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.
Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.
[ MORE: Europa League draw ]
And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.
“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”
The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.
Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.
City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.
Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League just got a whole lot tougher.
[ MORE: Arsenal loses 2nd leg, advances ]
Already eight points back of the Premier League’s Top Four, the Gunners have drawn Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.
The first leg is March 8 at the San Siro before moving to the Emirates a week later.
Milan is currently 7th in Serie A despite its big-spending summer, and faces a similar problem to the Gunners; Gattuso’s men need to make up eight points on Lazio and seven on fifth-place Inter Milan.
Elsewhere, Moscovian sides CSKA and Lokomotiv got no favors with trips to Lyon and Atletico Madrid, respectively.
Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund will be pleased to see Red Bull Salzburg, while the latter’s sister club, RB Leipzig, was held apart from it by a draw with Zenit Saint-Petersbug.
Here’s the draw in full.
UEFA Europa League Round of 16
Lazio vs. Dynamo Kiev
RB Leipzig vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
CSKA Moscow vs. Lyon
Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
Sporting Lisbon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Borussia Dortmund vs. Red Bull Salzburg
AC Milan vs. Arsenal
After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.
[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]
If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.
There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.
Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.
MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.
Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.
Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.
The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.
Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.
Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.
Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.