Sports Mole's minute-by-minute commentary of a hard-fought clash between title contenders Napoli and Juventus at the San Paolo Stadium.
By Liam Power, Reporter Filed: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 19:15 UK
Last Updated: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 15:14 UK
Napoli went into tonight's clash with Serie A leaders Juventus desperate for three points to keep their title hopes alive.
Things got off to a shocking start for the home side as Giorgio Chiellini put the reigning champions ahead after 20 minutes.
Napoli were level before the break thanks to Gokhan Inler, but failed to find a winner late on despite dominating the second half.
Look back at a pulsating clash between first and second in Italy with Sports Mole's minute-by-minute commentary below.
7.16pmHello European fans and welcome to Sports Mole's live coverage of the biggest match in Italy this weekend. Napoli are the last team in Serie A with a legitimate chance of stopping Juve's march to a second successive Scudetto. And lucky us, the two bitter rivals lock horns at the San Paolo Stadium tonight.
7.18pmThree points are imperative for Napoli tonight, who have hit a horrid run of form at the worst possible time. The Azzurri are without a win in five and top scorer Edinson Cavani has gone four games without a goal. Things must improve for Mazzarri's men if they are to stop Juve's title charge.
7.21pmJuve have been functional without hitting top form in recent weeks to collect 13 points from their last six games. Antonio Conte's side have a six-point cushion at the top ahead of tonight's trip to Naples. A point would represent a positive result for the Old Lady, while victory would all but wrap up the championship in early March.
7.23pmBREAKING TEAM NEWS: Let's get the latest news on how both teams will start this evening in Southern Italy. Giorgio Chellini and Christian Maggio were both fitness doubts but have been passed fit to play tonight!
7.27pmChilleni's inclusion is a huge boost for Juve, with the defensive linchpin starting in a back three alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli. Artuto Vidal also returns for Conte's side, while Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic lead the line in attack.
7.29pmA slight surprise for the visitors is the decision to pick Federico Peluso on the left-hand side. Kwadwo Asamoah is back from Africa Cup of Nations duty but has to settle for a place on the bench tonight.
7.31pmNapoli's biggest call was whether to start with Insigne or Pandev in attack. The more experienced Pandev has got the nod to start with Cavani and Hamsik in attack. It's do or die for Mazzarri's men tonight; their trio of forwards need to fire or title dream ends in Naples for another season.
7.34pmRecent meetings between the two sides have favoured Juve slightly. The Old Lady have won three of the last five, including a 2-0 home win earlier this season. Napoli did stop the Old Lady winning a domestic double by beating them in last season's Coppa Italia final.
7.36pmNeither side's January additions have made the cut tonight. Nicolas Anelka is not even named as a substitute for the visitors tonight, with Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella preferred as attacking options from the bench.
7.39pmJuve have been arguably more impressive than their unbeaten stroll in Serie A last season, and that statistic back up that view. The Black and White are six points better off than this stage last season, leaving Napoli and Lazio struggling to match their form for much of the campaign.
7.41pmSerie A is the league to watch this weekend, with tonight's title clash followed up by a match between third and fourth tomorrow evening. Lazio need a win at the San Siro to keep any faint title shouts alive, while AC Milan will be confident of finishing third with Mario Balotelli in their ranks.
7.43pmThe San Paulo looks a daunting prospect this evening just before the two sides take the field. A reminder that Napoli have lost just one of their last 16 home games, but only a win is good enough tonight.
7.45pmPREDICTION: Time for me to make a prediction in a tough match to call at the San Paulo. Napoli absolutely must win but if Cavani does not fire where will the goals come from? Juve are the form side and I think Conte's men will record a valuable 1-1 draw that keeps them in the driving seat in Serie A.
7.47pmWe are slightly late getting underway in Naples but what an atmosphere both sets of supporters are creating! Flares and foil are out in abundance as Cannavaro and Buffon lead the two teams out.
2 minNapoli get us underway and are immediately on the attack. Pandev breaks down the right and crosses for Marek Hamsik, who blazes over after just 15 seconds. The home side look fired up in their biggest match of the season to date.
4 minJuve go up the other end and mount an attack of their own. Vucini combines with Giovinco and sends an inch-perfect pass to the diminutive forward. Unfortunately for the visitors he is unable to bring the ball under control and De Sanctis is in place to catch the cross.
6 minNapoli have made a positive start but Juve look dangerous on the counter. Pirlo gets involved for the first time find Lichtsteiner in space out wide, but his cross fails to find Vucinic at the near post.
8 minSHOT! Giovinco drops off into space and unleashes the first shot on target. The forward's drive is powerful but straight at De Sanctis, who decides to punch clear rather than catch.
12 minWhat a time for Chiellini to score his first goal of the season on his return from injury. The defender rose highest at the far post to meet Pirlo's pinpoint cross and Juve are ahead in the title decider. Britos was powerless to stop Chiellini powering home a thumping header from close range. Napoli look stunned!
