Mon, Aug 27, 2012 - Page 19 News List

SERIEA: Sluggish Juventus grind out victory against Parma

AFP, ROME

Juventus overcame a sluggish first-half display to kick off the defense of their Serie A crown with a 2-0 victory at home to Parma on Saturday.

A pair of quick-fire goals shortly before the hour from Stephan Lichtsteiner and Andrea Pirlo proved the difference between the sides, after Arturo Vidal had seen a first-half penalty saved.

Juve have not lost in the league since May 15 last year and their unbeaten run now stands at 24 victories and 16 draws, which is a record in the Italian top flight.

The champions’ preparations were nonetheless seriously undermined when coach Antonio Conte was handed a 10-month ban for failing to disclose information about match-fixing during his time at Siena in the 2010-2011 season.

In his absence, Massimo Carrera has been promoted to take control of first-team affairs on match days, but he saw his charges make an uncertain start to proceedings at Juventus Stadium.

Largely devoid of any inspiration, the hosts managed to win a penalty in the 33rd minute when Lichtsteiner was fouled by visiting goalkeeper Antonio Mirate, but Vidal’s spot-kick was saved.

Things improved after the interval and Lichtsteiner gave Juve the lead in the 55th minute when he converted a cut-back from the excellent Kwadwo Asamoah, who was making his Serie A debut after a close-season move from Udinese.

Pirlo, star of Italy’s run to the Euro 2012 final, made it 2-0 with a low free-kick three minutes later, although Parma’s players protested that the ball had not crossed the goal-line.

The margin of victory could have been more handsome had Sebastian Giovinco shown more accuracy with a right-foot shot in the 68th minute.

The diminutive playmaker caught the eye against the club he left to rejoin Juve in the summer — for his third stint at the Turin club — but he had to leave the fray due to injury in the 80th minute.

Jonathan Biabiany had twice gone close for the visitors early in the first half, while Parma substitutes Ishak Belfodil and Sotiris Ninis threatened in the game’s final quarter.

In the first match of the season, ACF Fiorentina came from behind to beat Udinese 2-1 thanks to a brace from Montenegrin attacker Stevan Jovetic, who claimed his decisive second goal in injury-time.

Third last season, visitors Udinese appeared visibly tired after their mid-week trip to Portuguese side Sporting Braga for the first-leg match of their Champions League play-off tie, which saw them emerge with a 1-1 draw.

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