Del Piero winner stuns Zenit
Veteran striker rolls back the years
By Ben Collins. Last Updated: 17/09/08 10:45pm
Del Piero: Celebrates winner
A trademark free-kick by veteran Alessandro Del Piero saw Juventus make an unconvincing Champions League return with a 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg.
The 1996 winners are back in the competition after a two-year absence and Del Piero rolled back the years by producing a moment of genius to give the hosts a 76th-minute winner and claim his 38th Champions League goal.
That capped an impressive performance by Del Piero, although the result was harsh on Zenit as they deserved at least a point.
The Russian champions may have been making their Champions League bow but arrived in Turin full of confidence after beating Manchester United last month to lift the UEFA Super Cup.
Coach Dick Advocaat deployed an adventurous 4-3-3 formation and they made a positive start, with new signing Danny missing a gilt-edged opportunity in the 11th minute.
The Portugal international laid the ball off for Pavel Pogrebnyak on the left, his cross was headed back by right-back Aleksandr Anyukov, and Danny scuffed a side-footed effort wide from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
Juve responded well and David Trezeguet headed narrowly wide from 12 yards from a Del Piero cross.
Del Piero was then stopped by defender Sebastien Puygrenier after a teasing run into the danger zone while Juve midfielder Mohamed Sissoko had two efforts blocked on the edge of the box.
Del Piero was back to the fore in the 26th minute when the 33-year-old won a free-kick deep on the Juve right and his delivery picked out Mauro Camoranesi, who glanced a free header onto the outside of the near post.
Camoranesi was forced off shortly after for Hasan Salihamidzic and Zenit threatened again with Pogrebnyak's cut-back going just beyond the head of Danny only six yards out.
The game livened up at the start of the second half with action at both ends before Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon came out quickly to deny Radek Sirl after a neat through-ball by Zenit star Andrei Arshavin.
Although the visitors looked to be in the ascendancy, Juve almost opened the scoring as Christian Poulsen flicked on a Pavel Nedved free-kick and Vyacheslav Malafeev was alert to save low to his left.
But moments later Malafeev was wrong-footed by Del Piero, who hit a swerving 30-yard free-kick high past the Zenit keeper to finally break the deadlock.
Igor Denisov then sidefooted inches wide from just outside the box as Zenit pushed for an equaliser, while Buffon denied Danny late on.
|Juventus||Team Statistics||Zenit St Petersburg|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||2|
|3||Shots off Target||4|
UEFA Champions League
Wed 17th Sep - Group F
Lyon2 - 2Fiorentina
S Bucuresti0 - 1Bay Munich
Wed 17th Sep - Group H
R Madrid2 - 0BATE Borisov
Juventus1 - 0Zenit
Wed 17th Sep - Group G
FC Porto3 - 1Fenerbahce
Dynamo Kiev1 - 1Arsenal
Wed 17th Sep - Group E
Celtic0 - 0Aalborg
Man Utd0 - 0Villarreal
UEFA Champions League Group A
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
|1||Paris St Germain||6||13|
UEFA Champions League Group D
|3||FC Viktoria Plzen||6||3|
UEFA Champions League Group E
|4||FC Steaua Bucuresti||6||3|
UEFA Champions League Group F
UEFA Champions League Group G
|2||Zenit St. Petersburg||6||6|
UEFA Champions League Group H