Chiellini Makes Mistake, Insigne Does Not as Napoli Stun Juventus

Surprise at the Armando Maradona Stadium as Napoli shocked Juventus with a Lorenzo Insigne converted penalty to grab all the three points on offer. The big match of Serie A Round 22 took an unexpected turn as Gennaro Gattuso silenced his detractors with a classy display and a little help from some unexpected heroes like backup goalkeeper Alex Meret and defender Amir Rrhamani – on top of his captain, of course.

The Calabrian coach was rumored to be on the verge of getting the boot and losing to Juventus would have surely accelerated the process. It ended quite differently, with the Bianconeri paying for a single mistake on the part of their captain Giorgio Chiellini but appearing incapable of causing any serious trouble to the opposition. 

After three league wins in a row, it was a though setback for the Old Lady, who risk seeing their gap from table leaders Milan widen to 10 points, should the Rossoneri win in La Spezia tonight.

Napoli and Juventus returned to face each other in Serie A after what looked like an eternity. As the 1st leg of this season’s match-up was canceled due to the well-known Covid controversy, the last time the two sides squared off in the Italian league had been in January 2020.

The show, however, didn’t seem to be worth the wait – at least during the initial 25 minutes, which saw the two sides studying each other and failing to trouble the goalkeepers. Speaking of goalies, Gennaro Gattuso had had to make a last-minute change to his plans as David Ospina got injured during the warm-up and left room for Alex Meret.

That was only the most recent of Gattuso’s problems as Ringhio was lining up a pretty much unprecedented center-back duo in Nikola Maksimovic and Amir Rrhamani due to the absences of Kostas Manolas and Kalidou Koulibaly. Both would, however, proceed to put together some remarkable performances that kept Juventus at bay.

Andrea Pirlo, on the other hand, could count an all his players except for Arthur and Paulo Dybala. He opted for a 4-4-2 setup where Giorgio Chiellini was preferred to Leonardo Bonucci next to Matthijs De Ligt. Juan Cuadrado and Danilo were the full-backs, while Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa covered the wing-back positions, with Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot in the middle of the park.

Juve’s strikers were, obviously, Alvaro Morata and CR7.

In such a stalemate, it took an episode to set the match on fire and that’s what happened when Giorgio Chiellini committed a huge ingenuity, unworthy of his experience. The Juventus captain waved his arms too wide while defending from a Napoli set piece and hit Amir Rrhamani on his face.

He seemed to have come away with it as he was heard urging Rrhamani to “stand up and don’t act like a fool” but the referee eventually checked the VAR and pointed at the penalty spot with no hesitation. Lorenzo Insigne converted for Napoli and showed his romantic side as he celebrated displaying a shirt that read “Happy Valentine’s Day, My Love!

Chiellini was not the only careless one among the Bianconeri lines as, right before the break, Juan Cuadrado risked losing the ball to Hirving Lozano in his defensive third and had to spend a yellow card to prevent the Mexican from going one-on-one with Wojciech Szczesny. 

The Colombian right-back paid hard for his mistake as Pirlo left him in the locker room after the break, replacing him with Alex Sandro.

Juventus came back to the pitch with a different mindset and Cristiano Ronaldo went close to draw level twice in the initial minutes, but his first conclusion from a Bernardeschi service missed the target by just a few inches, while the second comfortably ended into Meret’s arms.

On 56 minutes, the Napoli unexpected starter also denied Federico Chiesa as he deflected his rocket from the edge of the box to keep the score unchanged. Meret couldn’t do anything on Morata’s winning deflection a few minutes later but – as if often happened to him this season – the Spaniard was caught offside.

Pirlo came up with his second change as he replaced Bernardeschi with Weston McKennie. Gattuso promptly replied by sending in Fabian Ruiz and Elif Elmas in place of Piotr Zielinski and Matteo Politano. On 70 minutes, it was time for Dejan Kulusevski, who substituted Bentancur.

Still, it took a Cristiano Ronaldo fast break to create more troubles to Meret, though the Portuguese’s conclusion was not particularly effective. The Napoli goalkeeper was superb to deny Alvaro Morata on 86 minutes, right after a Federico Chiesa shot had sent a shiver back to Gennaro Gattuso’s back.

The Partenopei fort held until the six minutes of added time were also completed and took home a fundamental win to clear the tense air breezing around their headquarters and temporarily reach the fourth spot in the table – as they wait for Roma and Lazio to undertake their weekly campionato tests tomorrow. 



February 13, 2021 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 22

SCORERS: 30′ Insigne pen.

NAPOLI (4-2-3-1): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Maksimovic, Mario Rui; Bakayoko, Zielinski (64′ Elmas); Politano (64′ Fabian Ruiz), Insigne (88′ Loboka), Lozano; Osimhen (75′ Petagna (Ospina, Contini, Costanza, Zedadka, Cioffi) Coach: Gattuso
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado (46′ Alex Sandro), De Ligt, Chiellini, Danilo; Bernardeschi (63′ McKennie), Bentancur (72′ Kulusevski), Rabiot, Chiesa; Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo (Pinsoglio, Buffon, Bonucci, Demiral, Di Pardo, Frabotta, Peeters, Fagioli) Coach: Pirlo

REFEREE: Mr. Doveri from Rome
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Di Lorenzo, Bakayoko (N), Chiellini, Cuadrado, Rabiot; Extra Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 6′