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The Bianconeri moved closer to a second straight title with a 1-1 draw at San Paolo, but the evening's flashpoint reminded football of a point of law that needs to be addressed

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By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer

The final whistle blasted, the two players turned to each other, shared an embrace and exchanged shirts. Giorgio Chiellini even paid tribute to Edinson Cavani when interviewed by local TV shortly afterwards. It was one of those moments that capture sport at its best. The pair had spent 90 minutes going at one another hammer and tongs, yet when all was said and done, the respect between the two shone through.

Cavani will consider himself a very lucky man though, with his vicious elbow on Chiellini during first-half injury time providing the flashpoint in Napoli’s 1-1 draw against Juventus. Having had his hair pulled by the Italy international defender, then felt himself dragged back by the shoulder, the Uruguayan unleashed a malicious elbow in the face of his marker.

MATCH FACTS | Napoli 1-1 Juventus

SHOTS
ON TARGET
POSSESSION
CORNERS

YELLOW CARDS
NAPOLI
17
8
53%
10
4
JUVENTUS
12
5
47%
4
2

What Chiellini did was wrong, but Cavani had no right to react the way he did. The Napoli marksman was booked by referee Daniele Orsato and remained on the field for the last 45 minutes of the contest. On another night he would rightly have seen red and left the Partenopei a man short.

That he didn’t owed much to Orsato’s leniency. Having been informed by the goal-line official at the south end of the ground that it had been an elbow from the Napoli striker which had felled Chiellini, the man in the middle had no decision to make but to reveal the red card. Bewilderingly, the yellow followed instead, leaving Juve to fight on against a full complement when they should have been up against 10 men.

There can be no doubting that Orsato’s decision was the wrong one, and the greatest fear in the mind of most neutrals during the second half was that Cavani might go on to score a winning goal which would lead to all sorts of recriminations afterwards.

But while Serie A’s top scorer did not grab a goal, the yellow card he received could have further consequences on the title race. Because thanks to Orsato’s brandishing of a caution, no action can now be taken against the Uruguayan under the current laws of the game. With a video review not deemed appropriate for incidents which a referee has already ruled on, Cavani cannot face a ban for his moment of madness.

On another night Cavani would rightly have seen red and left the Partenopei a man short ... Now, in the next three matches, he could score the goals that propel Napoli back into the title race

The reality is that he should be forced to sit out at least the next three matches for what was a blatant and downright brutal assault, and because the Lega Serie A’s disciplinary commission can take no further action says much about the stupidity of some of the practices in the current game.

Yes, it may be opening a can of worms to delve into reviews of incidents which have been judged already by match officials, but when such a bad decision has clearly been made, the punishment must remain the same as it would be had a player been dealt with correctly in the first place.

In the next three matches, Cavani could score a handful of goals that propel Napoli back into the title race at a time when Juventus have plenty of other things on their minds. Thankfully for the powers-that-be, it is now an unlikely scenario given that the 1-1 draw on Friday night theoretically puts the Bianconeri a further half-point ahead of the Campania outfit thanks to their superior head-to-head record, but a red card and a three-match ban would have ensured that the Uruguay international is in no position to alter the course of the Scudetto until the beginning of April.

Had Cavani bagged the winner, there would have been hell to pay. Napoli would have moved within three points with a new spring in their step and a full-strength side with which to tackle their next three fixtures. Orsato was lucky that Gianluigi Buffon and Juve held out. And he was fortunate that Blerim Dzemaili somehow missed a clear opportunity to win the game when Buffon parried a shot straight to him.

As it was, the champions of Italy grabbed the point they deserved regardless of Cavani’s continued presence, and with a six-point lead now bolstered by their positive record against Napoli, it will take something special to stop them from recording a 29th official Scudetto triumph. While football’s governing bodies have yet another reason to look into the reformation of some of their policies, Juventus have proven once more they are a class above the rest of the league whether they’re up against 10 men or 11.

NEXT UP...
  • Napoli's latest draw gives Lazio an opportunity to close in on second place with a victory against Milan on Saturday night. While the Biancocelesti have not won away to the Rossoneri since 1989, the absence of Mario Balotelli from the home side's line-up will be considered a boost to Vladimir Petkovic's side. Victory for the capital club would not only put them within three points of an automatic Champions League place, it would also hand them a five-point lead over Milan in the tussle for the top three, meaning Massimiliano Allegri's men would be back under pressure in the Champions League race. Just as it was now or never for Napoli against Juve, Saturday's clash is Lazio's best hope of keeping Milan at arm's length for the remainder of the season.

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