13.02.2016 23:10 - in: Match report S

      Super sub Zaza sends Juve to the summit

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      Simone Zaza’s 88th minute winner seals the spoils for the Bianconeri against Napoli, taking Massimiliano Allegri’s men above the Partenopei into top spot

      Simone Zaza’s 88th minute winner proved the difference between Serie A’s top two sides on Saturday evening, as the forward’s powerful strike sealed victory over Napoli at Juventus Stadium, a success which sees the Bianconeri move above their opponents on the night into first place.

      During an even first half, Napoli saw more of the ball (55 per cent) but Juventus fashioned a greater number of shots (nine to their visitors’ two), although the hosts had Leonardo Bonucci and Gigi Buffon’s heroics to thank for preventing Gonzalo Higuain and Raul Albiol from opening the scoring.

      Both defences remained on top for the majority of the second period too until Zaza had the beating of Kalidou Koulibaly before unleashing a fine effort past Pepe Reina to secure a 15th consecutive success that propels Massimiliano Allegri’s into top spot for the first time this season.

      As can often be the case in big matches, the two teams spent the early stages sizing one another up before getting away the game’s first shots on goal.

      Juan Cuadrado, who had already got supporters off their seats following a speedy surge forward to intercept Jorginho’s misplaced pass, forced Reina into a routine save within the quarter-hour. Then in the 20th minute, Paul Pogba dispatched a ferocious free-kick past the Spanish stopper’s post.

      For Napoli’s part, they were seeing plenty of possession without creating many meaningful chances, although that all would have changed were it not for Bonucci’s brilliant last-ditch lunge in the 35th minute to divert Elseid Hysaj’s cross away from Higuain’s reach, the Argentine perfectly positioned to nod his side in front.

      Just a minute later, it would be the Bianconeri’s very last line of defence to excel when Buffon’s rapid reflexes prevented Albiol’s point-blank header from ending in the back of the net.

      Having weathered these two dangerous attacks, the hosts had the ball back down the other end, with Claudio Marchisio’s effort from distance deflecting via Alvaro Morata into Reina’s embrace.

      Juve started the second half how they ended the first, namely by probing the Partenopei penalty area for potential openings.

      On 51 minutes, they almost pulled off the perfect move, Marchisio’s pinpoint cross locating Sami Khedira, who in turn laid the ball off to Patrice Evra, but the Frenchman’s half-volley flew off target under pressure.

      The hosts’ best opportunity to snatch the advantage, however, came 11 minutes later, when Pogba pulled the ball back into the path of an onrushing Dybala, only for the Argentine to send his powerful shot over the crossbar.

      Chances were restricted to an absolute premium thereafter, with both defences firmly on top. In the 80th minute, Marek Hamsik pulled the trigger from distance, but the Slovakian’s strong drive sailed just over Buffon’s bar.

      With the match looking set for a draw, Zaza had other ideas. A direct and lively outlet since entering the field, the forward dropped the shoulder to spin away from Koulibaly before striking fiercely past Reina via the boot of Albiol.

      In the two minutes and further three added on for stoppage time, Juve held firm as they had done in consistently closing out their previous 14 triumphs on this hot winning streak, which they will look to continue with their next league assignment on Friday against Bologna.


      Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci (Rugani 52), Evra; Cuadrado, Khedira, Marchisio, Pogba; Morata (Zaza 58), Dybala (Alex Sandro 86)

      Unused substitutes: Neto, Rubinho, Padoin, Romagna, Pereyra, Hernanes, Sturaro, Favilli
      Coach: Allegri


      Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan (Gabbiadini 90), Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Higuain, Insigne (Mertens 77)
      Unused substitutes: Gabriel, Rafael, Maggio, Strinic, Regini, Chiriches, Valdifiori, Chalobah, Lopez, El Kaddouri
      Coach: Sarri

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