Dismal Juve slump to shock Empoli defeat after Ronaldo exit


Milan (AFP) – Juventus were stunned by promoted Empoli in their first match of the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era, a 1-0 home defeat in Serie A leaving the ‘Old Lady’ looking toothless while Ciro Immobile hit a hat-trick for Lazio in a 6-1 thrashing of Spezia.

The Turin giants would have been confident of their chances against their Tuscan opponents but Leonardo Mancuso’s first ever goal in Italy’s top flight mid-way through the first half condemned Juve to an embarrassing defeat which enraged supporters at the Allianz Stadium.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri practically shrugged his shoulders and said “life goes on” when he revealed on Friday that superstar forward Ronaldo, now back at Manchester United, had told him he wanted to leave.

But Juve missed a cutting edge in front of goal in what was the worst possible start to life without the 36-year-old, who last term topped the Serie A goals charts and scored over 100 times for the in three seasons in Italy.

They were whistled off the field by indignant home fans, whose team sit 13th in Serie A with one point from their opening two matches.

Aurelio Andreazzoli’s Empoli, who were beaten 3-1 by Lazio last weekend, shared possession equally with Juve in the first half and matched their more illustrious hosts for long periods.

Juventus came roaring out of the blocks with Federico Chiesa having a close-range finish saved by Guglielmo Vicario three minutes in, and could hardly believe his eyes when the Empoli ‘keeper tipped away his low drive eight minutes later.

However the match was turned on its head in the 21st minute thanks to Mancuso, who pounced on Filippo Bandinelli’s deflected shot to rock Juve.

They weren’t far from doubling their lead three minutes later when Patrick Cutrone’s long-range snap shot flashed just wide and continued to cause problems for Juve throughout the match, holding off late pressure to claim a famous victory.

– Immobile stars –

In Rome, Lazio already looked like a trademark Maurizio Sarri team as Immobile lashed home his treble in a flamboyant performance.

Immobile struck his first just seconds after Daniele Verde had given Spezia a shock fourth-minute lead, levelling the scores with a delicate dinked finish and then ramming home the second 10 minutes later with a first-time strike from just outside the penalty area.

The 31-year-old then missed a penalty in first half stoppage-time only to nod home completely unmarked from the subsequent corner to complete his treble.

However as happy as he was to score three times, Immobile was irritated by the way he missed the penalty, with Jeroen Zoet comfortably pushing his shot away to his right.

“I was saying all sorts of things to myself, I missed four penalties last season and I didn’t want to start that way this year,” Immobile told DAZN.

“I changed my mind on where to shoot at the last minute and that never pays off. It annoys me that I didn’t score the penalty, to be honest.”

Felipe Anderson, Elseid Hysaj and Luis Alberto — who also created three of the goals — added three more stylish strikes after the break as Lazio put on a show of passing football that belied new coach Sarri’s pre-match complaints about what he called a “shameful” Stadio Olimpico pitch.

One of Italy’s Euro 2020 heroes and the winner of the European Golden Shoe in 2020, Immobile looks in fine form in Sarri’s expansive system, having scored four of the nine goals Lazio have racked up in their opening two matches.

Italy’s entertainers over the past few seasons, Atalanta looked bereft of ideas in their goalless draw with Bologna in Bergamo.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side struggled to create many opportunities and had to settle for a point following an underwhelming performance.

Fiorentina got off the mark for the season with a 2-1 home over Torino thanks to goals from Nicolas Gonzalez and Dusan Vlahovic.

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