May 20, 2012, 5:51 PM EDT
Man of the Match: It’s tough to pick a man of the match when no individuals really step up. You’re left looking at isolated moments, decided how much impact they had on the match – how much unique skill is required to pull it off. You’re often left picking a MotM that’s only scarcely more MotM-y than the game’s 21 other principles.
Marek Hamsik did score the game’s final goal, but there was little to separate his performance teammates’. The deciding factor: Napoli’s attacker was given the job of marking Andrea Pirlo, and until Napoli went ahead through Edinson Cavani’s 63rd minute spot kick, Pirlo was kept quiet.
Packaged for takeaway:
- As most teams have done to Napoli of alte, Juventus went semi-like-for-like with their set up. Napoli’s renown for playing 3-4-3, so Juventus started 3-5-2, with wing backs Stephan Lichtsteiner and Marcelo Estigarribia charged with tracking their Napoli counterparts: Christian Maggio and Juan Camilo Zuniga.
- The two deployments produced a standoff. Good opportunities were scarce, with the teams limited to two chances in the first half (one for each side).
- The game was decided in the 63rd minute. Napoli had built some minor momentum, and after finding Ezequiel Lavezzi running through the right channel, the Azzurri created the match’s first break. With Lavezzi about to move in on goal, Juventus goalkeeper Marco Storari took down the Argentine attacker. Cavani easily converted the winner.
- The way the match played out forced you to consider the strange nature of Juventus’s near-undefeated season. Juve failed to meaningfully pressure Napoli, a performance that was not out of character for Serie A’s champions. Throughout the season, the team has relied more on opportunism than dominance. That approach got Juve to the season’s last game undefeated, but as Napoli dealt the Old Lady their first loss of the year, you had to wonder how Antonio Conte ever got his team this far.
- So Juventus is denied the double, but given how they played, they didn’t seem to mind. It was the flat performance of a team who’d already met their goal: Winning the league.
- Napoli, on the other hand, win their first major trophy in 22 years, having won Serie A in 1989-90. The club is entirely different now, with bankruptcy and a trip to the third tier forcing the team to redefine itself under owner Aurelio De Laurentis. While last year’s qualification for Champions League may have provided the emotional high point in Napoli’s resurgence, today’s result put something in the trophy case.
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