Juventus grabbed a vital three points for Andrea Pirlo on Wednesday night as they edged past Napoli 2-1 at the Allianz Stadium.
The hosts started brightly and soon found themselves in the lead through, you guessed it, Cristiano Ronaldo following some wonderful work by Federico Chiesa. Napoli improved as the contest wore on, but Juve held firm in defence before a returning Paulo Dybala snatched a much-needed second with a trademark finish past Alex Meret.
It wasn’t all plain-sailing for the hosts, though, as Lorenzo Insigine pulled one back late on from the spot. Fortunately for Juve, the diminutive Italian’s strike from 12-yards proved a mere consolation.
Here are the Juventus player ratings from the contest.
GK – Gianluigi Buffon
While there was the odd heart-attack moment in possession, Gianluigi Buffon provided a secure pair of hands between the sticks. The veteran did well to deny Giovanni Di Lorenzo and a Fabian Ruiz strike from distance.
RB – Danilo
I suspected a similar system to the Lazio victory last month, but my theory was swiftly debunked after Danilo was caught marauding on the overlap in Juve’s first attacking sequence. The Brazilian was mightily dynamic in the opening period and defended astutely after the break to complete a fine display. His work in Juve’s build-up has to commended, too. The Brazilian functioned superbly from an inverted position.
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CB – Matthijs de Ligt
The Dutchman was pretty inactive tonight but saved his best work for when it mattered most to deny Victor Osimhen on the turn in added time. He was dominant in the air but there were a couple of examples of poor one-v-one defending, most notably when Insigne sold him completely with a subtle feint before getting a shot away.
CB – Giorgio Chiellini
A dogged performance from the old-timer, who relished the challenge of Osimhen a little too much as he clumsily brought the Nigerian down for Napoli’s penalty. Otherwise, there was little to fault the Italian. Positionally superb and a calming influence in the penalty box.
LB – Alex Sandro
A mixed bag from Alex Sandro, who endured a nervy start and was the first name in the referee’s book. Nevertheless, he produced a fine one-v-one defensive performance against the frustrated Hirving Lozano and ended the contest with an impressive eight combined tackles and interceptions – leading all players.
RM – Juan Cuadrado
Endured a quiet start before bursting into life midway through the first half with a few sequences of electricity. Elseid Hysaj simply couldn’t cope at times. The Colombian established a harmonious dynamic with Danilo, often combining well with the Brazilian and should’ve got himself on the scoresheet twice but poor ball-striking let him down at the crucial moment.
Overall, it was refreshing not to see Cuadrado deliver 40 crosses from the right flank in what was a much more varied and vibrant attacking performance from the hosts.
CM – Rodrigo Bentancur
His best game in a long time. All season, perhaps. The Uruguayan set the tone in the opening exchanges with a dominant sequence that involved an astute interception and driving run through the Napoli midfield.
He was a stabilising force in the build-up throughout, oozing confidence with the ball at his feet. The stellar passing range really came out to play today, too.
CM – Adrien Rabiot
Another who enjoyed their finest outing in a long time. In fact, this was as good as I’ve seen Adrien Rabiot play. Maybe it was the throwback hairstyle to his PSG days, who knows.
The Frenchman was a major contributor in all phases; proving diligent in his defensive work, offering thrust in transition and elegance in possession. Rabiot timed his advances up the left half-space superbly and remained impressively cool in the face of Napoli’s press throughout. If only he could produce this sort of performance regularly, eh.
LM – Federico Chiesa
Here he is. The superstar. Yet again, it was Federico Chiesa who produced. This time with a dazzling, speed skater-esque slalom to completely befuddle Hysaj before delivering a drilled cross for Ronaldo to finish.
The young Italian epitomised Juve’s new-found vibrancy, with nobody on the field rivalling his intensity out of possession – despite being caught out positionally on the odd occasion.
ST – Cristiano Ronaldo
This was such a well-rounded performance from the Portuguese great, who contributed much more than the opening goal on Wednesday evening. For once, he was actually a protagonist in Juve’s collective effort; taking up optimal positions all across the final third, aiding his side’s positional play, rotating effectively, and serving as a reliable outlet. This was a brilliant all-around performance.
ST – Alvaro Morata
A fairly quiet outing for Alvaro Morata, who often took up smart positions in the build-up to aid Juve’s advance upfield but, once again, frustrated in transition. Some of his decision-making on the break was distinctly poor.