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Napoli maintain perfect start as Juventus held Featured

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Published in Italy Serie A
Monday, 02 October 2017 07:26

Napoli continued their 100 percent start to the season and stretched their lead at the top of Serie A to two points with a 3-0 win over Cagliari at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday

Marek Hamsik handed the hosts an early lead by scoring his first goal of the campaign with a low, angled shot in the fourth minute.

Top-scorer Dries Mertens then netted his ninth goal in all competitions this season by slotting home from the penalty spot five minutes before the interval.
Kalidou Koulibaly rounded off the win by finishing from close range two minutes into the second period. Napoli have now netted 33 goals in all competitions this season. с
Second-placed Juventus had started the day on the same number of points as Napoli but lost their perfect Serie A record when they were held to a 2-2 draw away at Atalanta.

Federico Bernardeschi and Gonzalo Higuain put the champions 2-0 up inside 24 minutes, but Mattia Caldara and Bryan Cristante scored either side of the interval to earn the hosts a point.

Massimiliano Allegri's side have been joined on 19 points by Inter Milan, who defeated Benevento 2-1 away thanks to a Marcelo Brozovic double.
Juventus retain second place in the table thanks to a superior goal difference.

Lazio will go into the international break in fourth place, five points adrift of Napoli, after beating Sassuolo 6-1 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Luis Alberto and Marco Parolo both scored braces for Simone Inzaghi's side, while Stefan de Vrij and Ciro Immobile completed the rout.

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  • Bernardeschi strike earns Juve hard-fought win

    Juventus remained within a point of Serie A leaders Napoli ahead of the winter break as Federico Bernardeschi's second-half strike secured a 1-0 win at Cagliari.
    Bernardeschi, one of three players to hit the woodwork in the first half, converted from close range in the 74th minute, with Cagliari left angry that play had not been halted moments earlier when Leonardo Pavoletti took an arm in the face from Medhi Benatia.
    An entertaining opening 45 minutes saw Paulo Dybala and Bernardeschi strike bar and post respectively before Wojciech Szczesny turned Diego Farias' shot against Juve's upright.

    It was certainly not the most comfortable of outings for Massimiliano Allegri's second-placed side - they lost Dybala and Sami Khedira to injury after the break - but a sixth win in seven league matches was sealed in the end.

    And it means, with a two-week hiatus now beginning, the points difference between the champions and Napoli remains what it was prior to the latter's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona earlier on Saturday.
    As 16th-placed Cagliari came under early pressure, Dybala curled a free-kick against the bar and Gonzalo Higuain sent a shot wide after collecting Khedira's pass.

    Juventus rattled the goal frame again soon after, with Bernardeschi's excellent strike coming back off a post, and the visitors then had the ball in the net in the 21st minute, although Benatia's finish was ruled out for offside.

    Just prior to that Pavoletti had directed a header off target at the other end and in the 26th minute he brought a great, point-blank save out of Szczesny with another headed effort.

    Szczesny, again playing in the absence of the injured Gianluigi Buffon, then denied Cagliari in fine style once more as he diverted Farias' shot on to a post just before the break.

    Things were not going as smoothly for Juventus as they might have expected and that continued as the second half got under way.
    Dybala was forced to come off in the 49th minute with an apparent hamstring problem and Khedira followed only a few minutes later after being involved in an aerial collision with Szczesny, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic coming on to replace them.

    As the away side tried to build some momentum, Miralem Pjanic shot wide and Giorgio Chiellini headed over, sustaining a head injury in the process. The skipper was able to continue playing, but only after having a bandage wrapped around his head.

    Juventus then made the breakthrough, with Bernardeschi tucking the ball past Rafael from Costa's delivery.

    Moments before the goal, Pavoletti was left on the ground having been caught in the face by Benatia's arm, with play being allowed to continue.

    The Cagliari man, backed by team-mates, protested in animated fashion to the referee after the goal went in, but it only resulted in him being booked.

  • Inter Milan stay top of Serie A after frustrating Juventus in goalless draw

    Inter Milan remain in top spot in Serie A after holding Juventus to a goalless draw in Turin.

