An empty Stadio Olimpico (unless you count the horrific computer-generated fans) played host to a dull Coppa Italia final on Wednesday night, as Napoli beat Juventus on penalties to lift the trophy for the first time since 2014.
The lack of atmosphere, alongside the fact that these players are still lacking in match fitness, made for a lacklustre game, with neither side having any significant chances on goal. It became clear very early on that a goal wouldn’t be scored from open play and that the game would ultimately be decided on penalties.
Juventus’ Paulo Dybala stepped up to take the first penalty, only for it to be saved by Napoli shot-stopper Alex Meret. Lorenzo Insigne successfully converted his penalty for Napoli, but Juventus missed again, with Danilo firing the ball into the stands. Both sides scored their remaining penalties, but it was Napoli who reigned supreme, running out as deserved winners.
Key Talking Point
Like their rivals from up north, Napoli were exactly enjoyable to watch with Gennaro Gattuso employing a style of football that harkened back to the days of catenaccio. This could be blamed on the enforced three-month break, and while they appeared to have more desire than Juventus, they didn’t create too many opportunities in normal time.
Gattuso isn’t a man that is satisfied with just a win; even one that secured him the first piece of silverware in his managerial career. No doubt he will have some strong words for his players, as improvement will needed ahead of Serie A’s resumption. Napoli were the better side however, and they do come away with a deserved win, though they were very much the best of the worst.
Starting XI: Meret (6); Di Lorenzo (7), Maksimovic (7), Koulibaly (7), Mario Rui (6); Fabian (6), Demme (7*), Zielinski (7); Callejon (5), Mertens (5), Insigne (6).
Substitutes: Politano (6), Milik (6), Allan (N/A), Hysaj (N/A).
Though none of Napoli’s players stood out in particular, Diego Demme can be credited with putting in a good performance for Gennaro Gattuso’s side. He read the game well, seemed adept at controlling the midfield and even had a decent chance to score.
Definitely someone to keep an eye on over the coming months.
Key Talking Point
The notion that Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus plays attractive, attack-oriented football somewhat went out of the window tonight, with his side putting on a truly tepid display. The blame doesn’t fall fully at Sarri’s feet, however, as his Juventus squad seemed to lack creativity going forward, with none of their players having even a decent shot on goal.
Juventus have underwhelmed following the resumption of football last week, and while this could be attributed to the three-month hiatus, there is little excuse for not turning up to a cup final. Much improvement is needed if they are to secure their ninth consecutive Scudetto and have a decent run in the Champions League.
Starting XI: Buffon (7*); Cuadrado (7), Bonucci (6), De Ligt (7), Alex Sandro (6); Pjanic (4), Bentancur (5), Matuidi (4); Dybala (4), Ronaldo (4), Douglas Costa (4).
Substitutes: Danilo (5), Bernardeschi (N/A), Ramsey (N/A).
At the ripe old age of 42, Gianluigi Buffon proved just why is considered one of the best goalkeepers of all time, putting in a solid performance and making a couple of key saves to keep Napoli’s forwards at bay for 90 minutes.
He was, by some distance, the best player on the pitch, despite the fact he failed to save any of Napoli’s penalties. It was a clear message to Sarri that he could depend on the ageing shot-stopper to help Juventus win the Scudetto.
With the Coppa Italia out of the way, Juventus and Napoli can now focus on finishing their league campaigns. Maurizio Sarri’s side face a trip to top-half Bologna on Monday, and will be expecting no less than the full three points as they look to beat Lazio to the Scudetto.
Champions League qualification appears to be beyond the realms of possibility for Napoli, and the focus now will be to ensure that they qualify for the Europa League. They visit Hellas Verona on Tuesday, a team which has surprisingly emerged as a Europa League candidate.