Milan: New Udinese signing Cyril Thereau pounced late in the second half to secure a 1-0 win away to Juventus and hand the champions their first ever opening-day defeat in Turin.
Cyril Thereau. Pic/AFP
In 40 previous matches on the opening day of the Serie A season, Juventus had lost only once, a 1-0 reverse away to Bari in 2010. Yet after dominating for long periods, Juve ultimately failed to convert their many chances and were stunned in the 78th minute when Thereau -- signed in the off-season from Chievo -- escaped his marker to slide the ball past Gianluigi Buffon at the keeper's far post.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri admitted missing several clear chances proved costly. "We showed a real desire to win, for 70 minutes. Then we had a few moments in which we took our eye off things," he told Sky Sport. "It wasn't an easy game but we did create plenty of chances.
But we should have defended better for their goal." Udinese, Italy's northern-most club based in the Friuli region, last beat Juventus in 2011. But coach Stefano Colantuono, who replaced Andrea Stramaccioni in the summer, said the squad had worked all week with only one purpose in mind.
Udinese 'prepared to suffer'
"When you come to Turin to play Juventus you have to be prepared to suffer, and we did," he said. "But we worked hard all week on a gameplan for this match and the important thing is we stuck to out without losing our heads." A new-look Juve lined up for their first league game of the season after the summer departures of Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich), Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC) and Carlos Tevez (Boca Juniors).
Allegri deployed a 3-5-2 and for most of the game Juve's expectant fans were thrilled with the decision. Juve dominated throughout and Udinese struggled to get out of their half but on the flip side the hosts struggled to break down the visitors' stubborn defence. Allegri left Pauolo Dybala on the bench as Kingsley Coman partnered Mario Mandzukic up front and the pair mustered a handful of chances.
Coman pounced on a loose ball after Mandzukic tumbled under a challenge but the Frenchman's weak shot trickled into the hands of Orestis Karnezis. Juve went closer on 19 minutes when Stephan Lichsteiner ran on to a header to fire a deflected shot just wide of the far post.
Roberto Pereyra then ran on to a loose ball following a challenge on Coman only to produce a weak shot that gave Karnezis no problems. Lichsteiner, switched to the wingback position in Allegri's 3-5-2, was finding plenty of space down the right and unleashed an angled drive that forced Karnezis to block.
The Swiss international then turned provider for Mandzukic, but the Croatian sent a looping header over the bar while under pressure in the box. It was a one-sided but ultimately frustrating first half for the champions, but Allegri stuck with his gameplan for the start of the second half. Minutes after Paul Pogba sent a speculative first-time volley inches wide, Mandzukic rose to connect in the box but his angled header met traffic.
Udinese's forays forward were few, and proving risky. A Juve counter was launched by Coman but a Udinese boot came to the rescue after Mandzukic headed the Frenchman's cross into Pereyra's path yards from goal. Karnezis was forced down moments later to block Simone Padoin's low drive as Juve pinged the ball around the area unchallenged. Dybala replaced Coman just after the hour, with former Napoli striker Duvan Zapata replacing Antonio Di Natale for Udinese minutes later, and had an almost immediate impact.
The diminutive Argentinian threaded a perfect ball through for Pogba, but after first rounding Thomas Heurtaux the defender did well to slide in and deny the Frenchman. Juve were throwing everything at Udinese, Patrice Evra even firing a first-timer into the hands of Karnezis after Pogba's lay-off on the edge of the area. But the hosts were stunned 12 minutes form time when Thereau was left alone at the back post to slide a cross-field ball from Panagiotis Kone past Buffon.