Juventus and Napoli ensure Supercoppa upstages the Community Shield in terms of goals… and dissent
As the rain began to pour down over Beijing’s National Stadium, the Bird’s Nest, it quickly became apparent football audiences were in for a treat of a Supercoppa Final between Juventus and Napoli. Unlike England’s equivalent of the Community Shield, Italy’s season opener was played over 8,000 kilometres away in China, and generally has been over the past several years for commercial reasons.
The outing was a repeat of last season’s Coppa Italia final, in which the Partenopei finally stepped out of former legendary Argentine Diego Maradona’s lengthy shadow with a convincing win. While the Old Lady had returned to the head of Italian football’s metaphorical table earlier that season, with their unbeaten title win. It was also a game that pitted Serie A’s best defence last term from Turin against one of its most exciting counter attacks from Naples.
The move east only added extra bight to what was already set to be feisty occasion, with both clubs at varying stages vying for the fixture to be played on home soil. Juventus’ title winning Coach Antonio Conte was banned from the touchline for 10 months mere days before the game for his part in Italian football’s latest bet-fixing scandal nicknamed Calcioscommesse. While hours before the final, Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis announced his side would not be travelling to China, but the film producer was eventually forced to reverse the decision.
Both the Bianconeri and Azzurri were fired up from the very beginning, with crunch tackles and several obscenities flying in early on. It was the latter that led twice, and took the initial lead through Edinson Cavani after half an hour of play. New signing from Udinese Kwadwo Asamoah restored order for the champions with a thunderous strike, but opposing striker Goran Pandev has been having a remarkable pre-season. The Macedonian international delicately lifted the ball over Gianluigi Buffon, capitalising on a Leonardo Bonucci error, just before the end of the first half.
Juventus’s new touchline substitute coach Massimo Carrera consulted with Conte and immediate action was taken with a lethargic Alessandro Matri replaced by Mirko Vučinić. The move paid dividends and the Turin-based outfit took the initiative by smashing the woodwork early on and forcing Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro to scramble the ball off his line. After denying them twice from the spot earlier on, referee Paolo Mazzoleni awarded a slightly equivocal penalty to Juventus when Federico Fernández was adjudged to have upended Vučinić. Imposing Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal duly dispatched it to bring the sides level.
Napoli abruptly lost all control of the game late in the second half, and went down to ten men when Pandev was red carded for dissent towards a linesman. The officials had been subject to endless amounts of abuse, and the striker was certainly not the only one to have offended. That subsequently became nine when Juan Camilo Zuniga encountered a second yellow three minutes into stoppage time after mistiming a tackle on Sebastian Giovinco. Coach Walter Mazzarri was then ironically sent to the stands for protesting the dismissals.
In extra-time, Christian Maggio awkwardly managed to nod Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick into his own unguarded net. Juventus virtually put the match to bed and the gloss on the score line when Vučinić nudged the ball over the line from Claudio Marchisio’s long ball. Both sides were guilty of going into challenges slightly too enthusiastically at times, which took away from what was an excellent game that produced six goals.
Mazzarri and his players decided to boycott the presentation ceremony in protest of Mazzoleni dubious decisions, a move that divided opinion in Italy. The protest showed a lack of class but after controlling the game for extended periods, their frustration clearly impaired their judgement. Their disappointed was compounded when the Italian FA (FIGC) announced the suspensions would carry over to Serie A. Carrera later dedicated the victory to the suspended Conte, as Juventus asserted their dominance ahead of an attempt to defend their title. The match could certainly be a sign of things to come as Italy’s top flight is set to be a hotly contested competition, kicking off in less than two weeks time.Tagged in: community shield, football, Juventus, napoli, serie a
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