Dybala makes stunning return as Juventus end slump with Napoli win


Soccer Football - Serie A - Juventus v Napoli - Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy - April 7, 2021 Juventus' Paulo Dybala scores their second goal REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

(Reuters) - Juventus striker Paulo Dybala marked his return from injury with a stunning goal in a 2-1 win over Napoli on Wednesday that moved the Turin club into third place in Serie A and ended their form slump.

Cristiano Ronaldo fired the hosts into an early lead before substitute Dybala, making his first league appearance since January, curled a shot into the bottom corner to double their lead after 73 minutes.

Lorenzo Insigne pulled one back for Napoli from the penalty spot in the final minute, but it was too little too late as the visitors’ four-match league winning run came to an end.

It was a huge result for Juve coach Andrea Pirlo, who came into the game under massive pressure after picking up one point from two matches against relegation-battling sides Benevento and Torino.

The champions are third in the standings with 59 points, one behind AC Milan and 12 adrift of leaders Inter Milan. Napoli are fifth with 56 points.

This fixture was originally scheduled to take place in October, but was postponed after a COVID-19 outbreak in the Napoli squad.

It was a crucial game in the race for Champions League qualification, as the two sides came into it level on points and in contrasting form.

Juve should have been ahead after two minutes when Ronaldo missed a glaring chance by heading wide from six yards, but the Portuguese soon made amends by firing in from a Federico Chiesa cross.

Both teams had penalty appeals waved away before veteran Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, earning a surprise recall to the side, made decisive saves from Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Insigne after the break.

Dybala did not need long to make an impact on his return from a knee injury, the Argentine firing home a superb finish from the edge of the area four minutes after his introduction.

Victor Osimhen went down under Giorgio Chiellini's challenge to earn Napoli a late spot-kick which Insigne converted, but it proved to be only a consolation.

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Ed Osmond)

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