Heroic Higuaín hurtles Juventus into Coppa Italia final
ROME—Controversial talismanic Argentine striker, Gonzalo Higuaín, scored twice against his former club Napoli, to propel the Bianconeri into the final of the Coppa Italia final where they will face Lazio in June.
Despite losing 2-3 on the night at the Stadio San Paolo, Juventus went through 5-4 on aggregate as they already held a 3-1 lead over Napoli entering Wednesday’s game.
Napoli started the game the brighter of the two sides, knowing that an early goal was crucial in terms of putting pressure on their opponents. The hosts nearly went in front through Lorenzo Insigne but his close-range shot was denied by a smart save from Juve keeper Norberto Neto.
It was Juventus who took the lead on 32 minutes when Higuaín, who controversially left Napoli in the summer in a lucrative 75 million pound move, turned smartly outside the box before rifling home from 25 yards to further his side’s control on the tie.
Slovakian Marek Hamsik equalised for the Partenopei shortly after half-time after the ball deflected fortunately into his path. Yet Napoli’s parity was short lived as the night’s villain, Higuaín, smashed home Dani Alves’s cross on 58 minutes to all but end the home sides chances.
However, the Azzurri refused to go quietly and Belgian substitute Dries Mertens scored within seconds of coming on thanks to a calamitous goalkeeping error from Neto. Insigne then added a third for the hosts, six minutes lates, as Napoli drew within just one goal of Juventus on aggregate.
Unfortunately for the home side, the late flourish was too little too late and the visitors hung on to win the tie 5-4 on aggregate.
It was a bittersweet night for Higuaín, who enjoyed many successful years at Napoli, including winning the Capocannoniere, Serie A’s golden boot, in 2016. His move to Juventus last summer was hugely controversial and did not go down well with the Napoli faithful. The club’s mercurial owner, Aurelio de Laurentiis, described it as a “betrayal” and the fans held banners expressing their anger towards the Argentine at Wednesday night’s game. One especially upset supporter invaded the pitch and attempted to drape a Napoli scarf around the former idol’s shoulders.
Juventus will now face Lazio in the final of the Coppa Italia at the Stadio Olimpico in June as their quest for the treble continues.