14.02.2016 12:30 - in: Serie A S

      Saturday night in numbers

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      Juventus.com looks back at the key facts and figures from a potentially decisive night in Turin

      With second-placed Juventus on a 14-match winning run and boasting the best defence in the league hosting first-placed Napoli, on an eight-match streak of their own thanks to the competition’s most potent attack, something just had to give at Juventus Stadium on Saturday night.

      In a must-win encounter, someone’s glorious form would inevitably come to an end while the other’s would only confirm their title credentials.

      Fortunately, it is Massimiliano Allegri’s Bianconeri that now finally find themselves top of the table for the first time this season after yet another performance of immense resilience, composure and defensive solidity.

      Just like Juve’s delayed rise to the summit, the deciding moment would be saved for the final three minutes of the match and prove once again that good things come to those who wait.

      Having been 11 points adrift after 10 matches, Juve now lead the way for the first time this season

      Not only was Simone Zaza’s 88th minute strike his third of four league goals to come from the substitutes' bench but also the Bianconeri’s 12th to be scored in the final 15 minutes of games this season, a tally bettered only by Lazio (14).  

      As noted by Allegri in his post-match analysis, Saturday night’s top of the table duel was one that was always likely to be decided by a split-second of quality or by a single mistake.

      Sure enough, Zaza’s long-range effort arrived at the conclusion of an evenly-matched and keenly contested 90 minutes that looked for all the world to be heading for a goalless draw.


      As the team to have completed the most passes this campaign (15,401), Napoli unsurprisingly enjoyed the lion’s share of possession on the night (56.3 per cent) yet only mustered seven shots on goal, a total matched by Paulo Dybala and Paul Pogba alone.

      That said, Maurizio Sarri’s men arguably had the two clearest sights of goal before Zaza’s winner, with Leonardo Bonucci denying Gonzalo Higuain with a superb diving first-half interception and Gianluigi Buffon pushing away Raul Albiol’s point-blank volley.

      In spite of the Partenopei’s territorial dominance however, Buffon rarely looked like conceding on his way to a seventh clean sheet of 2016, a record across Europe’s top five leagues.

      The Juve skipper was offered rock-solid protection once more by Andrea Barzagli, the colossal Bonucci – who limped out of the action shortly after the break following a collision with Sami Khedira – Daniele Rugain, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra. In fact, no other player on the pitch made more tackles than Evra (five) or more clearances than Barzagli (seven).

      Credit must also go the Bianconeri’s first line of defence, the midfield quartet of Khedira, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado, with the former completing a staggering 94.3 per cent of his passes in a solid return to action for the German.

      Ultimately though, it would be wrong to rob match-winner Zaza of the final word.

      In a season where the Old Lady will be calling on every single member of her squad for the European and domestic fight, the clinical striker demonstrated once again what a valuable asset he can be in the closing stages of matches.

      When all is said and done, it will be Simone’s post-match numbers that will count the most: one shot on target, one goal. 

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