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Juventus 0 - Napoli 1: Initial reaction and random observations

Well, that sucked.

Adrien Rabiot of Juventus FC reacts during the Serie A... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

For over an hour on Sunday night, Juventus didn’t record a shot on target. The possession was firmly with one team, the offense being created was firmly by one team and the one that was playing on its home turf was in a defensive block for such long periods of time that you thought they’d never got out of it.

Yet there Juve were with a chance to potentially win the game considering that league-leading Napoli wasn’t able to do much.

We thought Juventus got that win not once, but twice within the final 10 minutes. But both times — first through Angel Di Maria and then Dusan Vlahovic on his first touch after coming on right before stoppage time —it was the decisions of the referee that took a potential goal off the board.

And like all good teams do, Napoli made Juventus pay for it. Just two minutes after Vlahovic thought that he had the game winner, it was a fellow late second-half substitute, Giacomo Raspadori, who rocketed a brilliant side volley past Wojciech Szczesny to give Napoli the 1-0 win and hand Juventus their fourth loss in the last seven Serie A fixtures. To put a little more salt in the wound, it came mere seconds after Juan Cuadrado tried to win himself a penalty in the Napoli box, only to unleash the Serie A leaders on a high-speed counterattack that led to the only goal of the night be scored.

You will never guess who would have been marking Raspadori — a former Juventus transfer target — if he had not been arguing his case ... yeah, it would have been Cuadrado.

That’s just .. yeah, I don’t know. Saying it’s tough to swallow is a little bit of an understatement knowing how Juventus’ first goal was called off by the ticky-tack of all tickey-tack foul calls on Arek Milikin the build-up to Di Maria scoring thanks to a VAR review that had referee Michael Fabbri itching to clear everybody so he could make all the theatrics happen.

(And look, I get complaining about a foul call when Federico Gatti maybe shoulda been shown some sort of card after whacking Khvicha Kvaratskhelia upside the head is a little ironic, but we’ve never exactly maintained that Serie A refs are good at their job.)

There’s two main things to take out of this game:

  1. Juventus nearly won it despite going so long without even a shot being attempted.
  2. Serie A refereeing is still very bad and VAR has not helped them out one bit no matter what they try to tell you about how much it is helping them get calls right.

There’s controversy galore in both directions. Juventus has multiple reasons to be upset, with the Di Maria goal that ended up being called off chief amongst them. Napoli, too, has reasons to be upset even though they got the win.

But that call against Milik that sprung Juve’s counterattack and allowed Manuel Locatelli to hit Di Maria on the counter and then the veteran Argentine to cook Napooli’s defense before beating Alex Meret, that’s the call that will stick with me the most. That is where slowing it down as much as the VAR replay did made it look so much worse than it actually is.

The last thing that Juve needs to see happen is to close this season out with a total mixed bag of results after getting their 15 points back. Losing to a team that’s dominated this season as much as Napoli — and dominated you yourself the first time you played one another — isn’t a bad thing in a vacuum. But to not win a game like this one that proved to be quite winnable is the toughest part of it all.

Juve, even with their lack of offense, nearly stole three points from a Napoli team that can now clinch the Scudetto next weekend. But they didn’t, so now they have to ensure that they can solidify their spot in the top four before things get that much more interesting.


  • Pre-game thought No. 1: This is a starting lineup that very much has Wednesday night’s Coppa Italia semifinal decider in mind.
  • Pre-game thought No. 2: Rugani vs. Osimhen. A meeting of Serie A titans.
  • Napoli had 69% possession (nice!) in the first half.
  • Napoli finished with 65% possession and outshot Juventus by a 17-7 margin.
  • Juve, much to their credit, defended pretty damn well outside of Nicolo Fagioli losing Raspadori on the Napoli goal. I say that because seven of Napoli’s 17 shots were blocked.
  • Also for the simple fact that this game was scoreless until the 93rd minute rather than a 5-1 final score that Juventus was on the wrong side of like we saw back in January.
  • If only that ball was going a liiiiiiiiiiiittle bit slower for Federico Chiesa so that it didn’t go over the end line and allow him to make that Vlahovic goal count. That would’ve been nice.
  • Also quite ironic after weeks and weeks of not seeing any service at all that Vlahovic would have scored on his first touch of the game after coming on. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
  • Breaking news: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia makes me uneasy whenever he’s on the ball. I’m guessing that’s how fans of opposing teams felt when Chiesa was absolutely on fire during his first season with Juventus. (I sure do with Fred Church gets back to that point next season.)
  • Can we get more Matias Soulé before this season is over, please? It feels like the kid only plays once every couple of weeks, but every time he’s out there his performances are more good than bad. For a guy who just turned 20 and has not seen consistent minutes at all this season, I feel like that is a pretty good sign of how talented he is.
  • As Juve’s low block got deeper and deeper I missed when they were actually pressing and forcing Napoli into bad turnovers in their own half of the field. Maybe we should see more of that because it was definitely working. That’s just one guy’s opinion, though. And we all know the guy who actually sets this team up won’t go through with it.
  • Max Allegri said after the game that Michael Fabbri “refereed a perfect game” and I really hope that’s sarcasm from Max because it wasn’t perfect!
  • Three of Juventus’ four losses over the last seven games have come against teams that are sitting in the top four. Does that mean we cut them some slack or be worried that this team is going to be hanging on for dear life to ensure they stay in the top four?
  • Daniele Rugani actually held his own against Victor Osimhen and I didn’t expect to be typing that sentence out minutes after this game ended.
  • Danilo had seven tackles against Napoli. That’s more than twice as much as any other Juve player.
  • This was a good Manuel Locatelli game. Juventus needs more of them.
  • Filip Kostic had so many of his crosses that were almost on the foot of a teammate. Then there were Kostic crosses that completely missed their target and almost went out for a thrown-in. Kostic gonna Kostic, I guess.
  • Now we get to see what this team can do in a do-or-die knockout matchup against Inter at the San Siro on Wednesday. At this point, I really have no idea what to think — and I’m guessing I’m not the only one in that camp. They’re just too all over the place for me, man.