Buffon behaves when faced with another penalty
NAPLES, Italy (AP) — There wasn’t a hint of protest from Gianluigi Buffon this time.
Returning to the Champions League following his three-match ban for comments about the referee last season, Buffon immediately realized there was no point in arguing when Napoli was awarded a penalty that turned out to be the equalizer in a 1-1 draw Tuesday.
Buffon and Paris Saint-Germain teammate Thiago Silva had just sandwiched Napoli forward Jose Callejon.
“I didn’t protest when the penalty was assigned because I usually don’t when it’s not a controversial play,” Buffon said. “Whereas in Madrid I thought I was treated unfairly — not for the ban — but for the incredible red card I was shown.”
While Buffon was still at Juventus, he was sent off at the end of a quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Real Madrid for protesting an injury-time penalty. Buffon then told reporters that referee Michael Oliver had “a garbage bag for a heart.”
Buffon’s behavior in Naples was impeccable, especially considering that he was showered with loud boos and whistles upon each touch.
The fans at the San Paolo Stadium still consider Buffon an enemy after he spent nearly two decades at rival Juventus.
“I’ve never seen anyone come to Napoli and play easily here,” Buffon said. “As I told my teammates, I’ve had a pretty long career and I’ve won at Napoli twice, so it’s pretty complicated.”
Buffon’s recent transfer to PSG was surprising amid expectations that he would retire at the end of last season.
But at the age of 40, Buffon showed over a short span of the second half that he’s still one of the world’s best goalkeepers with an array of spectacular saves to deny Napoli’s darting forwards Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne.
Before Insigne converted the penalty, Buffon smiled at his former Italy teammate.
“I wasn’t able to distract him,” Buffon said. “But I’m happy I was able to do my part for the squad in such a delicate match.”
Insigne noted that he has practiced countless penalties against Buffon in Italy training sessions.
“Buffon knows Insigne well, but then Insigne knows Buffon, too,” said Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti, who formerly managed PSG. “Buffon was in great shape this evening, as always.”
Match by match, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is developing into one of the world’s top defenders.
After helping keep Liverpool strikers Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane scoreless last month, Koulibaly almost single-handedly negated powerful PSG striker Kylian Mbappe in the first half.
Near the half-hour mark, the 27-year-old Senegal international, who is nicknamed “K2,” stopped an onrushing Mbappe dead in his tracks to earn a loud round of applause.
It wasn’t until Mbappe rounded Nikola Maksimovic and provided the cross for Juan Bernat’s opener in first-half added time that the France standout finally made his mark.
Insigne has scored five goals in his last six Champions League matches and was cool under pressure to convert the equalizing penalty.
While Buffon guessed right when he leaped to his right post, Insigne deposited his shot perfectly into the corner before the goalkeeper could get there.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf