TURIN, Italy (Reuters) -Juventus delivered an efficient performance as they moved back to provisional top spot in Serie A on Friday, securing a 1-0 home win against a wasteful Napoli thanks to a header from Federico Gatti.
Six minutes into the second half, Juve broke the deadlock when Gatti collected an Andrea Cambiaso cross at the back post, outjumping his marker to head it into the back of the net.
Napoli had numerous opportunities but Khvicha Kvaratskhelia missed a huge chance, while Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny made several saves to thwart the visitors' clear scoring chances.
Juve top the standings with 36 points, one ahead of Inter Milan who host lowly Udinese on Saturday.
"We did well in the first half, moving the ball side to side, then in difficult moments the team becomes a block of granite," Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri told DAZN.
"I have a group of players who work hard. We need to slow things down, not always try to make it one-touch football. We should control the ball better in some moments of the match."
Asked about Juve's stated hopes of a top-four finish, Allegri said: "We can even say in the dressing room that we have the ambition to win the Scudetto but you need to get results. There's no point talking about what might be, we need to focus on what is."
NAPOLI MISS CHANCES
For Napoli, the match highlighted their struggling form, marking three consecutive defeats across all competitions for the first time since October 2016. They are fifth with 24 points.
"Anyone who knows football realises there are moments. The guys played a great game, I think they dominated the match and forced Juventus to defend in their own area for almost the entire second half," manager Walter Mazzarri said.
Napoli's intense start saw them creating several early chances, with Giovanni Di Lorenzo denied by Szczesny's goal-line save and Matteo Politano narrowly missing the post moments later.
Juve had their best chance of the first half when Dusan Vlahovic's close-range attempt was blocked by Natan, and Weston McKennie's subsequent rebound with an overhead kick was denied by Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret.
Just before the half-hour mark, Kvaratskhelia found himself alone with Szczesny inside the box after being set free by Victor Osimhen. However, the Georgian winger sent the ball over the bar, much to the surprise and relief of the home fans, and causing visible frustration for Mazzarri.
"I have seen a team that always played good football, better than the opposition, but we don’t seem to be able to score goals. If we do not score that Kvara chance, it is a clear sign we are in a negative period. Bad luck happens too," Mazzarri said.
"I am convinced that if we play like this, we will have a run of positive results and really climb the table."
Napoli's difficulties in front of the goal continued when Di Lorenzo struck a powerful shot from close range just before the break, only to be denied by Szczesny's exceptional diving save.
After Gatti's goal, Napoli's momentum dropped and they struggled to create chances or mount an offensive to equalise.
Osimhen put the ball into the net for Napoli after Szczesny's pass was intercepted and knocked back to the Nigerian, but the offside flag was raised.
Napoli host Braga in their last Champions League group-stage match on Tuesday and need at least a draw to qualify for the knockout stage. Juve travel to Genoa on Friday for their next Serie A match.
(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk; editing by Clare Fallon)