Classic Match: Juventus vs. Napoli 1997/98

​​Napoli travelled north to Turin back in March 1998 with the Partenopei desperately trying to hang on to their Serie A status, having won only two games and with just 11 points on the board. The Neapolitan’s already looked doomed heading into the week 25 fixture against Marcelo Lippi’s title chasing Juventus at the Stadio delle Alpi.

Packed with world class talents – including a midfield that consisted of Antonio Conte, Edgar Davids, Didier Deschamps and Zinédine Zidane – Juve were massive favourites and had only suffered defeat twice, at the hands of Inter and Fiorentina respectively. Having been held 1-1 in Udine the week before, Lippi was looking for his side to bounce back to winning ways. As for the visitors, they came into this one having managed to stop a run of four consecutive defeats thanks to a point gained at home to Bologna.

But it was Napoli who began the game the brighter and the away support were on their feet as Claudio Bellucci thundered a header past Angelo Peruzzi, only for the effort to cannon off the underside of the cross bar. The ball somehow managed to stay out, even though replays suggested it may have crossed the line.

After a sluggish start, Juventus dusted themselves down, and began to demonstrate exactly why they were title contenders. Italian football’s golden boy, Alessandro Del Piero, became increasingly involved and, on the stroke of half-time, his virtuoso strike gave Juventus the lead. With his back to goal, the Bianconeri number 10 spun past Napoli’s Mauro Facci and used his pace to race into the penalty area. A characteristic cut inside allowed him to shrug off Facci once again and guide the ball with his favoured right foot into the opposite corner.

Many expected Juventus to build on their goal as the second half began. However, the visitors started on the front foot, much the same as the first half. Their persistence and belief was rewarded when, 20 minutes into the second-half, Francesco Turrini was released down the Napoli right, finding himself in acres of space in the Juventus penalty area. At an almost impossible angle, Turrini feinted and then struck, allowing him to squeeze the ball between Peruzzi and the post – a goal the Juve stopper would have undoubtedly been disappointed with conceding.

The Napoli celebrations did not last long though, as just six minutes later, Juventus restored their lead. Uruguayan striker, Marcelo Zalayeta, found himself on the end of substitute Angelo Di Livio’s cross. Despite being sandwiched between two Napoli defenders, Zalayeta’s hunger allowed him to power his diving header home from close range.  But the goal of the game was still to come.

As the clock ticked on, Juventus became nervous and edgy as they tried to defend their slim advantage. Napoli continued to press and probe. Then, deep into injury time, a floated ball found Igor Protti with a yard of space just inside the Juventus box. The clinical Italian forward only needed three touches; an exquisite first touch, a second to nudge the ball onto his left foot, and a third to let fly. The ball flew through the air, past the diving Peruzzi and into the top-corner, sparking wild celebrations as Napoli earned a well-deserved 2-2 draw.

The two meet again this halloween weekend and Juventus will be hoping to avoid another Saturday night fright after last weekend’s surprise defeat at the hands of AC Milan. As for Napoli, they’ll be looking for a crucial three points as they attempt to mount a serious title challenge. If it’s anywhere near as entertaining as the meeting in March 1998, we will be in for yet another Serie A treat.

Words by Giovanni Dougall: @giovannid86

Gio has been part of the @GentlemanUltra team since 2013 and is the creator of @ClassicCalcio and @Solo_Parma. He regularly travels to Italy to follow his beloved Parma.