Napoli v. Juventus was billed as a “top of the table clash”. It was supposed to be a “newly revived Juventus” who were owners of the “best defence in Europe” against a “stumblining Napoli” side. And if the pundits were to be believed, Napoli’s slip to Inter (at the Giuseppe Meazza, which you might still know as San Siro) was the sign that Napoli were more title pretenders than real contenders. But thanks to three goals and three assists for Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Napoli blew the doors off Juventus and left them looking like a clapped out old truck.
Anyone who has watched Juventus this season knew that their supposed defensive prowess was a fugazi. Prior to yesterday, they’d only let in 7 goals in 17 Serie A matches, true, but they had an xGA of 18. Plus they allowed 13 goals in 6 champions league matches, including three to Israeli side Maccabi Haifa and six to Portuguese side Benfica. And the performances weren’t even close in the Champions League. Juventus were a club on a hiding to nothing. And it took just 14 minutes for Napoli to hand it to them.
Kvara hit an overhead kick which Szczesny did well to parry but Osimhen was there to head it home. Khvicha won’t get the assist but this was the first of three goals the two players would create for each other.
Di Maria hit the bar with a long range effort for Juventus just before Kvara scored the Napoli 2nd. I would call it a “sweeping move” or maybe even a “beautiful bit of holdup play” if I wanted to be generous to Juve but I don’t. It was calamitous defending. A long ball was clipped in, Osimhen literally ran a circle around his defender, the entire Juve defense collapsed on him but somehow they did so cautiously, and left Kvara wide open in the middle of the park. Osimhen just rolled him the ball and he slotted home past Szczesny. The supposed best defense in Europe looked like a bunch of amateurs.
Napoli have their own penchant to leak stupid goals and sure enough, Juve clawed one back through Angel di Maria. It was a basic one-two pass which had been cut out by the Napoli defense but the ball bobbled and Napoli defender Min-Jae Kim was left looking like his feet were stuck in quicksand. Di Maria placed the ball well, giving the Old Lady some hope as the two clubs went in to half time.
Napoli keeper Meret was called upon to make a save from a long range shot at the start of the second half but did so easily. And while it looked for a minute that Napoli might be a bit nervous Osimhen won a corner from a long ball and on the corner Rrahmani scored a bold lash from Kvara’s corner kick.
From this point on, Juventus looked like they didn’t know what to do. Khvicha has the uncanny ability to both dribble past players and also to just stop and force the entire opposition team into a moment of indecision. He reminds me of prime Alexis Sanchez in that regard. Because he’s so dangerous on the dribble, players give him space and are even afraid to close him down. As a result, he makes it look easy at times and the fourth goal was one of those times. With all the space in the world, Kvara just side-footed a little cross, Osimhen beat two Juve defenders and Szczesny and headed the ball in easily.
Juve were comprehensively beaten at this point. Osimhen was removed to rest him for more important fixtures and yet Napoli had a fifth: a simple long ball from di Lorenzo to Elmas, an easy cut back to his left foot and Napoli had the fifth. There was probably a hint of luck to that one since it was blocked but it wasn’t undeserved for Napoli because Juventus had given up.
The result takes Napoli 10 points clear in the title race and AC Milan should close that to 7 points with a win over Lecce today. And if you’re a fan of a good story, Napoli is the story. They haven’t won the Scudetto since 1990 when they had Maradona in the team, they just recently renamed their stadium after Maradona, and they have the most exciting one-two punch in Kvara and Osimhen since Maradona and van Basten. Northern teams have dominated Italian football for over 20 years (Roma was the last team south of the Rubicon to win the league) and, again, a Southern team hasn’t won since Napoli in 1990.
I just implore you, if you’re a fan of high octane, flashy, fun football, come watch Kvara and Osimhen, and stay to cheer them on to win the Scudetto. I bet it’s the most fun you’ll have watching football this year*.
*unless you’re a Gooner and they win the Premier League!