Napoli outplayed Juventus for most of the match, but lost 3-1 in thoroughly unpleasant fashion thanks to a wonderstrike and two moments of controversy. So in other words, just another day at the office. Another crappy day, anyways.
The first half consisted mostly of Napoli sitting back, letting Juventus run themselves ragged and threatening on the counter. It looked like that tactic was going to work marvelously; Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon had created some real danger, and Juventus' opportunities had proved to be limited despite having most of the possession thanks to sloppy ball handling and stout defense from Kalidou Koulibaly.
Then Paul Pogba happened. Fernando Llorente popped a ball back to the corner of the penalty area, and Pogba had drifted unmarked out in to that space. One swing of the leg and absolutely thunderous volley later, and Juventus were up 1-0 thanks to a strike that, as good as Rafael Cabral's reaction was, he could only get his fingers on.
Napoli were able to see out the rest of the first half without incurring any more damage, though it took a good reaction save from Rafael on a low Martin Caceres drive to do so. The second half started with Napoli bursting out of the gate to try and find an equalizer, but that proved a hard battle to fight. Gonzalo Higuain had been quiet for much of the first half, and only continued to be the case as Leonardo Bonucci kept the striker firmly in his pocket.
It took until past the hour mark, but Napoli finally did win their breakthrough, and it came from the unlikeliest of sources. In the 64th minute, Dries Mertens lofted in a corner that, for a moment, looked like it might bounce through untouched. Then Miguel Britos popped up out of nowhere and fired the ball home, having snuck through unmarked. No one would have guessed before the match that it was Britos who would score a big equalizer, and his celebration was appropriately triumphant... but his glory was not long lived.
Just five minutes later, we saw not-good Britos again, giving up a sloppy and unnecessary foul in a dangerous area, setting up Andrea Pirlo for a chance at magic and earning himself a yellow card and one-match suspension to go with it. The resulting free kick predictably ended in Juventus players wheeling away to celebrate a go-ahead goal. The moment wasn't without controversy - two Juve players were clearly offside on replay - but in the end it was Raul Albiol failing to mark Martin Caceres that gave Juventus a new lead.
That wasn't the most controversial of the match, though. Oh no. That came several minutes later when it appeared that Gianluigi Buffon had lost control of a cross in to the box, dropping the ball for Caceres to put in to the back of his own net in a horrifying attempt at a clearance. Just as Napoli players started to celebrate, though, the referee blew his whistle and pointed at the other end of the pitch. A free kick, thanks to an apparent foul on Koulibaly, a call that had absolutely no bearing on reality.
Replays showed it clear as day: Buffon caught the ball, bobbled it, came down, banged in to Koulibaly, who was partly shielded by a defender, and lost the ball. Yes, Buffon and Koulibaly collided. Yes, Koulibaly's arm touched the ball. But what was he supposed to do about it? He was helpless, on the downswing of his own jump when Buffon came down from above him and landed on him. Buffon didn't even have full control of the ball before impact. The call was horrific, and it cost Napoli dearly.
Things really seemed to come apart for Napoli after that. Every chance they had, something went wrong to kill it. Dries Mertens wins a ball in the box, then trips over his feet and puts it out for a goal kick. Duvan Zapata get the ball around Buffon and is clear on goal, then for no reason at all performs one of the worst dives you'll see this side of Ashley Young instead of running back on the to the ball. Gonzalo Higuain get the ball at his feet three yards from goal with half of it yawning open for him, and blazes ten yards wide.
Then came the death blow. A Juve counter saw Christian Maggio fail to do anything resembling useful marking on Arturo Vidal, and that was that. A third goal, in stoppage time, and Napoli were dead in the water.
The scoreline was very harsh on most of Napoli's performance on the day, but the end result was the same: they lost. At home. To Juventus. For the first time in 14 years. It was ugly, it was frustrating, and it was at times infuriating. All semblance of the momentum Napoli were building up is now dust in the wind. Now they have to go to Lazio next weekend on the heels of a humbling loss, which is far from the position Napoli wanted to be in.
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Britos; Gargano (Zapata 83'), Lopez; De Guzman, Hamsik (Mertens 60'), Callejon (Gabbiadini 73'); Higuain
Goal: Britos 64'
Juventus: Buffon; Caceres (Ogbonna 80'), Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba (Lichtsteiner 70'), Vidal; Tevez, Llorente (Morata 75')
Goals: Pogba 29', Caceres 68', Vidal 90'+3