Napoli ecstatic after 1-0 victory over Juventus in Serie A
TURIN, Italy (AP) — About 2,000 Napoli fans had accompanied the team to the airport for the flight to Turin. More than 15,000 waited for their return early Monday morning.
A 1-0 win over Juventus will do that.
Still celebrating the victory that put the team only one point behind Juventus in the standings, Napoli fans packed the roads to the airport and people even abandoned their cars to walk because of the congestion. The team bus took nearly two hours to travel a few hundred meters to the highway on its way back to the training ground — where another several hundred fans were waiting.
"We are the only team which represents an entire population, because we are the only one which comes from a big city that only has one team," Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri, at times on the verge of tears, said after Saturday's match. "We gave our fans a huge joy today that goes above and beyond the standings."
The final whistle in Turin ignited wild celebrations in Naples, with fireworks being set off and people diving into the fountain in Piazza Trieste e Trento.
More could be coming soon.
"It's true that Napoli is favorite because of the schedule but matches have to be won," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "I always knew it would go down to the final match."
Juventus arguably has the tougher schedule. The six-time defending champions still have to play Champions League-chasing Inter Milan and Roma, as well as Bologna and Hellas Verona.
Napoli plays Fiorentina, Torino, Sampdoria and Crotone in its bid for a first title since Diego Maradona led the club to its only two Serie A championships in 1987 and 1990.
Juventus was six points clear less than a week ago and looked to be on an unstoppable march to a seventh straight title. At one point last week, Juventus was nine points clear but Napoli came back to beat Udinese and Juventus was held to a draw at Crotone.
Still, few people thought Napoli could beat Juventus in a league match in Turin — something which hadn't happened in nine years.
It happened again, with Kalidou Koulibaly heading in a corner for the lone goal in the 89th minute.
That sparked a tirade from Allegri in his post-match news conference after he was questioned about his team's poor performances of late.
"The quality of our play? It's been four years that Juventus has been playing 57 matches a year. I don't understand. How many do the others play? They're finished in December. Good Lord," shouted Allegri, who also hit the table as he yelled.
"When you play 57 matches it's also a significant drain on your mental energy. Getting to the final of the Italian Cup is not easy. We've done it four years in a row. We've played in the Champions League for the past four years. Twice we've got to the final, twice we've been eliminated late on. The others are finished by November," Allegri said. "Guys, we need calm. You're making me lose my patience and I have a lot. This is useless for the team."