    Victory for Juve would have seen the defending champions usurp their Derby d'Italia rivals but they could not find a breakthrough despite dominating the chances.
    At times it seemed like a contest between Mario Mandzukic and Inter keeper Samir Handanovic, with Juve having 19 shots to just six from the visitors, only one of which was on target.

    But the statistic that really counted left the teams level and preserved Inter's two-point advantage and their unbeaten record.

    Inter began well and dominated possession in the early stages, although they were very nearly behind in the ninth minute.

    A Juan Cuadrado cross from the right somehow made its way through a number of Inter defenders in the middle of the box and found Mandzukic in space.

    The Croatian probably should have scored but Handanovic produced an excellent save and then, when the ball came back to Mandzukic, his follow-up header was cleared from just in front of the line by Miranda.
    Handanovic was in for a busy evening while his opposite number Wojciech Szczesny, a stand-in for the injured Gianluigi Buffon, was largely a spectator.

    The next test for Handanovic arrived in the 36th minute, when he got down sharply to keep out Sami Khedira's volley.

    The Slovenian was beaten just before half-time when Mandzukic showed tremendous determination to meet Cuadrado's cross with a powerful header only for the ball to come back off the bar.

    Juve's dominance intensified after the break.

    A sublime turn from Gonazlo Higuain set up another shooting opportunity for Mandzukic but his effort was too close to Handanovic.

    The keeper was called on to keep out his own man in the 60th minute when a lovely one-two between Cuadrado and Higuain saw the Argentinian send in an inviting ball that Ivan Perisic got a head to.
    He could only direct it towards his own goal but Handanovic stuck out a hand to push the ball over the bar.

    Inter were struggling to cope with Juve's attacking threat and Khedira was the next to go close, shooting wide after Handanovic had come out of his goal to meet a cross.

    The Inter keeper was then in action again, this time getting down well to keep out Kwadwo Asamoah's fierce effort.

    Juventus sent on top scorer Paulo Dybala for Khedira for the final stages but had to settle for a frustrating point.

  • Napoli boss Sarri hails Higuain a "phenomenon" as Juventus edge Serie A win

    Gonzalo Higuain was hailed a "phenomenon" by his former coach after he showed what money can buy with the only goal in Juventus' 1-0 win against his old club Napoli.

    The Argentinian left Naples in 2016 after Juve paid his 90million euro release clause and his 12th-minute strike handed the Azzurri their first Serie A defeat of the campaign.
    Juventus closed to within a point of the leaders with victory and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri was left wondering what might have been had Higuain still played for his side.

    "He is very good in those situations. Pipa (Higuain) was very cold," Sarri told Gazzetta dello Sport.

    "They have 90million less, but three points more because they have a phenomenon.

    "The Neapolitans booed him but in this case I can not agree. Here he always gave his best, then that clause..."
    Sarri was disappointed the game did not have a more traditional feel, as the hosts did not wear their usual light blue jersey while Juventus' famous black-and-white stripes were not on show, either.

    He added: "I was hoping to die before seeing a Napoli-Juventus game with yellow and grey jerseys. A real sadness."

    Higuain had surgery on a broken bone in his left hand earlier this week and was a doubt for the game.

    Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri had little option, due to an injury to Mario Mandzukic, but said he had no problems with starting the Argentinian striker.

    In quotes reported by Gazzetta, Allegri told Premium Sport: "Mandzukic is injured and I threw him in. He is an extraordinary player and he is in excellent condition, technically doing magic things."

    Allegri praised his side's start to the game but highlighted room for improvement ahead of their Champions League trip to Olympiacos in midweek, where a victory will seal qualification to the knockout stages.

    "For us, tonight was a good test," he said.

    "The guys started well in the first half, playing well technically and creating scoring opportunities. In the second half Napoli dominated possession, but had few chances and against them you have to make a big defensive effort.

    "In the first half we came out better from their first pressure, but in the second I'm less happy. We return to Turin with a good result, but Tuesday evening, another important match awaits us."
    Despite Juve closing the gap to just a point, Allegri believes Napoli are still the team to beat in the title race.

