MILAN (Reuters) - Gonzalo Higuain struck an early goal to give Juventus a 1-0 win against Serie A leaders Napoli and end his former club’s unbeaten start to the league season on Friday.
It was the Argentine’s fifth goal in as many games against Napoli since he left the club in acrimonious circumstances to join the Turin side in July last year.
Champions Juventus, chasing a seventh successive title, defended resolutely and were rarely in danger despite allowing their uninspired opponents to dominate possession at the San Paolo stadium.
The win took Juventus within one point of Napoli who had gone unbeaten through their first 14 games, dropping only four points.
Napoli remained on 38 with Juventus on 37 and Inter Milan, who will go top if they beat Chievo at home on Sunday, on 36.
Fourth-placed AS Roma also closed the gap with a 3-1 win over SPAL after the visitors had Felipe Dias sent off in the 11th minute for fouling Edin Dzeko when the Bosnia player had a clear run on goal.
The referee had initially shown a yellow card to Dias but changed his mind after consulting the VAR technology.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said that everything had gone according to plan.
“It was a great test for us. We did very well, leaving them with the possession of the ball in the second half but without letting them create very much,” he said.
“Football matches are not just a question of having possession but also of strategy. We sometimes play with an extra defender, depending on the game, but in the end, matches are won in defence.”
Higuain, passed fit to play at Napoli despite having undergone surgery on his left hand on Monday, had an early chance when his shot from a tight angle was saved by Pepe Reina’s shoulder.
He was not to be denied, though, and gave Juve the lead in the 12th minute when he ran on to Paulo Dybala’s astute pass and stroked the ball past Reina.
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a save from Marek Hamsik and two from Lorenzo Insigne to keep Juve in front at halftime.
Napoli penned Juventus in their own half for most of the second half but continued to be let down by their final passes and it was the visitors who came closest to scoring when Reina turned Blaise Matuidi’s volley over the crossbar at point-blank range.
In the other match, SPAL coach Leonardo Semplici and his players imposed a media blackout after their defeat by Roma.
Dzeko and Kevin Strootman put Roma 2-0 ahead by halftime before Lorenzo Pellegrini headed in Aleksandar Kolarov’s pass for the third goal early in the second half.
Federico Viviani pulled one back for lowly SPAL with a penalty.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Clare Fallon