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Napoli beat Juventus on penalties to claim Coppa Italia

Rome, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- Napoli won their sixth Coppa Italia here Wednesday, prevailing over Juventus on penalties 4-2 after the sides held each other scoreless for 90 minutes.

Lorenzo Insigne, Matteo Politano, Nemanja Maksimovic and Arkadiusz Milik converted from the spot for Napoli.

Juve’s Leonardo Bonucci and Aaron Ramsey hit the mark, but Paulo Dybala saw his shot saved by Napoli keeper Alex Meret and Danilo fired over the cross-bar.

And though the Bianconeri are 24 points ahead of Napoli in the Serie A table, the southerners were the better team during regulation as well. Insigne hit the post on a free kick and 42-year-old Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon made a trio of outstanding stops, including one in the dying seconds.

As they did against AC Milan in the semifinal, Juventus started well and Cristiano Ronaldo forced a save from Meret in the 5th minute.

Napoli survived the initial onslaught and found their rhythm.

Insigne was denied twice in the opening 45 minutes, first by the woodwork and then by Buffon, who also parried a strike from Dries Mertens.

Less than a week into the restart of Italian soccer after the three-month interruption due to the coronavirus, both teams suffered from fatigue in the second half and the coaches took advantage of the rule change allowing up to five substitutions.

Juve manager Mauricio Sarri sent in Federico Bernardeschi, Aaron Ramsey and Danilo for Douglas Costa, Miralem Pjanic and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, respectively. Gennaro Gattuso replaced Mertens with Milik and Jose Callejon with Politano.

Napoli were increasingly dominant as the game entered the final stretch and only the heroics of Buffon stopped Eljif Elmas settling the contest in stoppage time.

In another nod to the extraordinary conditions arising from the pandemic, the teams skipped the usual 30 minutes of overtime and went straight to the penalty shootout.

Gattuso, who hoisted the Coppa Italia with AC Milan as a player, celebrated winning his first trophy as a coach.

Juventus, meanwhile, absorbed a second major disappointment of the season after falling Lazio five months ago in the Italian Super Cup.

EFE am/dr

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