Mon, Sep 26, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Jittery Juventus focusing on Zagreb


Gonzalo Higuain of Juventus, top right, vies for the ball with US Citta di Palermo goalkeeper Josip Posavec, bottom right, in their Serie A match at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo, Italy, on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Massimiliano Allegri said his focus is fully on claiming the first points of Juventus’ UEFA Champions League campaign after a cagey 1-0 win at US Citta di Palermo on Saturday maintained the early-season doubts hanging over his side.

The Italian champions travel to Dinamo Zagreb tomorrow looking for the win that would get their Group H campaign up and running two weeks after a scoreless draw in Turin against Sevilla, but, unlike SSC Napoli, who cruised to a 2-0 win at home to AC Chievo Verona and saw Marek Hamsik hit a cracking 100th goal for the club days before they welcome SL Benfica to the Stadio San Paolo, Juventus were put through the wringer.

Allegri, who paired Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic up front for the first time, saw a flawed performance.

“In technical terms we should have done much better, but we take the three points home with us,” Allegri told Sky Sport.

Defender Leonardo Bonucci was more candid: “In technical terms, we made a lot of mistakes and when you play for Juventus that can’t happen. Palermo defended well throughout. We have to use this game as a stepping stone to improving.”

Asked about the Mandzukic-Higuain pairing, Allegri said: “If you ask me, they did well.”

“It was the first time they played up front together and today I wanted to see how they would fare, but now we look to Zagreb, where we want to win,” he said.

Napoli, in comparison, had an easy night and they remain second, a point behind Juventus.

Slovakia international Hamsik, who hit his 100th Napoli goal and is now only 15 short of equaling the all-time scorers’ record at the club, held by former icon Diego Maradona, said the focus is now on Europe.

“It’s a great landmark, I’m delighted, but what counts most is results,” Hamsik told Premium Sport. “We’re near the top of the table, but now our focus is on the Champions League.”

In yesterday’s early kickoff, AS Roma’s Francesco Totti, who turns 40 tomorrow, reached another career landmark against England goalkeeper Joe Hart when he hit his 250th career goal in Serie A.

Totti came off the bench to help reduce the arrears for the visitors when he beat Hart from the penalty spot in the 55th minute.

Totti, who has played his entire career at Roma, is in his 25th and likely final season at the Serie A club.

However, Totti’s goal was not enough to claim a share of the points.

Hart was in superb form as the hosts romped to a 3-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin thanks to Andrea Belotti’s early opener and a brace, including one from the penalty spot, from Iago Falque.

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