Roma, you have been warned

Posted by Mina Rzouki

Fernando Llorente celebrates after opening the scoring early on for Juventus.GettyImagesFernando Llorente celebrates after opening the scoring early on for Juventus.

“If you even dream of beating me, you'd better wake up and apologize,” said the great Muhammad Ali said. Dreams are for everyone but victory is for the elite. Juve’s Sunday night demolition of Napoli, their great challengers for the title, not only demonstrated their collective superiority but the individual brilliance that exists within the side. 3-0 to Juventus -- Roma you have been warned.

In hindsight, the great tactician Rafa Benitez approached the game in the wrong manner. He opted to not press with such eager determination but allow Juve to come at them while they sat, absorbed the pressure and then attempted to counter-attack using the pace and skill of their forwards.

Had the home side not scored immediately (74 seconds), the tactic might have worked but since Juventus were already ahead so quickly, it seemed Rafa had gotten it all wrong.

-Gladwell: Pirlo again decisive

Affording the Bianconeri that kind of time on the ball only allows them to construct an endless amount of opportunities. Already 1-0 up after just over a minute, Juventus put Napoli under pressure from the outset when the opportunistic Fernando Llorente tapped in from close range.

Replays suggest the Spaniard was marginally offside, but that goal was the blessing Juventus needed to exert their strength and play with the kind of intensity that strikes fear in the opponent.

Playing in Napoli’s half, the home side exhibited the quality of their collective as they thrilled from their combination play and passed accurately and quickly. Juve ought to have added to their goal tally to make the most of the Partenopei’s passive approach, but Pepe Reina made some excellent saves to deny the Bianconeri.

There is something to be said about the performances of certain players in the big matches. Angelo Ogbonna, who has not yet proved the quality he demonstrated while at Torino, and Mauricio Isla, who has largely disappointed since his arrival at Juve, both performed admirably on the night against Napoli even if Ogbonna, a defender, was sent off late.

The centre-back dealt well with the threat of Gonzalo Higuain well and approached the game in monstrous fashion, proving effective with his clearances. As for Isla, his combination play, his improved passing and the threat he posed going forward, all ensured a better performance from the wing-back on the night. Once upon a time, Juve manager Antonio Conte was caught screaming at the Chilean for not staying out wide against Milan last season. But Sunday, he stayed in position, connected beautifully with the likes of Arturo Vidal and proved eager in his approach.

Good but not yet excellent, there is still certain aspects of his game that must be improved, that includes the ability to get past his defender to provide a more genuine attacking threat. Far too often, Pablo Armero was able to stop his former teammate.

The second half was an altogether different match. Napoli came out with a different plan and were intent on pressing high and taking control to pin back the Old Lady, and it was working. Their aggression stunned the Bianconeri and Juventus were forced into errors.

Paul Pogba was caught napping on certain occasions and the overwhelming movements of Lorenzo Insigne -- one of the few who forced his way through confidently -- troubled the Bianconeri.

Finally, the crowd was treated to a real game and the competition between the rivals was more keenly felt. Juventus were forced to sit deeper to cope with the insurmountable pressure. Being pressed so effectively by Benitez’s side hindered them from constructing their own attacking passages. Yet for all their aggression, the Partenopei struggled to create clear-cut chances as they rarely attacked the space or tested the fragility of Juve’s defence.

In cases such as this, when both teams are so good at neutralising the opponent, they cancel each other out and the result is determined either by an error or a moment of individual quality. Sunday, the Old Lady managed a positive second-half result largely due to a sensational Andrea Pirlo free-kick, an even better Pogba volley and the superhuman performances of one Gianluigi Buffon.

The goalkeeper in many ways has been a victim of his own success. Too often, we remember Gigi as a man only capable of the extraordinary. When mistakes are made, critics, including this blog have been harsh in their assessment. It’s difficult to expect a mortal performance from a man deemed to be much more than that.

Sunday, Buffon recovered that ability to stun with magnificent saves and a majestic performance. Alert and ready whenever called upon, his display proved necessary not only in ensuring a clean sheet but in boosting the confidence of the players who could attack freely aware of his ability to stop the unstoppable at the back.

A quick note on Pirlo: what a goal, what a performance what a sensational director of play.

If the home fans were not entertained by what they were seeing on the pitch then they will have certainly enjoyed Conte’s reaction from the bench as the tactician gestured, screamed and hyperventilated on the sidelines to ensure maximum concentration from his boys.

The three points now bring Juve within a point of table-topping Roma. A win against one of the biggest challengers to the title not only demonstrated the clear superiority of the Bianconeri, but proves that when she wants to be, the Old Lady is still the finest team in Serie A.


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