14 minJuve are quickly on the hunt for a second as Lichtsteiner races into the box before falling down after a tangle with Inler. There was definitely contract but the way the Swiss full-back went down was a touch theatrical.
16 minCHANCE! Hamsik surges forward and lays a through ball into the path of Cavani. The forward tussles with Barzagli but manages to pull back for Pandev. but his shot is blocked by Bonucci and a big chance goes begging for the home side.
18 minCHANCE! Juve launch a quick counter and have a golden opportunity to extend their lead. Vucinic is unmarked in the penalty area but sends Vidal's cross wide of the far post from six yards. A composed finish there might have put the Scudetto beyond doubt for the Old Lady!
20 minCHANCE! Vucinic has just come within inches of making it 2-0 for the second time. A brilliant pass from Vidal picked the striker out all alone in the penalty area again. Thankfully for the home side De Sanctis stayed big and managed to send the striker's chipped effort wide with the slightest touch at the near post. Will Juve regret not taking one of these chances later in the match?
22 minA player with the quality of Vucinic should really have put this match to bed inside the first 20 minutes. There is far to much space between Napoli's front three and a compact midfield, allowing Juve to control possession at this stage. Cavani's frustrations have also continued tonight, with the striker struggling to find room in attack.
25 minCavani comes deeper to help Napoli start a promising attack but Chiellini is in the right place to rob Pandev out wide. Napoli need to stay patient and pick the right pass against a Juve defence which is notoriously difficult to break down.
27 minMaggio's scuffed cross nearly finds Hamsik to deadly effect, but the playmaker can only scuff his shot high and wide from close range.
30 minA rather worrying halt in play has been called to help Britos after a clash of heads with Inler. Both sets of players are quick to call for assistance after the defender looked to fall unconscious when he hit the ground on his head. That was a nasty incident and I would be surprised if he was able to continue tonight.
33 minBritos is holding his jaw but quite remarkably is back on his feet and asking to continue. Pablo Armero is warming up on the touchline but his arrival has been delayed to see if Britos can recover. Meanwhile Vucinic and Giovinco nearly combine to take advantage, but once again a heavy first touch lets the striker down.
35 minHamsik comes within a whisker of finding Cavani but Chiellini reads the danger and intercepts. Zuniga picks the ball up and his deflected drive from distance wins a corner for the home side.
37 minJuve clear the danger and Peluso wins praise from Conte after stopping Maggio from advancing down the right. That tackle is exactly why the youngster was chosen ahead of Asamoah tonight.
40 minThe home side are probing but have failed to create any clear-cut chances so far. Strength in numbers is Juve's policy at the back and the Old Lady look capable of keeping a clean sheet at this stage.
42 minPirlo and Vidal take the sting out of Napoli's response with a neat spell of possession in central midfield. The home fans voice their discontent as Pirlo attempts a precise ball over the top, but the onrushing Marchisio is just offside.
45 minA speculative strike from Inler has changed the course of this match just before the break. A true hit takes a wicked deflection off Bonucci and flies past Buffon into the net. What a frantic first half this has been!
45 min+1Cavani could be in trouble here after appearing to strike Chiellini. The defender is down and a flock of Juve players have surrounded the fourth official. The referee is holding lengthy discussions with his assistant, what action if any will he decide to take?
45 min+3YELLOW CARD! Cavani has received a yellow card for his actions and can count himself lucky with that decision. Chiellini is furious and is given a stern warning too after lengthy protests.
8.43pmA breathtaking opening half comes to an end under a cloud of controversy. Regardless of Cavani and Chiellini's tussle Inler's deflected strike has the title contenders level at the break. Napoli struggled for long spells but have the momentum after drawing level just before the interval.
8.45pmReplays show that Chiellini was pulling Cavani's air and was elbowed in retaliation by the striker. Napoli are definitely lucky to still have their full quota on the field for the second half!
8.47pmFor much of the first 45 minutes Juve were in complete control. Chiellini combined with Pirlo to put the visitors ahead early on and if Mirko Vucinic was not wasteful with a pair of chances Conte's men could have been home and dry.
8.50pmThis match is now up for grabs, with Napoli perhaps holding a slight advantage if they can carry the momentum of Inler's goal into the second half. Insigne could also come off the bench to provide some badly needed width for the home side in the closing stages.
8.53pmBoth teams are back out on the field, quite quickly I might add, for the start of the second half. Can Napoli get the goal they need to keep the Serie A title race alive?
48 minJuve get us back underway and quickly establish a pattern of posession familiar for much of the first 45 minutes. Giovinco finds some space out wide and crosses for Vucinic, but he is unable to get a crucial touch from close range.
50 minNapoli get the ball forward but Maggio has a rush of blood to the head and tries a drive from range. Vidal bravely blocks but hits the deck in some pain.
