages in play and dogged Partenopei resistance.
Further chances, however, continued to fall their way. Pirlo’s deflected free-kick was gathered by De Sanctis, while Giovinco thrashed wide after working himself into a good position.
Alessio opted to introduce fresh legs at varying stages of the second half. Matri replaced Quagliarella in attack, Caceres came on for Asamoah down the left-hand side, while Pogba represented a like for like swap for Vidal in the centre of midfield.
The substitutes’ impact was instant. With ten minutes remaining, Caceres stole a yard on his marker to meet Pirlo’s corner with a thumping header.
And just two minutes later, Pogba displayed just why he is regarded as one of the world’s most promising midfielders by lashing an unforgettable strike past De Sanctis from distance.
The two sucker punches were enough to stave off any further threat from a shell-shocked Napoli, enabling Juventus to put daylight between themselves and the Partenopei at the top of Serie A.
JUVENTUS 2-0 NAPOLI
GOALS: Caceres 80, Pogba 83
Storari; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichsteiner, Vidal (Pogba 75), Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah (Caceres 78); Quagliarella (Matri 60), Giovinco
Substitutes not used: Rubinho, Branescu, Lucio, Marrone, Padoin, Isla, Giaccherini, Bendtner.
De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Gamberini (Insigne 85); Maggio, Inler, Behrami (Dzemaili 88), Zuniga; Hamsik; Pandev, Cavani
Substitutes not used: Rosati, Grava, Aronica, Uvini, Mesto, Colombo, Donadel, Dossena,Vargas, Fernandez.
ASSISTANTS: Niccolai, Tonolini
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Maggiani
BOOKINGS: Cavani 12, Vidal 30, Campagnaro 63, Chiellini 63, Barzagli 74, Caceres 81, Inler 90