Football fans in the Qatari capital Doha were treated to a great spectacle on Monday, when two famous Italian Clubs took on each other to score the honors of winning the Italian Super Cup. In the end, Napoli’s goalkeeper Rafael emerged as the hero in the sudden death in the match against Juventus. The teams were tied, when full-time, extra-time and regulation penalty shoot-outs could not produce any results. Napoli also prevented Juventus from claiming the Italian Super Cup for the record seventh time, when they snatched the nerve-jingling win after 18 penalties in the match that seemed to go on and on. In the regulation and extra-time, it was like a one-to-one battle between Carlos Tevez of league champions Juventus and Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli. Both stars scored two goals each as the match was brought to 2-2 before the penalty shootout could get underway. Afterwards the sudden-death shootout provided an extra dose of thrill for spectators present at Doha’s Jassim Bin Hammad stadium. As Rafael denied Simone Padoin’s penalty in the sudden death, Napoli fans broke into rapturous celebrations even as the Juventus stars met with utter disappointment.
As the match began, Juventus charged into Napoli’s half to build an early momentum in the match. A strange mix-up between Koulibaly and Raul Albiol ended, when Albiol saw Carlos Tevez moving up and he passed the ball to him. Tevez was not to miss the close-range strike to put Juventus ahead in the 5th minute. In a counter soon after Napoli’s Marek Hamsik had an equalizing opportunity but the firing shot only hit the post, luckily for Juventus and goalkeeper Buffon. Tevez could have enhanced the lead for Juventus but Napoli goalkeeper was brilliant as he denied Tevez twice in quick succession. Napoli also came close to equalizing before halftime but Higuain’s strike was saved by Buffon and Juventus led 1-0 as halftime whistle blew.
Shortly after the break, Napoli’s Jose Callejon had a great chance, when he received a perfect pass from Hamsik but his scorching hit went inches wide of the left post. Napoli missed once again, when Higuain’s sweetly timed chip also struck the woodwork. In the 68th minute, however, Napoli found the equalizer, when Jonathan de Guzman sprinted from the left flank and Higuain headed in from his whipping cross. Both sides played enthralling football but 90 minutes ended with the score at 1-1.
In the second half of the extra time, Juventus went 2-1 up, when Paul Pogba released Tevez, who steadied himself at the edge of the box to create some space around and unleashed a powerful low shot that found the bottom left corner. Like the previous time, it was once again Higuain, who could have equalized, but great reflex save from Buffon prevented him. However, two minutes from closing time, Buffon couldn’t do anything, when Higuain came again and found the target. With the score reading 2-2 after 120 minutes, the match went to the penalty shootout.
Both sides began by missing their first spot-kicks. While Jorginho’s strike was saved by Buffon, Carlos Tevez struck the right post. But later, there were no misses and after 5 spot-kicks each, the score stood level at 4-4. It was now time for the sudden death. Buffon saved Dries Mertens’ shot and Rafael denied Giorgio Chiellini. After that Buffon made another save by blocking Jose Callejon and suddenly it looked that Juventus had the advantage. But when Juventus took the next penalty, Roberto Pereyra hit high above the bar. At this time Kalidou Koulibaly scored from his chance and with a 6-5 advantage, Napoli wrapped up the match when Rafael denied Padoin.
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