Napoli were made to travel all the way to Doha, Qatar, to play 120 minutes and suffer through the agony of a penalty kick shootout in Monday’s wild and crazy Italian Super Cup against Juventus. But for their troubles, the Neapolitans were rewarded with their second trophy of the 2014 calendar year.
Rafael Benitez’s side won last season’s Coppa Italia when they defeated Fiorentina, 3-1, to qualify for the domestic showpiece which every year pits the reigning Serie A and Coppa Italia winners against one another.
Carlos Tevez gave last season’s league winners and current league leaders a dream start after just five minutes when the Argentinian striker pounced on a botched clearance and put Juventus a goal to the good. Tevez’s compatriot Gonzalo Higuain equalized for Napoli, something he’d do twice on the day, with a header from close range after 68 minutes.
Tevez responded with his second of the game — a powerful effort from the top of the 18-yard box — in the 106th minute, but Higuain wasn’t about to be outdone as he created some drama of his own late, late into extra time, sending the game into penalty kicks.
Tevez wasn’t as successful during the penalty shootout, however, as he hit the tiebreaker’s first attempt squarely off the post and watched it ping back into the field of play. Jorginho missed Napoli’s first try from the spot, saving Tevez from potential villain status.
Both sides converted their next five attempts — including takes from the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata for Juve, and Higuain, Gokhan Inler and Walter Gargano for Napoli — before a string of misses pushed the shootout into its ninth round.
Simone Padoin saw his attempt saved by goalkeeper Rafael Cabral, leaving the door wide open for Napoli to lift the Cup. Kalidou Koulibaly pinged his penalty off the inside of the left post and over the line to send the trophy to Southern Italy. Follow @AndyEdMLS
Uruguay, without Suarez and proper defending, stunned 3-1 by Costa Rica
All the focus pre-match was on Luis Suarez, but it might be that Uruguay need a solid defender before they worry about their talisman up front.
On the bench to start thanks to knee surgery just two weeks ago, Suarez saw his side break down defensively on more than one occasion as Joel Campbell and Oscar Duarte both struck soon after halftime to earn Costa Rica a 3-1 win.
Both teams started brightly but cautiously, as Costa Rica looked to lock down Uruguay’s Suarez-less attack with a very physical style of play.
It came back to bite them early, and while Yeltsin Tejeda got away with a disgusting two-footed challenge on Cristian Rodriguez, the ensuing free kick in the 24th minute saw Diego Lugano tackled football-style by Junior Diaz, and Edinson Cavani buried the penalty for a 1-0 Uruguay lead.
Down early, Los Ticos didn’t seem like they knew how to build a sustained attack, keeping the South Africa semifinalists at bay going forward but not finding many opportunities themselves. Joel Campbell fired just wide of the corner after the Cavani goal, but there wasn’t much else to note in the half.
Halftime saw Uruguay lose their edge, and coming out of the break there was a slight shift in momentum.
Costa Rica knew they were just a goal down despite the seeming Uruguay dominance, and they nearly pulled back level just five minutes after the break. Christian Bolanos took a free kick after a yellow card to Diego Lugano, and it sailed to Oscar Duarte at the post who headed on target, but right at Muslera who saved. Had he gone far post he may have drawn it 1-1.
However, it would come level just three minutes later, as Uruguay held possession but could not prove incisive, and Costa Rica struck on the counter.
Combination play down the right-hand side saw a cross come in which sailed over Celso Borges, but the ball fell to a trailing Joel Campbell completely unmarked at the far post, and he powerfully buried the chance for an even score.
It wouldn’t be level for long, because the Uruguayans again failed miserably to defend set pieces and soaring balls into the box. Walter Gargano earned a questionable yellow card, and it set up another Costa Rican free kick.
Bolanos took the free kick to the far post, and Bolanos beat Cristian Stuani to the ball for a diving header that went across the face and into the net for a 2-1 Costa Rican lead.
Following the goal, the Costa Ricans once again shut up shop, and as they had throughout much of the first half, Uruguay claimed solid possession but couldn’t find anything solid on goal.
Looking for a shocking win, Jorge Pinto’s Costa Rica sealed the deal as the manager picked out a great substitution for an instant and memorable impact. Removing Bryan Ruiz who had been a creative menace much of the match, Pinto brought on Marcos Urena with seven minutes to go in regulation, and just a minute later he would put the game away.
On a lovely thread from Campbell, Urena slotted home a slow-roller from a tight angle past a helpless Muslera off his line for a 3-1 lead and one of Costa Rica’s best-ever wins.
Things were made even worse for Uruguay as Maxi Pereira needlessly hacked down Campbell in extra time just seconds from the final whistle, producing a baffling kick to the Costa Rican’s shins which produced the tournament’s first red card from the referee.
The upset surely makes the incredibly deep Group D much more interesting, as it would seem that two results and only two results will now get Uruguay through, and those points must come against England and Italy. For Costa Rica, the win is a massive boost, and while there is still work to do to beat out a former World Cup champion to a knockout round berth, there is now serious hope that the previously unthinkable is possible.
The penultimate day of Europe’s summer transfer season was about quality, not quantity. Instead of a slew of loan deals and squad player sales, Europe’s big five leagues saw only four deals completed, though three of them involved internationals. Particularly in a season before a World Cup, finding a place that guarantees playing time could be the difference between making your national team and being left at home.
Those details, however, are almost secondary, at this point. As of a few hours ago, it’s officially deadline day, with the chaos of inevitable transfer activity (real or rumored) guaranteed to lay siege to your sanity.
Every rumor’s an orc. Your Twitter timeline’s Helm’s Deep. (Jim White is Gandalf.)
For some of you, that means …
For others? The last day of a transfer window feels like …
Regardless, the whole thing will be over on Monday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
Here are the deals that went down on Sunday:
Crystal Palace – Jimmy Kebe is back in the Premier League. After being relegated with Reading last year, the 29-year-old French winger has latched on with Crystal Palace, who signed him to a three-year deal for a reported $3.1 million.
Manchester City – City tried to hold out for a lower fee for Martín DeMichelis (pictured), who Atlético Madrid picked up from Málaga this summer. Ultimately, because of their minor crisis at the back, the Sky Blues agreed to pay off the Atleti, though whether Atlético’s €5 million price was hit remains undisclosed.
Real Madrid – Apparently rebuilding, the Merengues have elected to take on 24-year-old Gareth Bale, Tottenham’s defender-cum-attacker having lost his place in Spurs’ attack after the summer acquisitions of Nacer Chadli, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado. It remains to be seen whether Carlo Ancelotti can get the prodigious yet raw talent to finally tap into his potential, but for $132,000, Real president Florentino Perez is wagering a change of scenery will do wonders for the Southampton product. (Author’s note: Turns out the fee was actually $132 million, which is a world record, or something.)
Parma – Midfielder Walter Gargano, a regular for Internazionale last season, will spend the 2013-14 campaign at Parma, having finalized his loan on Sunday. The 29-year-old Uruguayan international will hope the switch ensures playing time ahead of the 2014 World Cup.