A very evenly-fought match between last season's best two teams in Italy went all the way to penalties, thanks to two goals each for Gonzalo Higuaín and Carlos Tevez, and after an incredibly dramatic penalty shootout, Napoli emerged as winners and Supercoppa Italiana champions.
If you put money down on "horrible defensive howler leads to first goal," then you should go collect your winnings. A sloppy header back from David Lopez in midfield was getting closed down by Carlos Tevez, but it looked like Kalidou Koulibaly had the play well-covered. That is, until Raul Albiol came out of nowhere, clattered in to his teammate, and didn't do anything to stop Tevez from getting to the ball. The Argentine took his gift gladly, firing in to the goal and putting Juventus up just a few minutes in to the match.
Despite the horrific start, Napoli actually played fairly well. They got forward aggressively, found some chinks in Juventus' armor, and did their best to exploit them. Marek Hamsik in particular impressed, ripping off some dangerous shots and doing his best to slip in Gonzalo Higuaín and Jose Callejon, though neither forward were able to capitalize on the chances.
Albiol continued to struggle, though, especially when tasked with marking Carlos Tevez. The defender has been having major issues with his positioning this season, and few strikers are better at exploiting that than Tevez. Koulibaly and Chrisitian Maggio did what they could to help out, but both had their own demanding defensive tasks to accomplish.
Thanks to some good work in midfield, though, Napoli managed to edge things out in the first half. Yes, they were down, but thanks to some sterling goalkeeping from Rafael Cabral, including two sublime saves on Tevez in a three-minute span, they went to the half down just one goal.
Napoli came out swinging in the second half, and Juventus didn't quite seem to know how to deal with it. Hamsik, Higuaín, and Callejon all had tries at goal that clearly had Gianluigi Buffon beaten, but there almost seemed to be a forcefield in goal that kept Napoli from scoring.
A sloppy giveaway down Napoli's left by Roberto Pereyra, who had just come on for Andrea Pirlo, gave Napoli a chance to counter down that side. A previously-quiet Jonathan De Guzman burst down in to the final third before delivering a pinpoint cross that Higuaín rose to meet, and nothing, not Buffon, not that forcefield, not the post, not the will of all the Juventus fans in the stadium, could keep him from nodding home the equalizer.
It was Higuaín's first goal in a month, and you could see the joy and relief etched over his face as he wheeled away in celebration. It also looked like an affirmation moment for Napoli: they could hang with Juventus, and if they kept pushing, they could find a way to win.
Napoli did push for a winner for awhile, but it wasn't long before it became fairly clear that this match was bound for extra time. Things settled down pretty significantly as full time approached, though Rafael was called on to make some more saves, most of which were quite impressive.
The first half of extra time was.... not that exciting, in truth. Rafa had thrown on Gokhan Inler for a flagging David Lopez, who had run his butt off keeping Paul Pogba in check and covering for Albiol on the back line, and Inler seemed to miss the memo that Pogba needed to be restrained. The French midfielder took over the match for Juve, and created a number of lethal chances simply because no one was marking him properly. Rafal Cabral and Kalidou Koulibaly were more than enough to keep things knotted up, with top-notch saves from Rafael and a couple huge clearances from Koulibaly, including one off the goal line from an Arturo Vidal cannon blast.
The second half of extra time started off not so impressively for Napoli. Pogba got free, again, making Inler and Maggio look like statues in the process. He centered the ball up for Tevez, who sent everyone the wrong way with a stepover and fired to the far post to put Juve up 2-1.
Higuaín still had an answer up his sleeve, though. He punished some sloppy and tired defending from Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini with a lovely little run, then wrong-footed Buffon again to equalize the match a second time in incredibly dramatic fashion with just two minutes to go in extra time.
It took some desperate defending to hold on, with Rafael and Koulibaly again coming up huge. Then it went to penalties, which wound up being a long and dramatic process, taking nine rounds to see through. In the end, though, it was again Koulibaly and Rafael saving the day for Napoli, the big French defender sending Buffon the wrong way and banging his shot in off the post, and Rafael pushing Padoin's last-gasp try away.
While the Supercoppa Italiana may be of questionable value, Supercup-type "competitions" basically being glorified friendlies, Napoli's performance has to be applauded. They never once gave up on this match, and outplayed the best side in Italy on their way to lifting their second trophy in seven months. The players and fans have a lot to be proud of, and now the squad heads to the winter break with their heads held high and hoping to use this win to kick-start the second half of their season.
Juventus: Buffon, Lichtsteiner (Padoin 79'), Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra, Pirlo (Pereyra 67'), Marchisio, Pogba, Vidal, Tevez, Llorente (Morata 106')
Goals: Tevez 5', 106'
Penalties: Tevez miss, Vidal scored, Pogba scored, Marchisio scored, Chiellini miss, Morata scored, Bonucci scored, Pereyra miss, Padoin miss
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Gargano, David Lopez (Inler 91'); De Guzman (Jorginho 106'), Hamsik (Mertens 79'), Callejon; Higuaín
Goals: Higuain 68', 118'
Penalties: Jorginho miss, Ghoulam scored, Albiol scored, Inler scored, Higuaín scored, Gargano scored, Mertens miss, Callejon miss, Koulibaly scored