Di María shines as Juventus tops Sassuolo; Napoli wins 5-2

August 15, 2022 GMT
Juventus' Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring during the Italian serie A soccer match between Juventus and Sassuolo at the Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)
Juventus' Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring during the Italian serie A soccer match between Juventus and Sassuolo at the Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)
Juventus' Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring during the Italian serie A soccer match between Juventus and Sassuolo at the Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)
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Juventus' Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring during the Italian serie A soccer match between Juventus and Sassuolo at the Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)
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Juventus' Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring during the Italian serie A soccer match between Juventus and Sassuolo at the Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)

MILAN (AP) — In the absence of the injured Paul Pogba, it was another new signing who starred for Juventus as the Bianconeri kicked off its season with a 3-0 win over Sassuolo on Monday.

Ángel Di María scored the opener and set up the team’s third for Dušan Vlahović, who also won and converted a penalty.

The 34-year-old Di María’s impressive performance will only heighten the concern after he walked off in the 66th minute with an apparent injury to his left adductor muscle and a pained expression.

“But he always has that face,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri joked. “He had this little adductor problem a week ago, too, but I am not worried. We’ll see what the outcome of the tests are tomorrow.”

There was less fanfare for the arrival of Di María than Pogba last month. Di María joined on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain just days before Pogba completed his return to Juventus.

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But Pogba was one of a number of players absent for the opener. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny, Federico Chiesa and Kaio Jorge were injured as well, while Moise Kean and Adrien Rabiot were suspended.

Weston McKennie had recovered from injury and started, however.

It was a slow start from Juventus, with little sign of what was to come as Sassuolo had several chances to take the lead.

But it was the Biaonceri who broke the deadlock in the 26th minute when Alex Sandro floated in a cross and Di María’s scuffed volley went into the ground and looped into the top left corner.

Juventus doubled its lead three minutes before halftime as Vlahović powered a penalty straight down the middle after being brought down by Sassuolo defender Gian Marco Ferrari.

Di María almost doubled his tally in stunning fashion shortly after the break when he raced from inside his own half and into the penalty area before curling an effort that went just wide of the left post.

Instead, he set up the third moments later after some poor defending from Sassuolo that saw defender Kaan Ayhan play the ball straight to Di María and the Argentina international picked out Vlahović, who turned it in from close range.

ANOTHER GREAT DEBUT

New signing Khvicha Kvaratskhelia could help Napoli forget about all the players that left in the offseason.

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The 21-year-old Kvaratskhelia, who was signed from Georgian club Dinamo Batumi last month, provided a goal and an assist to help Napoli win 5-2 at Hellas Verona in its opening match of the new Serie A season.

That means all the likely title contenders have won their opening matches, with the Milan teams winning on Saturday and Roma triumphing on Sunday.

Napoli finished third last season but there were question marks over how it would perform following the departure of several key players such as captain Lorenzo Insigne, all-time leading scorer Dries Mertens and defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

It dominated from the start in Verona but it was the home team that took the lead in the 29th minute. Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret managed to fingertip Martin Hongla’s effort over the bar but the resulting corner was nodded on to the far post for Kevin Lasagna to volley in.

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André Anguissa almost leveled in the 34th but his header came off the left post. But Napoli did equalize three minutes later when Kvaratskhelia headed in Hirving Lozano’s cross.

And the turnaround was complete on the stroke of halftime with a goal similar to Verona’s opener as a Napoli corner was headed on for Victor Osimhen to volley in at the far post.

There were reports of racist chanting coming from Hellas Verona fans and Osimhen, who is Black, responded by pretending to cry.

Thomas Henry headed in the equalizer for Verona almost immediately after the break but it was all Napoli from then on.

The visitors restored their lead in the 55th when Kvaratskhelia touched on a through ball with a fantastic pass for Piotr Zieliński, who slotted into the bottom right corner.

Stanislav Lobotka and substitute Matteo Politano sealed the result, while Adam Ounas also had a goal ruled out for Napoli seconds after coming off the bench.

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