Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat 20 Oct Lazio 3-2 AC Milan, Juventus 2-0 Napoli Sun 21 Oct Genoa 2-4 AS Roma, Inter 2-0 Catania, Atalanta 2-1 Siena, Chievo 1-1 Fiorentina, Udinese 1-0 Pescara, Parma 2-1 Sampdoria, Palermo 0-0 Torino, Cagliari 1-0 Bologna
There is no messing with Juventus on or off the pitch as an unsuspecting robber found to his cost when he reportedly attempted to hold up Leonardo Bonucci.
The incident was reported to have taken place last Thursday as the defender was leaving a Ferrari dealership in Turin with his wife and young son, only to be approached by a man brandishing a pistol and demanding his watch.
Not one to back down, the Italy international punched the thief, who promptly scarpered, hopped onto a scooter and set off with his accomplice before any further harm could befall him.
The incident didn't appear to distract Bonucci, who later posted on his Facebook page that he wasn't superhero on or off the pitch, having also helped Juve lay down the law on Napoli on Saturday evening in what had been termed the new “classic” of Italian football.
The teams came into the encounter at the Juventus Stadium level on points at the top of the table, with the visitors having conceded just three goals to the home side’s four. But by the end of the evening the Azzurri were left black and blue in what at times was an ill-tempered game.
After all, Napoli were the only team to defeat Juve last term, and there had been some ill-feeling simmering from the Super Cup when Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis stopped his players from taking part in the medals’ ceremony due to what he perceived as some bias refereeing.
Kitted out in all-black as a mark of respect to former player Helmut Halle, who recently passed away, the defending champions were out to intimidate from the off and were as physical and clinical in dispatching their opponents as the rugby equivalent New Zealand are in hammering opponents into submission.
They may have been forced to wait until the final ten minutes to finally make the breakthrough, but however hard Napoli attempted to tough it out, there only ever looked to be one winner – and the gap between the title holders and the pretenders was plain to see.
Juve's players (including Bonucci - second left) celebrate victory
Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri had decided that a conservative approach was the only way to keep Juve in check. Yet apart from Edinson Cavani hitting the bar with a free-kick, the Azzurri never got their counter-attacking groove on, mainly due to an inability to keep possession for more than two or three passes.
At times it only needed two or three touches, usually from the imperious Andrea Pirlo, for Juve to mass in and around the opposition area where even if their shot average was down they kept the visitors occupied in just clearing their lines.
There was a new coach on the bench for the home team, with Angelo Alessio back in the dugout after his suspension for not reporting possible match fixing was reduced.
Antonio Conte’s number two replaced Massimo Carrera, who returned to the shadows in which Conte will continue to lurk on matchdays until his ban ends in December. He may only be visible through a perplex screen high in the stands, but the mark of Conte is there in everything his side does - right down to the timing of the substitutes.
If press reports are to be believed, Napoli had demanded the dressing room area be swept for a concealed entrance in case Conte could enter and give a half-time team talk. However, there are many ways to get a message across and ultimately some timely tactical tinkering changed the course of the game.
The first may have been forced on the home side. Kwado Asamoah ran himself into the ground and was forced to limp off, but his replacement Martin Caceres came racing on to make a telling contribution with a powerful header from Pirlo’s precise corner to finally break the deadlock.
Just as AS Roma had discovered a few weeks ago, a rampant Juve are a difficult beast to tame, and moments later the third substitute of the evening Paul Pogba hit a stunning left-footed volley to put the matter beyond doubt.
Pogba’s goal saw the French youngster become the 13th different scorer for the Old Lady this season, and left Italian pundits wondering why Manchester United allowed him leave Old Trafford.
It was further evidence that this is a team that can overcome the lack of an out-and-out striker – both Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco started with Alessandro Matri introduced on the hour mark to little effect – and one with the battling spirit of true winners.
Have-a-go hero Bonucci looked to set to leave the fray on 17 minutes when he twisted his knee, but having faced down an armed mugger, all he needed was an old-fashioned bandage and he was back on his feet and in the thick of the action.
At the final whistle football’s very own All-Blacks ran to the fans behind the goal to celebrate their 47th Serie A match without defeat in the manner very reminiscent of the Haka – it was another statement of intent that Juve are not about to give up that unbeaten run.
For Napoli, it was a chastening experience and one which left Mazzarri reeling to such an extent that he did what anybody would after a heavy Saturday night - he took Sunday off. As for Conte, he was first out on the training pitch demanding even more his players.
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