Pirlo off to dream start as Juventus open bid for 10th straight title

22 Sep 2020

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TURIN: Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo congratulates Cristiano Ronaldo at the end of the Serie A match against Sampdoria at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.—AFP
TURIN: Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo congratulates Cristiano Ronaldo at the end of the Serie A match against Sampdoria at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.—AFP

MILAN: 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.

“They are great players and I am so confident because I see every day quality players who are working toward the team in order to improve,” Pirlo said. “Of course, we have just started and we have time to improve, but the commitment of the players to give it all to the team is there and that gives me a lot of comfort.”

It was a positive day for debutants as Weston McKennie — the first American to play for Juventus — had a hand in Bonucci’s goal and also sparked a move which led to Ronaldo hitting the crossbar.

“McKennie arrived having already started preseason training in Germany, so is in better shape than some others,” Pirlo said. “He did well. He made a few errors but it was the first game, we can forgive him for that.”

Juve played from the start with an intensity which had been lacking for much of last season and took the lead when Ronaldo was stopped by a tackle in the box but the ball fell to Kulusevski and the former Parma midfielder curled it into the bottom left corner.

McKennie almost doubled Juve’s lead shortly before the break but he fired narrowly over.

It took Juventus until 12 minutes from time to get its second. Sampdoria goalkeeper Emil Audero did well to keep out McKennie’s effort from close range but Bonucci tucked away the rebound.

Ronaldo, who scored 31 league goals last season, managed to get off the mark for this campaign in the final minutes of the match as he ran onto Aaron Ramsey’s throughball and placed a precise drive into the bottom left corner.

Davide Zappacosta and Marko Pjaca scored on their debuts as 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.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2020