52 minGiovinco wants a corner for the visitors but gets no joy from the official, who thinks the forward got the final touch after going down. Replays suggest he was right and Napoli regain possession.
55 minJuve win a dangerous free kick in the final third after Behrami bundles over Peluso on the left wing. Pirlo curls in a strike which evades a packed penalty area and goes wide of the far post.
57 minYELLOW CARD! A frantic start to the second half continues as Cannavaro is booked for a two-footed challenge. Mazzarri is unhappy with the decision and gets a warning from the referee for his persistent protests.
60 minSHOT! Hamsik tests Buffon with a swirling strike from 20 yards. The Juve skipper reads the shot but takes no chances and decides to palm wide for a corner kick. Napoli are wasteful with the set piece and allow Buffon to collect unchallenged.
63 minZuniga tries a lofted pass over the top but there is just too much pace on the ball for Hamsik to bring it under control. For the first time tonight Napoli are dictating play and look a threat on the left hand side, with Hamsik dropping off into space and causing problems.
66 minJuve are dropping deeper and inviting Napoli to attack in numbers. Maggio takes advantage to send a dangerous cross in to Cavani, who is denied by a last-ditch clearance from Barzagli.
68 minCeltic fans will be all to familiar with Napoli's penalty appeal, which has been turned down. Cavani is being manhandled by Lichtsteiner but gets nothing for his trouble!
70 minNAPOLI SUBSTITUTION: The home side swap Insigne for Pandev in a change that brings pace and trickery to their attack. Within a minute the forward forces Buffon to tip his shot round the post from a tight angle. It's now or never for Napoli in the final 20 minutes!
73 minYELLOW CARD! Pirlo buys some time for Juve after winning a free kick thanks to a clever piece of footwork. Campagnaro looks confused and kicks the midfielder to the ground. The defender takes his gumshield out to remonstrate with the referee but is still cautioned for the late tackle.
75 minCHANCES! Cavani finally has first chance of the match and should really do better. His header from close range flashes wide but Napoli are quickly back on the attack. Hamsik's strike from range is parried by Buffon to the feet of Maggio, but the winger can only send his shot wide from close range. That was Napoli's easiest chance of the match by far!
77 minJUVE SUBSTITUTION: Conte decides to send on a fresh pair of legs in attack. On comes Alessandro Matri in place of Giovinco, who looks far from impressed with his manager's decision.
79 minThe home side have just over 10 minutes to find a winning goal that would throw the title race wide open! De Sanctis shows some urgency to punt forward but Juve win back possession with ease and mount an attack of their own. Lichtsteiner gets space out wide and crosses for Matri, who wins a corner off Campagnaro.
81 minMaggio has struggled all night on the right-hand side and definitely does look 100%. Campagnaro decides not pass to the winger and drive forward, winning a free kick 30 yards from goal in the process. This is a great chance for Hamsik to send in a quality cross!
83 minHamsik tries a move from the training ground but must settle for a corner. Not for the first time tonight Napoli make a mess of the corner and are nearly caught on the counter. Lichtsteiner has time and space out wide but slips at the crucial moment to let the home side off the hook.
85 minPirlo leads another Juve counter, this time finding Matri in room on the left-hand side. The forward spots an advanced run from Vucinic and attempts to find his strike partner, but the cross is just too long.
87 minSHOT! Inler sends another stinging drive towards goal and Buffon is on the stretch to keep out the shot. That action was Inler's last of the match as he is replaced by Armero.
88 minJUVE SUBSTITUTION: The visitors take the opportunity to make a conservative change of their own. Midfielder Paul Pogba is introduced for lone striker Vucinic. Conte is clearly happy with a point tonight, which would preserve the Old Lady's six-point lead at the top of Serie A.
89 minYELLOW CARD! Cavani wins a free kick just outside the penalty area after being brought down by Peluso. The young wing-back is also cautioned for the challenge. Cavani decides to take the free kick himself but can only send his shot wide of Buffon's near post.
90 minYELLOW CARD! As stoppage time kicks in Juve continue to accumulate fouls and bookings. Lichsteiner is the latest to be cautioned after driving his knee into Armero on the floor. That was a particularly cynical challenge from the Swiss international!
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9.41pmThere is no doubt which manager will be happier after a frenetic, feisty affair between Italy's top two ends in a score draw. Napoli had chances to claim all three points the second half but are still six points behind Juve following that 1-1 draw!
9.43pmJuve were up against it for much of the second half, but showed the resolute defending which has made them so hard to beat in the last two seasons. Napoli are not completely out of the title picture but it is now a tall order to make up six points on the leaders with 11 games left.
9.46pmLate chances for Cavani and Maggio went begging for the home side, who will now have one eye on Lazio's match with AC Milan at the San Siro tomorrow night.
9.48pmThat just about does it for a superb start to the weekend in Serie A. Thanks for joining us at Sports Mole and be sure to check back in for action from across Europe tomorrow. Goodnight!