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Friday, 25 September 2020

Napoli win Italian Cup in shootout over Juventus

AP , Wednesday 17 Jun 2020
Napoli
June 17, 2020 Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne celebrates with the trophy after winning the Coppa Italia with teammates, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Reuters)
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Cristiano Ronaldo never had a chance.

Arkadiusz Milik converted the decisive spot kick in a penalty shootout as Napoli won its sixth Italian Cup following a 0-0 draw with Juventus on Wednesday.

Ronaldo was likely Juventus' last penalty taker but after Paulo Dybala had his shot saved and Danilo blasted high over the goal, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner could only stand at midfield and watch as Napoli won the shootout 4-2.

The game went straight to penalties without extra time being played -- a precautionary measure for players still getting back into shape in only their second match of the restart.

In the first half, Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne hit the post with a free kick.

Juventus controlled most of the possession but Napoli had the better chances as Juve's 42-year-old goalkeeper Gianlugi Buffon made a series of difficult saves -- until the shootout.

While it was played in an empty stadium, the final was another sign of the return to normalcy in a country hard-hit by the coronavirus.

The nearly 35,000 who died from COVID-19 in Italy could have filled half of the 70,000-seat Stadio Olimpico.

The game was broadcast nationally on free-to-air RAI state TV and was expected to draw a large audience.

``I strongly wanted soccer to restart with the Italian Cup,'' said sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora. ``Tonight isn't merely a final. It's a message of renewal for the entire country.``

The arena grew even quieter when the teams stood at the center circle for a minute of silence before kickoff to honor the virus victims.

``The country needs to bounce back and sports will be a motor for economic and social renewal,'' Spadafora added.

After a break of more than three months, soccer restarted in Italy last week with the second legs of the semifinals.

The final was originally scheduled for May 13.

Serie A resumes Saturday.

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