Chiellini scores as Juventus opens Serie A with victory at Parma

Cristiano-Ronaldo

Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo, left, celebrates with Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini, second right after their teammate Juventus' Miralem Pjanic scored the opening goal of the game during the Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Lazio at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. (Luca Bruno / AP)

ROME — New season, same old Juventus.

Veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini scored early as Juventus won 1-0 at Parma to kick off its bid for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title in the league opener Saturday.

Showing only shades of the high-speed passing game preferred by new coach Maurizio Sarri and with prized signing Matthijs de Ligt left on the bench, Juventus controlled its lead on a stuffy night at the Ennio Tardini stadium — much like many matches under previous manager Massimiliano Allegri.

"It was hot out there and that led to quite a few errors, but in the first half it was a good performance against a tough Parma side on their own turf," said Juventus assistant coach Giovanni Martusciello, who directed the squad in the absence of Sarri, who has pneumonia.

"The first match of the season always has question marks and we could’ve done better with the first-half chances, but overall that’s fine."

As Cristiano Ronaldo was involved in a series of near misses, Chiellini netted in the 21st minute following a corner with a smart deflection amid several defenders.

Chiellini and fellow centre back Leonardo Bonucci were preferred by Sarri over De Ligt, even though the Bianconeri spent 75 million euros ($85 million) to acquire the 20-year-old Netherlands defender from Ajax last month.

Ronaldo had a goal disallowed in the first half by the VAR due to an almost imperceptible offside call — and also missed wide and over on several occasions. However, he also placed a powerful, long-range blast on goal near the hour mark that required a difficult save from Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe.

Juventus keeper Wojciech Szczesny also produced a tough save early on to deny Roberto Inglese after a counterattack.

As expected, former Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon remained on the bench after returning from one season at Paris Saint-Germain.

"We need to find our form physically, mentally and technically, but we are on the right track," Juventus left back Alex Sandro said. "Our strategy when we went up 1-0 was to keep the ball more and make Parma run after it. I think Sarri will be pleased to start with three points, but we still need to improve a lot."

Due to oppressive heat and humidity, cooling breaks were given midway through each half.

Next weekend Juventus hosts title challenger Napoli.

LORENZO THE MAGNIFICENT

Lorenzo Insigne scored twice and produced two assists as Napoli opened with a wild 4-3 victory at Fiorentina.

Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon also scored for Napoli, while Erick Pulgar, Nikola Milenkovic and Kevin-Prince Boateng netted Fiorentina’s goals.

Insigne’s winner came with a header in the 67th as Fiorentina’s defence fell apart.

Before kickoff, Fiorentina’s new Italian-American owner Rocco Commisso saluted fans during a walk around the pitch.

Fiorentina supporters have openly embraced Commisso following the signing of former Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery, who came on for the final 13 minutes and nearly won a penalty in the 90th.

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