This was exactly what we wanted: a confident, quality performance from Napoli against their most bitter rivals Juventus. Napoli took full advantage of Juve's early-season weaknesses, exploiting them to their full en route to a massive 2-1 win, courtesy of goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Gonzalo Higuain. This was the Napoli we've been waiting for all season. Nice to finally see them show up.
The match started off rather -- well, bizarrely. Juventus made a lot of strange mistakes with their passing, looking shaken and unsettled right off the bat, especially in defense. Even more strangely, Napoli seemed as surprised as the rest of us that Juve started so poorly, and struggled to take advantage of that apparent weakness.
Napoli were the team that settled into the match first, though, and the quickly started to assert control over the match, steadily working Juventus deeper and deeper down the pitch. It looked like it would only be a matter of time before Napoli scored, but with Gigi Buffon in goal, they were always going to have to work for it.
Work for it they did, and score they did, thanks to a lovely bit of play from Lorenzo Insigne that found a breakthrough. Some smart ball control in traffic at the top of the box lead to a 1-2 with Gonzalo Higuain that gave Insigne the space he needed to deliver a stinging shot that Buffon simply couldn't stop.
Napoli piled on some more pressure on Juve and for a time it looked like a bending defense would crack -- but instead it was Napoli who took the next blow, when Insigne went down in a heap and left the match holding his right knee, the same one that he tore up last season. It was heartbreaking seeing him leave the pitch like that, though the initial indications are that Insigne's injury was just a sprain, nothing serious, indications backed up by him returning to the bench in the second half.
That loss of momentum allowed Juventus to get back into the match a bit in the closing minutes of the half, and they came out swinging hard in the second half. Fortunately, assured showings from Allan, Elseid Hysaj, and Kalidou Koulibaly helped keep Juve at bay, and Napoli started wresting control away from the Old Lady again.
Napoli pushed hard to find a second goal and came close several times, but it wound up being a gift from Juventus that served up the breakthrough. Hernanes, who was a shock starter as Juventus' regista in this match, had been struggling at that deeper position all match long. Finally his mistakes got the best of him, as a pass intended for Simone Padoin died right in front of Higuain, who gladly took the ball and ran off towards Juventus' goal, snapping off a shot that Buffon could only get a hand to on it's way into the back of the net.
Unfortunately, that lead wouldn't last, as a weird bit of play cost Napoli dearly. Koulibaly and Raul Albiol collided on an attempt to clear a high ball to Simone Zaza -- Koulibaly's man in Napoli's marking scheme today -- leaving Paulo Dybala -- who Albiol should have been on -- space to run onto the loose ball and pick out a cross, which went to Mario Lemina at the far post. Koulibaly tried to get back to cover in time, but was a fraction too late as Lemina looped a ball in that beat Reina to the post.
Both sides had scoring opportunities from there, but they all came to naught as Napoli were able to hold on for an absolutely massive win over Juventus. It wasn't Napoli's best performance of the season so far, but they consistently did what they needed to do to keep Juve at bay, knock them off balance, and take advantage of their openings. This is the kind of play and performance that we were promised when Maurizio Sarri took over. It took awhile, but we're finally seeing what his vision of Napoli looks like. If it winds up with more wins like this, we'll all be happy for it.
Oh, and this result handed Juventus their third loss of the season, which is as many as they suffered for all of last season. So there's that. That's pretty nice.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik (Lopez 80'); Insigne (Mertens 40'), Higuaín (Gabbiadini 84'), Callejon
Goals: Insigne (26'), Higuain (62')
Juventus: Buffon; Padoin (Sandro 89'), Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Lemina, Hernanes (Cuadrado 64'), Pogba; Pereyra; Zaza, Dybala (Morata 71')
Goals: Lemina (63')