Milan (AFP) – Dusan Vlahovic fired Juventus to a comfortable 3-0 win over Sassuolo with a brace in Monday’s Serie A opener while Victor Osimhen was racially abused by Verona fans in a thumping 5-2 win for Napoli.
Serbia forward Vlahovic put Juve two ahead just before the break from the penalty spot after being fouled by Gian Marco Ferrari, and ended the match as a contest following a smart Angel Di Maria pass six minutes after the restart.
Argentina winger Di Maria had set Juve on the road for a low-key win with his first Serie A goal, a miscued volley in the 26th minute of his debut after arriving as a free agent this summer.
“It’s really a great feeling and a pleasure to play with such a great player,” said Vlahovic of Di Maria, who was substituted with a thigh injury midway through the second half.
“I should thank him for the assist he gave me. I’m very happy and hope to be on the end of others. I think we can work well together.”
Massimiliano Allegri’s side were missing returning hero Paul Pogba, out with a knee injury until next month, and injured starting goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
However Allegri gave Filip Kostic his Juve debut off the bench, a new face who along with the excellent Di Maria could rejuvenate a sluggish team who came up against the weak resistance at the Allianz Stadium.
Juve are also interested in Leandro Paredes and Memphis Depay as they try to make a proper title bid after finishing 16 points behind champions AC Milan last season.
Sassuolo, whose key players such as Giacomo Raspadori and Domenico Berardi are transfer targets for bigger clubs, have already suffered the ignominy of being knocked out of the Italian Cup by local rivals Modena this season and they didn’t perform much better in Turin.
Alessio Dionisi’s side didn’t wake up until they were three goals down and by then Juve were content to sit back and see out the result, a big enough cushion already established that the away side were never going to overturn.
– Osimhen responds to crowd taunts –
Osimhen was among the scorers for Napoli who before kick-off honoured their former goalkeeper Claudio Garella, a Serie A title winner in the 1980s with both southern Italy’s biggest club and Verona.
An AFP reporter at the game heard a section of the home support launch monkey chants at the Nigeria forward midway through the first half, before he stretched to jab home Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s knockdown in stoppage time to put the away side 2-1 ahead at half-time.
It was the latest episode of racist chanting at Verona who have a long history of far-right sympathies among their hardcore support.
After netting his first goal of the season, Osimhen took off his protective face mask and mimicked crying into a pitch-side camera, suggesting he had heard abuse before his goal even though he did not speak about it afterwards to DAZN.
“I think it’s important to start well because we lost some key players, real leaders in the team. And of course it is left to us to step up,” said Osimhen.
Napoli have had a tricky summer after losing stalwarts Kalidou Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens and with frustrated fans demanding that film mogul owner Aurelio De Laurentiis sell the club.
However Luciano Spalletti’s team were on top form at the Stadio Bentegodi, with goals from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Osimhen, Piotr Zielinski, Stanislav Lobotka and Matteo Politano ensuring they got off to a perfect start.
Verona battled and were level early in the second half through Kevin Lasagna and Thomas Henry, but shorn of last season’s stars Giovanni Simeone — on his way to Napoli on loan — and Gianluca Caprari, there was little Gabriele Cioffi’s side could do under a second-half onslaught.
It was another big defeat after being dumped out of the Italian Cup and humiliated by second-tier Bari, a 4-1 loss a fortnight ago suggesting that it could be a long campaign for last season’s surprise package.
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