Gonzalo Higuain scored in his first match against Napoli since their bitter divorce in July to give his new club Juventus a barely-deserved 2-1 win in their Serie A showdown on Saturday.
The Argentine, who scored a record 36 league goals for Napoli last season, drilled the ball home in the 71st minute for his seventh goal of the season, which he did not celebrate.
Juventus had been struggling to create chances and Higuain had made little impact until then, yet there was an air of inevitability about the goal as Napoli failed to take their chances and made mistakes at the back.
Leonardo Bonucci had volleyed the Serie A leaders in front, taking advantage of a misplaced Faouzi Ghoulam clearance, in the 50th minute, but Jose Callejon silenced the Juventus stadium with a clinically taken goal four minutes later.
Higuain had two years to run on his contract with Napoli, who did not want to sell him, but moved to Juventus in July after the Turin club agreed to pay a 90 million euro (81.11 million pounds) buyout clause in his contract.
Juventus have 27 points from 11 games, five ahead of AS Roma who visit Empoli on Sunday. Napoli, last season’s runners-up, are third with 20.
Napoli’s striking problems have continued since Higuain’s departure with replacement Arkadiusz Milik suffering a long-term knee injury while Manolo Gabbiadini was completing a two-match suspension.
There were certainly no hard feelings between Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri and Higuain, who warmly embraced at the start, while Bonucci suggested that the Argentine should celebrate if he scored.
“He is a phenomenon,” said Sarri after the game. “A loose ball at Gonzalo’s feet is a death sentence for defenders. If Gonzalo wins something in Europe, I am happy for him, although less so for Juventus.”
“I still consider him to be like a son, even though the transfer to Juventus made me fell bad.”
Higuain had just one sniff of goal in a first half of few openings but was well blocked by Vlad Chiriches.
Juventus broke the deadlock five minutes after the restart when Ghoulam completely miscued a clearance, the ball rose into the air and fell invitingly for Bonucci to volley home from 12 metres.
Napoli responded quickly when Lorenzo Insigne dinked a delightful pass over the Juventus back line and Callejon met it first time to side-foot the ball under Gianluigi Buffon.
Higuain was not to be denied, though, and put Juventus back in front, meeting the ball perfectly with his left foot to fire his shot past Pepe Reina when Ghoulam’s attempted interception fell right into his path.
A penalty converted by Nikola Kalinic in the 31st minute gave Fiorentina a 1-0 win at Bologna in Saturday’s other game.
Bologna’s Daniele Gastaldello was given a straight red card for pulling back Kalinic in the incident which led to the penalty but Fiorentina failed to add to their score despite having a one-man advantage for nearly one hour.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne,; Editing by Neville Dalton/Rex Gowar)