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Juventus thrash Artmedia on European return

SoccerNews in Serie A, UEFA Champions League 13 Aug 2008

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Juventus made a confident return to European action here on Wednesday, thrashing Slovak champions Artmedia Bratislava 4-0 in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie.

Mauro Camoranesi, Alessandro Del Piero, Giorgio Chiellini and Nicola Legrottaglie scored as the Turin giants ended a two-year absence from the competition they won in 1985 and 1996 after having earned promotion back to the top flight following relegation in 2006 for match-fixing and finishing third in Serie A last season to qualify.

“Scoring four goals was important, it was a European return, the lads cared about it, they played a good match,” Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri told Rai television.

They showed no signs of being rusty from the time away from Europe and Italy midfielder Camoranesi rifled home a loose ball in only the seventh minute after Zdenek Grygera's run in the box.

French striker David Trezeguet almost scored 10 minutes later when he slid in to direct a deflected Cristian Molinaro cross just past the near post.

Captain Del Piero doubled the advantage in style in the 26th, finding the net with a powerful right-footed shot from outside the area.

Juventus kept up the pressure and Vincenzo Iaquinta should have scored in the 33rd after Del Piero put him through on goal, but a moment of hesitancy allowed the Slovak defence to clear the danger.

Defender Chiellini, another Italy international, leaped high to head a Camoranesi freekick past oncoming Artmedia keeper Lubos Kamenár and make it 3-0 six minutes before half-time.

Denmark midfielder Christian Poulsen, making his competitive debut for Juventus after moving from Sevilla, forced a good one-handed save from Kamenar with a powerful shot just after the break and Del Piero fired just over the bar from a distance.

The visitors had their only serious chance in the 55th minute when substitute Branislav Obzera sprinted into the area, but Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon blocked the danger.

The action was soon at the other end again and Iaquinta hit the post with a low drive in the 62nd.

Defender Legrottaglie headed home in the closing stages to complete the rout and make the August 27 return leg in Bratislava a formality.

Nevertheless, Ranieri remains wary.

“We'll have to be focused when we go there because this team scored five goals against Celtic (in a preliminary round match in 2005),” he said. “We should remember this.”

Ranieri also praised Del Piero, Serie A's top scorer last season with 21 goals.

“Alessandro is going through a really great spell,” he said. “Last year he could not do the (pre-season) preparation so he suffered a lot. Instead (this year), I'm not saying he's 100 percent ready because no one is, but he's in good shape.”

Juventus will be especially pleased with the result as they went into the game without injured Croatia defender Dario Knezevic and midfielders Marco Marchionni and Cristiano Zanetti, both out for a month with thigh muscle problems.

Coach Claudio Ranieri was also unable to field Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved, who was suspended after being sent off in Juve's last Champions League game, a goalless draw with Arsenal that saw them go out 2-0 on aggregate at the quarter-final stage of the competition in April 2006.

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