Points shared after dramatic draw at Napoli

Posted by Mina Rzouki

ROBERTO SALOMONE/AFP/Getty ImagesThings got heated between Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini, left, and Napoli's Edinson Cavani during the game, but it didn't carry over after the final whistle.

It was energetic, it was dramatic and it was impeccably exciting - it was everything we hoped it would be when Napoli took on Juventus at the San Paolo stadium Friday. Amidst the penalty claims, the hair tugging and the elbowing, the title challengers managed 52 tackles and 33 shots between them to provide the crowd with the entertainment they required in a 1-1 draw.

-Mazzarri: We deserved victory
- Video: Napoli 1-1 Juventus (UK and Ire)


Before to the match, debate raged over the choice of referee for this top of the table clash. The favourite was Nicola Rizzoli - Napoli's No.1 enemy. In the Supercoppa match between the sides in the summer, he was said to have advised referee Paolo Silvio Mazzolini into awarding Juventus a penalty.

Corriere dello Sport took centre stage in the media campaign to ensure Rizzoli was not chosen. On Wednesday morning, their front-page headline read 'Don't send Rizzoli to Napoli-Juve' while the front page Thursday ran with the headline 'Rizzoli the wrong choice'. In the end, their wish came true and Daniele Orsato was chose.

The first half displayed the sides' respective weapons. While Napoli relied on pace in an attempt to catch Juventus off guard, the Bianconeri boasted a perfectly organised defence. The clever spacing and clear lines of Juventus players blocked the home side's various passages to goal. There was no space for the Partenopei to exploit as players were forced into making either lateral or backward passes.

However, Napoli were struggling defensively. Regularly caught napping at the back, the Azzurri defenders failed to show the necessary desire to attack the ball and defend their goal from the advancements of the Old Lady.

A delicious pass from Andrea Pirlo led to a header from Giorgio Chiellini and Juventus were 1-0 up by the 10th minute. Were it not of Mirko Vucinic's staggering inability to finish, Walter Mazzarri's men would have conceded several more goals and they were perhaps lucky to see Juve's penalty appeal waved away.

Sebastian Giovinco's consistent pressing at the top of the pitch proved incredibly effective in preventing opponents from establishing a rhythm while it simultaneously applied enough pressure to provoke individual errors from the opposition's defence and midfield.

When Napoli did attack, they did so predominately via the wings and with pace in an attempt to stretch Juve and expose holes in the middle for Marek Hamsik to find joy.

Frustratingly for the Azzurri, Juventus were impeccably disciplined. When not in possession, Mazzarri's men pressed high up the pitch in an effort to win the ball back in an advantageous possession. The few times Juve were caught off guard, Chiellini came to the rescue, demonstrating his ability to read the game by providing the vital interception.

Eventually it was the master of individual errors who provided the equaliser for the home side. Until the last few minutes of the first half, Gokhan Inler had a terrible game, gifting Juventus chances to attack. He did what he had to do to redeem himself in the eyes of the home fans who jeered his every move: score a sensational screamer to level the score. Replays showed that the ball deflected off Leonardo Bonucci.

Juventus - and especially keeper Gianluigi Buffon - were furious. The Old Lady had dominated, looked capable of scoring a second and yet it was Napoli who managed a goal. As if to further infuriate the home fans, Edinson Cavani was spotted elbowing Chiellini only minutes later. The assistant saw it, gestured that it was an elbow and yet the Uruguayan was only handed a yellow card.

Controversy ensued as Cavani was thought especially lucky not to be dismissed. Chiellini had provoked the gesture by pulling the striker's hair prior to the dramatic retaliation. Incredibly, after the match, the players embraced and swapped shirts. "It's only right that for 90 minutes we knock each other about, but at the final whistle it's all over," explained the Juventus defender.

In the second half, Napoli played a spirited game and became even more threatening as Juve's energy began to wane. Taking advantage of the pace within the side, Napoli were managing to distort the clear defensive lines the Old Lady held so well in the first half. Unable to restrict the pace, the Bianconeri were cleverly dragged out of position by the Neapolitans, who created several chances at goal. However, Napoli's attackers simply couldn't escape the clutches of the Juve defenders to provide the necessary touch that would lead to the winning goal.

Both dramatic and passionate, the teams were forced to share the spoils. To paraphrase La Repubblica, 'it was an emotional game of pure inaccuracy' and one that, despite the controversy, perhaps resulted in the right scoreline. Neither side deserved to win and neither deserved to lose.

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