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Serie A

Juventus ride their luck to win in San Paolo and go 16 points clear

The reigning champions weathered a second half onslaught with both sides down to 10 men to carve out a vertiginous lead in Serie A.

Juventus ride their luck to win in San Paolo and go 16 points clear
Francesco PecoraroGetty Images

Juventus placed one hand on the Scudetto with a 2-1 victory over Napoli in the San Paolo as Carlo Ancelotti’s second-placed Azzurri ceded their title challenge despite being the dominant side for most of the game.

Massimiliano Allegri’s perennial champions are now 16 points clear of Napoli and 21 ahead of third-placed Milan after goals from Miralem Pjanic and Emre Can ensured another victory for the Old Lady, who are 12 games from the title and potentially an unbeaten season.

On Sunday’s evidence, it seems that lady luck is also a Juve supporter. After Napoli keeper Alex Meret was dismissed in the 24th minute for chopping down the onrushing Cristiano Ronaldo, Pjanic curled in the resulting free kick to add insult to injury. Can made it 2-0 10 minutes later with a deflected header and at the break it seemed there was little scope of a Napoli comeback.

Ancelotti's gamble almost pays dividends

Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne misses a late penalty.
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Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne misses a late penalty.CIRO DE LUCAREUTERS

Switching to a back three for the second 45, Ancelotti decided to go all-out and it so nearly paid off for his side. João Cancelo was given his marching orders in the 54th minute to level the playing field and José Callejón pounced to pull back a goal six minutes later.

From there, it was 30 minutes of back-to-the-wall defending from Juve, who conceded 12 corners and faced 21 shots overall, most of them in the final half hour. When Napoli were awarded a penalty courtesy of a VAR review eight minutes from time, it seemed as though an equaliser few could argue was unwarranted was afoot. Lorenzo Insigne’s well-struck shot beat Wojciech Szczesny but not the Polish keeper’s post and rebounded so hard and fast that a follow up was impossible.

Napoli continued to press but Juve, led by old heads Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, managed to cling grimly on for victory despite barely leaving their own half after the break, much less bothering substitute keeper David Ospina.

Nevertheless, Allegri’s side will wake up on Monday with an insurmountable lead at the summit of Serie A as they cruise to another Scudetto. Only a collapse of epic proportions can prevent that now, but Napoli can at least console themselves in the knowledge they threw up a mountain in San Paolo to try and stave off the inevitable for a week or two longer.

Napoli vs Juventus live online: as it happened


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