10.11.2013 22:47 - in: Serie A S

      Three-goal Juve put Napoli to the sword

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      Strikes from Fernando Llorente, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba enable the Bianconeri to steal a march on their title rivals and move to within just one point of league leaders Roma

      The Bianconeri cut the gap on early Serie A pace setters Roma to just one point following this evening’s commanding 3-0 win over Scudetto rivals Napoli at Juventus Stadium.

      With barely two minutes on the clock, Fernando Llorente’s predatory instincts in the six-yard box enabled the hosts to instantly swing proceedings in their favour, sweeping the ball into the Partenopei net after Carlos Tevez had turned Mauricio Isla’s effort into his path.

      An improved second-half performance by the visitors proved in vein as Andrea Pirlo curled home a perfectly-weighted trademark free-kick to tighten the Bianconeri’s grip on the three points on 74 minutes.

      And Paul Pogba, a thorn in Napoli's side since moving to Italy in 2012, put the icing on the cake six minutes later with a stunning volley that flew past a motionless Reina, his second against the Campania-based club in as many years.  

      Juventus, back in their 3-5-2 formation following a change to a four-man rearguard in the midweek Champions League fixture against Real Madrid, got off to a dream start when Llorente pounced at the far post to turn Isla’s deflected strike past Reina with barely two minutes on the clock.

      Their advantage could even have been doubled in a frantic opening to proceedings, with only the Spanish goalkeeper's sharp reflexes denying Leonardo Bonucci what appeared a certain goal from point-black range.

      The visitors, looking to end a fruitless two-year record at Juventus Stadium, huffed and puffed in their attempts to stamp their mark on the encounter, but were largely restricted to speculative efforts from Gokhan Inler and Lorenzo Insigne in a comfortable start for the hosts.  

      However, the threat of record signing Gonzalo Higuain still remained, and the Argentine hitman showed a glimpse of his predatory instincts in around the box on 22 minutes, swivelling neatly past Angelo Ogbonna before dispatching a shot which arrowed wide of target.   

      Keen to prevent his fellow countryman from gaining the upper hand in the much-hyped battle of the summer signings, Tevez worked himself into space before letting fly from 30 yards, forcing Reina to push clear as the ball bounced awkwardly in front of him.   

      In spite of Juventus enjoying plenty of possession throughout a first half spent almost entirely on the front foot, Napoli’s counter-attacking presence still ensured they maintained a stake in the game, Insigne firing another warning sign courtesy of a low strike that trickled just past the post on 33 minutes.

      But the hosts continued to look sharp in the final third and could have gone into the break with a two-goal cushion when Llorente met Isla’s teasing cross whipped in with pace, only for Reina to again showcase his talents by thwarting his World Cup winning team-mate from a matter of yards.

      Napoli emerged from the half-time break with greater bite and began to make increasing inroads into enemy territory following a largely lacklustre opening 45 minutes. An early chance to get back into the game manifested itself when Bonucci sent Insigne tumbling on the edge of the box, with the striker dusting himself off before sending a free-kick bending towards goal which required the intervention of Buffon to divert it out of harm’s way.

      Down the other end, Juventus continued their assault on Napoli’s rearguard in their bid to find a crucial second goal. Arturo Vidal’s shot from 25 yards proved too hot to handle for Reina, but the goalkeeper quickly redeemed himself by gathering Tevez’s instant follow up from an acute angle.

      Now passing the ball with purpose and precision, Napoli looked increasingly likely to harm the Bianconeri’s slender advantage and almost silenced a capacity crowd at Juventus Stadium when Marek Hamsik ghosted in at the far post, only to steer his attempt into the side netting.

      But the hosts refused to bow to Partenopei pressure and, after Vidal had squandered a golden opportunity to extend the team’s grip on three points, finally claimed the two-goal cushion they had been craving on 74 minutes.

      The source was midfield wizard Pirlo, who brought the ground to its feet with a majestic free-kick curled in from 25 yards which left Reina with no chance.

      And any fears of a late Napoli revival were put to rest with ten minutes remaining, Pogba gathering Vidal’s pass before teeing himself up for a sensational volley that crashed in off the post to send Juventus Stadium into raptures.

      Even the late dismissal of Angelo Ogbonna couldn’t dampen a magical night in Turin, as Conte joined his players on the pitch in celebrating a hard-fought, but fully merited three points.

      The final result provided the perfect send off to a testing period of seven consecutive fixtures, and Juventus will be fully confident in their chances of keeping up the pressure on Roma when they return to league duties on Sunday 24 November against Livorno. 

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