Napoli Club Focus: A defeat that rings like a wake up call
A 3-0 defeat can also be looked at as unlucky, the result of key decisions going against you as though the soccer god’s are cruelly punishing you for unbeknownst reasons that day.
Sunday’s defeat was not one of those defeats.
In what is a match that is always strongly felt by fans of the Partenopei, Napoli travelled to the Juventus Stadium to take on the Bianconeri in hopes of bringing home a positive result.
The magnitude of the match was made that much larger after Roma failed to defeat Sassuolo earlier that day, meaning that both sides had the chance to pull within one point of the league leaders.
However when these two sides clash there is much more than just a result on the line: bragging rights, in recent years title aspirations, and seemingly most of all it is a battle for territorial superiority in the never ending struggle between Northern and Southern Italy.
In fact things got so heated before the start of the match that Napoli fans were seen throwing urine filled bags at Juventus supporters.
The Bianconeri’s response? Those famous anti-Napoli chants we have heard so often this season (which will force the partial closure of the Juve stadium in for their next two home matches).
So with those pleasantries out of the way, the controversy spilled over onto the pitch as the referee made the headlines within the first minute after Fernando Llorente scored from what was an onside position.
That mistake was compounded as Gonzalo Higuain’s penalty claims in the 40th minute were denied, before Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba rounded out the scoreline late in the second half.
While it’s easy to lament the referee’s decisions (seemingly every Italians favourite pasttime), the Partenopei did not look at their best for long stretches of the match as they failed to impose their play on the Bianconeri.
While the second half performance was certainly better than the first, the Azzurri seemed too passive for a match that was in the balance until Pirlo’s great curling free kick in 74th minute.
The usual slick passing, probing possession style that we have come to know under Rafa Benitez were evident in Sunday’s match, but the Azzurri never seemed to pose Gianluigi Buffon with a goalscoring threat for most of the match.
Disastrous? No, because at the end of the day only three points were on the line. Worrying? Yes, and here’s why.
If we look at Napoli’s performances away from home against top opposition so far this season, the results have been disappointing to say the least: 2-0 defeat away to Arsenal, 2-0 defeat away to Roma and Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Juventus.
(I have not included the away win’s against Fiorentina and AC Milan because 1) the Viola are widely considered to be a level below the Partenopei and 2) all you have to do is watch the Rossoneri to see why I’m not including them as a top side)
While the Roma result could have gone the other way had it not been for some poor finishing by the Azzurri, the losses to Arsenal and Juventus were largely deserved.
Given that Napoli have failed to score a goal in any of those defeats, it certainly is something for Rafa Benitez to think about over the course of this international break.
Now, are these defeats to top sides an indication that the Partenopei will once again fail to take home any trophies this season? No. Their performances have shown they are serious contenders in Italy and Europe as their attacking line has the quality to put even the best of sides under serious threat.
What these defeats do show is that the Partenopei are still working on acquiring that killer touch, a trait that all the championship winning sides possess in order to ward off all challengers.
Will they acquire that skill? Time will tell, but with Benitez at the helm (a coach who has won several European trophies, and don’t forget that Antonio Conte) there is reason to believe that this hurdle can be overcome at some point this season.
If not, the Azzurri’s detractors are unlikely to ease up as the club look to bring the Scudetto back under the Vesuvius for the first time since 1990.
Follow Adriano Boin on Twitter: @Boin44