Napoli 1 - 1 Juventus: Gonzalo Higuain given rough reception as Juventus play out draw with Napoli

Posted Monday, April 03, 2017 by PA

Napoli 1 - 1 Juventus: Gonzalo Higuain given rough reception as Juventus play out draw with Napoli

Gonzalo Higuain failed to score on his long-awaited return to Napoli, where Serie A leaders Juventus were held to a 1-1 draw.

The Argentinian left Stadio San Paolo under a cloud in the summer, joining Napoli's title rivals Juve for 90 million euros on the back of a 36-goal season.

Higuain, who should be back in Naples again for a Coppa Italia semi-final showdown on Wednesday, was largely anonymous in the face of an extremely hostile reception from his former fan base.

Sami Khedira covered for Higuain's jitters by boosting Juve into a seventh-minute lead but Napoli were the better side throughout and managed to grab a deserved equaliser through Marek Hamsik on the hour mark.

The gap between the clubs remains 10 points, meaning Napoli stand little chance of catching the Bianconeri over the eight-game run-in. Only Roma retain an outside chance of denying Juve a sixth straight Scudetto.

Napoli poured forward and dominated from the first whistle and, come the break, it was hard to understand how they trailed their northern opponents.

Gianluigi Buffon had an early warning when Lorenzo Insigne crossed from deep to find Jose Callejon, but the veteran Juve goalkeeper smothered well.

From the ensuing counter-attack, Khedira scored a fabulous goal to give the champions the upper hand.

The Germany international did most of the hard work to get into a penetrative position and, after playing a one-two with Miralem Pjanic, he shot over Rafael's shoulders and found the back of the net.

From that point forward, though, it was all Napoli, and captain Hamsik fluffed an excellent chance to level when teed up with a chest bounce from 20-goal winger Dries Mertens.

Still the Azzurri kept coming and Giorgio Chiellini did brilliantly to deny Callejon a certain goal from another Insigne assist.

Higuain, at this point, was struggling to make an impact as every time he got forward he was assaulted by a wall of whistles from his erstwhile supporters.

In the 24th minute he took receipt of a cutting Mario Lemina pass but appeared to be overwhelmed by the negativity from the home fans.

Napoli took heart from his discomfort and four quick chances to equalise arrived before the break.

First Insigne's sighter was repelled before Hamsik took an inaccurate swipe at it, then Mertens controlled the ball in the box only for Buffon to claim the weak finish.

The 39-year-old keeper then stopped Chiellini heading into his own net before Insigne swiped over the bar with a shot on the turn.

Eleven minutes into the second half Napoli had the ball in Juve's goal, but Callejon's follow-up of a saved Mertens attempt was ruled out for offside.

Not remotely dissuaded, Mertens promptly exchanged deft touches with Hamsik, who burst into the area to beat Leonardo Bonucci and Buffon for 1-1.

Napoli quickly regained their composure after celebrating and, in the 64th minute, Mertens clattered a post when Kwadwo Asamoah made a defensive error.

Juve were encouraged when Slovakian playmaker Hamsik went off early, and Allegri's response was to replace a midfielder with an attacker in the shape of Paulo Dybala.

But the last real opportunity fell to Napoli, with Piotr Zielinski picking out Callejon at the far post, where a powerful header failed to meet its intended target.

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