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Serie A: Juventus secure thrilling 3-3 draw at Napoli

Associated Press
Nov 30, 2011 at 05:30am IST

Milan: Goran Pandev scored twice for Napoli as they let slip a two-goal lead before settling for a thrilling 3-3 draw with Serie A leaders Juventus on Tuesday at the Stadio Sao Paolo.

Marek Hamsik, who had earlier missed a penalty, headed Napoli in front in the 23rd minute and Pandev added a second goal five minutes from half-time. Alessandro Matri got Juventus back into the game just after the break but Pandev was on hand to score again in the 68th. However, Marcelo Estigarribia recorded his first goal in Italian football shortly afterwards and Simone Pepe leveled matters in the 80th minute.

Juventus remain unbeaten this season and are now two points clear of AC Milan, while Napoli moved into sixth, eight points behind Antonio Conte's team.

Juventus secure thrilling 3-3 draw at Napoli

Pandev scored twice even as Napoli let slip a two-goal lead against the Serie A leaders.

"There was an important response from the whole group, if their hearts weren't in it, we wouldn't have come back," Conte said. "Today Napoli and the atmosphere at the San Paolo would have stopped any team. I am proud to be the coach of these lads."

It was Napoli's fourth game in 11 days and coach Walter Mazzarri blamed fatigue for his players' capitulation. Juventus, unlike Napoli, are not involved in the Champions League this season.

"Today the glass is half empty," Mazzarri said. "We were spectacular in the first half but then in the second we paid for the fact we've had too many games recently. We should have kept our focus for the last 20 minutes. We were waning and that showed; when we were 3-1 up I thought we would win, even though we were tired."

Juventus had the better of the opening exchanges and should have scored in the third minute when Pepe let fly from distance with a fierce shot that whistled just wide of the left post. Shortly afterwards, Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner found an unmarked Mirko Vucinic but the Montenegro forward's strike across goal was also off target.

The match turned on its head in the 14th minute when Napoli won a penalty, with Andrea Pirlo bringing down Ezequiel Lavezzi just inside the area as the Argentine was about to cross.

Hamsik sent a perfect penalty into the bottom right corner, but the referee ordered a retake because of encroachment and the Slovak blazed his second attempt over the bar.

Napoli were in front soon after, though, when Christian Maggio nodded down Lavezzi's free kick for Hamsik to head home.

Maggio also had a part in Napoli's second goal. As he and Pirlo clashed in an attempt to win possession, the ball fell to Pandev, who did well to evade his marker and fire across goal into the bottom left corner.

Juventus were back in the game shortly after the interval when Arturo Vidal sent a defence-splitting pass across for the unmarked Matri to strike past keeper Morgan De Sanctis.

Matri had the ball in the back of the net minutes later, but the Italy striker was rightly adjudged to be offside.

Napoli could have extended their lead when Lavezzi did brilliantly to avoid the attentions of three Juventus defenders and muscle his way into the area, but his shot was straight at goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Pandev, who had earlier signaled to the bench his need to come off the pitch, scored his second after controlling Maggio's cross with his back to goal before turning and firing into bottom right corner. The on-loan Inter striker was substituted minutes later to a standing ovation.

Juventus reduced the deficit in the 72nd minute when Matri found Estigarribia at the far post and the Paraguay winger slotted past De Sanctis.

The Turin side equalized 10 minutes from time when Pepe picked up the ball on the half-way line and raced towards goal. He attempted a pass, but the ball rebounded back to him off Napoli defender Frederic Fernando, and Pepe coolly fired home.

"I'm disappointed because I thought we had won it 3-1 and, to make it worse, one of our defenders helped in their third goal," Mazzarri said. "We had no luck."

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