    He added: "Napoli remains the favourite for the Scudetto. They play great football and still have a point advantage.

    "To get to the top it will be necessary to go beyond what others will do."

    However, this is a view Sarri disagrees with.

    He said: "Inter, Roma, Juve are all clearly stronger teams than us. Talk of Napoli as the favourite for the Scudetto is wrong."

  • Juve beaten at Samp, hapless Benevento lose in stoppage time

    Titleholders Juventus were sent crashing to a 3-2 defeat at Sampdoria on Sunday and hapless Benevento were denied their first point of the season when they lost 2-1 to Sassuolo in stoppage time.

    Federico Peluso's 94th-minute winner for Sassuolo, which came minutes after his team missed a penalty, meant that bottom team Benevento were condemned to a record-extending 13th straight defeat.

    Second-placed Juve trailed 3-0 at Sampdoria before stoppage-time goals by Gonzalo Higuain, from a penalty, and Paulo Dybala made the score more respectable.

    Juventus rested goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Andrea Barzagli, who both confirmed their international retirements after playing in Monday's 0-0 draw with Sweden which meant that Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup.
    The visitors missed a host of first-half chances then collapsed after the break as Sampdoria maintained their perfect home record.

    Duvan Zapata headed Sampdoria ahead in the 52nd minute, Lucas Torreira blasted the second and Gian Marco Ferrari turned in Fabio Quagliarella's cross from the byline for the third.

    Juve dropped four points behind leaders Napoli who beat AC Milan 2-1 on Saturday.
    Benevento gifted Sassuolo the lead as a backpass was intercepted by Simone Missiroli who then left Alessandro Matri to tap into an empty net after 57 minutes.

    In a game that summed up Benevento's season, Samuel Armenteros equalised eight minutes later but they almost immediately had Gaetano Letizia sent off for a second booking.

    Benevento held out until stoppage time when Sassuolo were awarded a penalty for handball which Domenico Berardi smashed against the bar.

    The home team's relief was short-lived, however, as Peluso headed in from a corner for the winner from the next attack.

    In other matches, Luca Rigoni's early goal gave Genoa a 1-0 win at Crotone and a winning start to Davide Ballardini's third stint as their coach after he replaced Ivan Juric.

    Torino and Chievo drew 1-1 as did SPAL and Fiorentina while Cagliari won 1-0 at troubled Udinese.

  • Juventus vs Torino: Preview and Prediction

    Juventus huffed and puffed, but managed to see off Fiorentina to ensure they made it five wins out of five. They next face cross-town rivals Torino in the Derby della Mole, and it’s always more than just a match when the Granata come to town.

    As for Torino, they hung on to secure all three points in an exciting five-goal thriller against Udinese. The last meeting between the two sides ended as a 1-1 draw and the Granata will be hoping to do what they haven’t done in decades – to beat La Vecchia Signora at their own ground for the first time since April 9, 1995.

    Juventus vs Torino: Head-to-head statistics

    Juventus are unbeaten in the last five meetings with Torino in all competitions, 4 wins and a draw. The stalemate happened in the corresponding Serie A fixture of last season, 1-1 at the Juventus stadium.

    Both teams have scored in the last six Serie A meetings between them.

    The Old Lady won 8 and drew 3 of the last 11 home matches against Torino.

    Torino have scored in the last three Serie A matches at the Juventus stadium, having fired blanks in previous 5.

    Juventus vs Torino: Prediction

    Torino are coming on the back of an excellent form and this is a huge confidence booster for the team when taking on a team like Juventus. But, we need to understand that their 5-match unbeaten streak at the start of the season came against teams that finished outside the top six in Serie A last season.

    Yet, it is extremely difficult to take points away at the Juventus Stadium. The only thing that punter must consider here is a much better competitive effort from the visitors. So, both teams to score and over 2.5 goals are all probable happenings in this fixture. But, the Old Lady are expected to bag all three points when the final whistle blows.

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