Napoli v Juventus: packing the balconies to see the Bianconeri beaten

When Juve come to town, you take whatever vantage point you can. In spring 1958 in Naples, they packed behind the goals and onto the balconies of properties overlooking the stadium to get a glimpse of the all-conquering Bianconeri. In the hope, of course, of bringing them down a peg or two.

These were the days when John Charles and Omar Sivori (pictured below with Giampiero Boniperti) - perhaps the oddest couple in calcio history - were at the peak of their powers. The tall, powerful and scrupulously fair Welshman and his more diminutive, skilful and sneaky Argentinian colleague were on their way to amassing 50 league goals between them. But at the old Vomero stadium they still harboured hopes of a home victory.

The reason for Neapolitan optimism was quite simple - they had a pretty decent team of their own. Not, perhaps, on the level of La Vecchia Signora, but a quality outfit nonetheless. And, moreover, they had already defeated the Turin giants on their own turf - the only team to have achieved such a result in Serie A that campaign.

They had a goal machine of their own in the shape of Brazilian Luis Vinicio. Dubbed ‘O lione - the Lion - by his home support he tormented defenders the length and breadth of Italy. He would have a field day against a Bianconero defence which was still a long way from the impenetrable unit that Giovanni Trapattoni would oversee in the 1970s.

The title was already pretty much in the bag for Juve when they travelled south for the clash on 20 April. Ten points clear with six games left to play under the old two points for a win system was an almost unassailable lead. Still, the Partenopei - their nearest rivals along with Padova - hoped to at least delay the Scudetto celebrations.

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Those ingredients produced a classic mix. Vinicio opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute. Some good build-up work on the right allowed him to control the ball easily and slam it past visiting netminder Carlo Mattrel. It was the start of a deluge of goals.

The Bianconeri’s response was just a couple of minutes in coming. A seemingly innocuous cross from the right was knocked towards goal by Charles and caused a panic in the home defence. An Elia Greco deflection saw the ball end up in his own net to level the match.

But the huge crowd was not going to settle for a share of the spoils and howled their favourites forward. Some neat interplay saw winger Luigi Brugola break clear of the Juventus defence. Once again, it was a pretty straightforward task for him to nip the ball under the diving goalkeeper.

Vinicio (pictured below) should have stretched that lead early in the second half when he was put clean through on goal but this time Mattrel was quick off his line to deny him. It gave La Vecchia Signora a lifeline she was quick to grab. Gino Stacchini cut in from the right and hammered home a shot from a tight angle to make it 2-2 after less than an hour’s play.

That gave the visitors greater impetus and they tested the home goalkeeper Ottavio Bugatti a couple of times as they pushed for the win. But it would be Napoli who struck next with just 13 minutes left on the clock. Future Scudetto-winning coach with Fiorentina Bruno Pesaola got away on the left and his cross found Vinicio at the back post. He made amends for his earlier error with a sweet finish into the top corner.

It looked like being the winner until a free-kick in the 86th minute was floated into the box by Boniperti. It appeared the Napoli defence had cleared the danger but, instead, Antonio Montico cracked in a shot through a crowd of players which gave Bugatti no chance. It was back to the drawing board for Amedeo Amedei’s side.

But, just like their manager, they had goals in their blood and would send their fans home in delight. Another poor defensive clearance dropped to midfielder Gino Bertucco and he had no hesitation in driving the ball home. The supporters piled up behind the goal went crazy. The final whistle brought a full-scale pitch invasion.

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“The most exciting game of the season,” announced one match report of the day. “The championship has not been mathematically decided as many expected it to be. The team which rose to its feet and stopped that happening - in a most determined and surprising manner - was Napoli. Juve did not get their own way because they found somebody able to outplay them. It was, as they say, an explosive match.”

“We were unlucky,” said a disappointed and disgruntled Juventus president Umberto Agnelli. “The final result came about a bit by chance. The last goal, the one which decided the game from Bertucco, came as a result of a free-kick which should not have been given.”

It would only prove to be a minor bump for the boys in black and white on their road towards the Scudetto. They won it with eight points to spare over second-placed Fiorentina. As for the Partenopei, the win did not send them towards the runners-up spot they had hoped for. They managed just one win in their last five fixtures (against Inter) and suffered a couple of heavy hammerings - 7-0 by Udinese and 4-0 at Vicenza - to finish a still-respectable fourth. But one of the undoubted highlights of their campaign was producing one of the best matches of the year when Serie A’s biggest name came visiting.

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