Juventus moved three points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A by striking late to claim a vital 2-0 victory over its Scudetto rival.
The Bianconeri had the better of a disappointing encounter in terms of possession and territory, but they struggled to create any clear-cut chances and it was Napoli which came closest to opening the scoring during the first half, with forward Edinson Cavani hitting the crossbar with a free kick.
However, the host eventually made the breakthrough with 10 minutes to go when Martin Caceres headed home an Andrea Pirlo corner just moments after being sprung from the bench. Fellow substitute Paul Pogba repeated the feat just moments later with a terrific volley to ensure that Napoli would leave Turin empty handed and give the Bianconeri the initiative in this season's title race.
Juventus had begun the game like it meant business, with Sebastian Giovinco testing Morgan De Sanctis with a low strike inside the opening 60 seconds.
However, the visitor was in no mood to be bullied. On the contrary, Napoli seemed intent on roughing the Bianconeri up in the early stages, a tactic which resulted in the concession of a succession of free kicks, as well as several theatrical falls from the clearly ruffled Juve players.
Indeed, after weathering what was a very early storm, Napoli settled and came agonizingly close to taking the lead midway through the first half when Cavani struck the top of the crossbar with a curling free kick from a ridiculously acute angle wide on the left.
As it was, the two sides were still deadlocked at the interval, a well-struck drive from Claudio Marchisio right on halftime the only other effort of note an ill-tempered, underwhelming and largely incident-free opening 45 minutes.
Juve continued to dominate possession in the second half, but to little effect. However, Giovinco really should have ended the stalemate 10 minutes into the second half when the ball dropped invitingly for him in the area after he himself had miscued a low cross from Kwadwo Asamoah. However, after shifting it onto his right foot, the former Parma man fired wide.
For the most part, Juventus was still struggling to pry open the Napoli defense, but Pirlo did just that midway through the second half with a sublime pass over the top. However, Alessandro Matri, just on as a replacement for the ineffective Fabio Quagliarella, failed dismally to control the ball and it bounced harmlessly into the grateful arms of De Sanctis.
Caceres, though, would not be so profligate when he was presented with the chance to be the hero, the versatile defender timing his arrival into the six-yard box to perfection before burying Pirlo's corner past a helpless De Sanctis.
Not to be outdone, Pogba, who had taken over in midfield from the subdued Arturo Vidal, made the points safe when he demonstrated wonderful technique in finding the bottom corner with a controlled volley from the edge of the area just three minutes later.
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- Andrea Pirlo
- Edinson Cavani
- Morgan De Sanctis