Juventus 3-0 Sassuolo: Di Maria and Vlahovic inspire comfortable victory
Dusan Vlahovic struck a brace to help Juventus to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Sassuolo in the opening match of their Serie A campaign on Monday.
The Serbian forward struck five minutes either side of the interval to put the Bianconeri in control after Angel Di Maria marked his Juve debut with a maiden goal at the Allianz Stadium.
Massimiliano Allegri's side were not at their best in possession but made their chances count, with their attacking contingent laying down a marker to their rivals.
A shaky start from the hosts provided Sassuolo with encouragement and called Mattia Perin, in for the injured Wojciech Szczesny, into action to deny Gregoire Defrel on two occasions.
Juventus soon found some rhythm and made the breakthrough when Di Maria met Alex Sandro's cross by bouncing a volleyed effort over the head of Andrea Consigli.
Five minutes before the break, Vlahovic bullied Gian Marco Ferrari to win the hosts a penalty and stepped-up to confidently smash home from the spot to open his account for the season.
Sassuolo were the architects of their own downfall following the restart, Kaan Ayhan giving the ball away to Di Maria who fed in Vlahovic to double his tally and continue in the vein that saw him star last term.
Juventus took their foot off the gas in the remainder of the half to ease out a win, with Filip Kostic introduced for the final half hour in a comfortable debut environment.
What does it mean? Juve lay down a marker
Last to feature on Serie A's opening weekend, Juventus saw the likes of Inter, Napoli, Milan and Roma all secure victories – with an air of expectation hovering around Turin.
Last season's disappointment looked to have led to nerves in the opening 20 minutes, with Weston McKennie and Manuel Locatelli among those to cede possession far too easily, but Juventus rose where previously they may have crumbled.
Allegri's words at the cooling break in the first half sparked an immediate response, with Di Maria breaking the deadlock, and the spark from the experienced winger could be vital.
Di Maria makes a difference
After seven trophy-laden years with Paris Saint-Germain, few would have criticised Di Maria if he opted to take a step down in the twilight years of his career but the Argentine's bold call to test himself at Juventus yielded immediate reward.
Though his debut goal was fortuitous, Di Maria was bright throughout and excited the home crowd, with his assist for Vlahovic's second providing a peek of what's to come and likely to send chills down the spines of Serie A defenders.
Perin stakes his claim
Szczesny's absence provided a start for Perin and a solid performance, along with a clean sheet, may provide Allegri with a decision to make on who will be his first-choice stopper this season.
The 29-year-old made nine saves in the match, including to deny Defrel's stabbed volley and attempt from distance while the game was still goalless – then making further saves to preserve his clean sheet.
Key Opta Facts :
- For the first time since Allegri came back to Juventus as head coach, the Bianconeri have won a Serie A match with a 3+ margin.
- Since he joined Juventus, Vlahovic has scored 11 goals: only Lautaro Martinez (13) and Ciro Immobile (12) have done better in all competitions among those who have played only in Serie A teams over this period.
- Vlahovic has converted 13 of his 14 penalties he taken in Serie A (this is the first scored for Juventus).
- Leonardo Bonucci played his 477th game for Juventus, overtaking Dino Zoff (476) to seventh in the Bianconeri's all-time appearance makers.
Juventus have another week to prepare before facing Sampdoria on Monday, while Sassuolo host Lecce on Saturday.