|Napoli were 2-0 ahead at half-time thanks to goals from Marek Hamsik and Goran Pandev [EPA]|
League leaders Juventus twice fought back from two goals down to earn a thrilling 3-3 draw at Napoli on Tuesday and stretch their unbeaten start in Italy’s Serie A to 12 games.
The Old Lady of Turin also opened up a two-point lead over second placed AC Milan having battled back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits.
Napoli blew the chance to reignite their title chances and the point leaves them down in sixth and nine points behind Juve.
Goals from Marek Hamsik and a Goran Pandev brace looked to have given Napoli victory but the visitors hit back through Alessandro Matri, Marcelo Estigarribia and Simone Pepe.
Napoli suffered a blow before kick-off as top scorer Edinson Cavani was ruled out with injury but his replacement Pandev did not disappoint.
There was early drama when the hosts were awarded a penalty on the quarter hour mark after Andrea Pirlo’s rash challenge on Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Hamsik stepped up to take the spot-kick and coolly slotted home off the post, only for the referee to order it to be retaken for encroachment.
Television replays showed most of the players in the area were Juve ones.
At the second time of asking, the Slovakia midfielder blazed his effort over the bar and although a Juve player may have been in the area, this time there was no retake.
Napoli did not have to wait long to take the lead and did so courtesy of Hamsik on 23 minutes.
Lavezzi swung a free-kick into the box and Leonardo Bonucci’s attempted headed clearance was weak, giving Hamsik, who had been in an offside position when the free-kick was taken, a simple headed finish from six yards.
Napoli were in total control and Pandev wasted a pair of glorious opportunities.
Gianluigi Buffon got down well to save his first after the Macedonia forward had made space, but Pandev got his angles all wrong on the second from Lavezzi’s pull-back.
Pandev doubled Napoli’s lead five minutes from the break. After Christian Maggio and Pirlo challenged for the ball it broke kindly for Pandev inside the box, and the forward’s finish with his weaker right foot was class.
Juve earned a lifeline three minutes into the second period as Matri converted Arturo Vidal’s pass, although he was helped by a huge gap opening up in the home defence as several defenders had been dragged out of position.
Juve failed to build on that momentum and Pandev seemed to have killed the game midway through the half.
Bonucci over-committed himself on a cross from Maggio and Pandev controlled, turned and shot home in off the post in a flash.
However, just four minutes later Napoli’s defence went walkabout again and Estigarribia was left unmarked at the back post to slot under Morgan De Sanctis.
And 11 minutes from time Napoli’s defence inexplicably backed off, allowing Pepe to run from the halfway line, play a lucky one-two off a home defender and finish precisely.