Pirlo off to dream start as Juve open bid for 10th straight title
Juventus' Italian coach Andrea Pirlo (R) congratulates Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) at the end of the Italian Serie A match Juventus vs Sampdoria in Turin. AFP
Andrea Pirlo got his coaching career off to a winning start as Juventus launched their bid for a 10th consecutive league title with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria on Sunday.
Swedish debutant Dejan Kulusevski opened the scoring after 13 minutes in Turin with Leonardo Bonucci adding a second on 78 minutes and Cristiano Ronaldo a late third. The match was played in front of 1,000 spectators as Serie A stadiums reopened on Sunday to a limited number of fans after a seven-month coronavirus lockdown.
Pirlo could not have hoped for a better start to his coaching career having taken over from Maurizio Sarri this summer. The win against Sampdoria, coached by veteran Claudio Ranieri, came just days after the former Italy and Juventus star received his coaching diploma.
"It will take time to put together the mode of play, but I will not copy and paste," warned the 41-year-old. "I will take inspiration from teams that have impressed -- there was little time, the lads returned from the national teams, we only worked together for a week. Today and already with (the friendly against) Novara we have seen something, it will take time. We lack players but we're trying to do the best with what we have."
Juventus handed debuts to new signing Weston McKennie and Kulusevski, who joined from Atalanta in January before immediately returning to Parma on loan. Kulusevski curled in the first goal in a move started by Ronaldo, who hit the bar minutes later.
But it was not until the last quarter of an hour that the champions finally killed off the game they dominated, with Aaron Ramsey missing a chance for a fourth late. "I am very disappointed, I didn't expect such an opaque performance from my side," said Ranieri. "We were timid, fearful. Juventus were hungry, we were not."
Juventus next head to Roma next week after the side from the capital were held to a goalless draw in their opener on Saturday, before hosting Napoli, 2-0 winners this weekend against Parma.
Osimhen inspires Napoli
Victor Osimhen proved decisive on his Serie A debut inspiring Napoli as they target a return to Champions League football having finished seventh last season. After a barren first hour in Emilia Romagna, Osimhen came off the bench to provide an electric shock for Gennaro Gattuso's side.
Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne scored both goals after his arrival which were set up by Mexican Hirving Lozano. "Oshimen at this moment has an extra gear," said Gattuso of the 21-year-old who Napoli paid Lille a club record 80 million euros ($94.6 million) for this summer. "He's a serious lad who does not forget where he comes from, he lost his parents as a child, he is a young man with the head of a 40-year-old."
The decisive tactical switch lifted Napoli from zero opportunities to six, with two goals, and as many near misses. Just after his introduction, Osimhen picked up a Lozano cross to force a poor clearance from Parma defender Simone Iacoponi into the path of Mertens who finished after 63 minutes.
Insigne hit the post before he made it 2-0 after 77 minutes, to hand Parma, 11th last season, a first defeat on front of their new owner US billionaire Kyle Krause who purchased a 90 percent stake in the club during the week.
Genoa kicked off their campaign with a 4-0 win at home against promoted Crotone with Sassuolo and Cagliari settling for a 1-1 draw.