Napoli’s directive coming into the biggest game of the Serie A season was clear. Get three points and make it a battle to the finish with Juventus. The Bianconeri had their bus pelted with rocks, eggs and bottles as they made their way from the hotel to Stadio San Paolo. The noise at the stadium said it all. This was huge.
Six years ago the two clubs battled in Serie B. Today a massive momentum swing was on the line. Unfortunately for the title race starved neutrals–hey!–this clash ended in a draw. Napoli’s strong start–powered by Marek Hamsik’s impressive play (and haircut)–went for naught. Andrea Pirlo sent an excellent cross into the box, finding Giorgio Chiellini for the games opening goal in the 10th minute. Chiellini was pumped.
They traded chances in the following ten minutes. Arturo Vidal set up a glorious opportunity for Mirko Vucinic only to be foiled by Morgan De Sanctis. Hamsik continued to buzz around the Juventus box. A crunching collision between Napoli teammates Miguel Britos and Gökhan Inler ended with the former lying on the ground in agony.
Inler would equalize in the 43rd minute, sending a a long distance strike off of Leonardo Bonucci and past Buffon.
The end of the half was marked by the most bizarre incident of the match. Edinson Cavani and Giorgio Chiellini had been going at each other for 45 minutes. The Italian defender had apparently been tugging on Cavani’s hair when the striker retaliated with a vicious elbow to Chiellini’s head. It was away from the play, thus the referee didn’t see it. After consulting with his assistant he gave the Napoli striker a yellow. It didn’t add up. If the assistant referee had seen the incident there is no way that isn’t a red card. End of discussion. Somehow Dan Tan was obviously involved.
The end to end play continued in the second half. Vidal’s private parts took a viscous blow that will limit his ability to procreate for the foreseeable future. Stephan Lichtsteiner, the world’s most hated fullback, was lucky to avoid giving Napoli a penalty after fouling Goran Pandev in the box.
Aside from the elbow, Cavani didn’t make an impact on this game. Juve’s attacking force lacked the game changer they needed to capitalize on their strong ball retention. Though this game ended with a draw, it was a riveting affair. The Bianconeri’s lead remains at six, but with games against Inter, Milan and Lazio remaining, nothing is a lock.