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Del Piero hands Juve win over Zenit

September 18, 2008 05:02 IST

Alessandro Del Piero scored with a longe-range swerving free kick to give Juventus a 1-0 home win over Zenit St Petersburg on their return to the Champions League group stages on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old captain, who played in the final when the Turin club won the second of their two European Cups in 1996, netted on 76 minutes in their Group H opener with Zenit goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev looking at fault.

Juve, back in the group stages after missing out in the last two seasons following their domestic demotion for match-fixing, made hard work of the win against the Champions League debutants.

"At the start we had some problems and we were a bit afraid," Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon told Rai television.

"It is a victory with a special taste as we and the fans have waited a long time."

Zenit, coached by Dutchman Dick Advocaat, served notice of their European ambitions this term by beating Manchester United in last month's Super Cup.

The UEFA Cup holders had the first clear chance against Juve when striker Danny scuffed wide from close range.

The Russian champions worried the Serie A side for long periods but Andrei Arshavin, one of the standout players of Euro 2008, failed to inspire them sufficiently with Buffon making a neat save from the playmaker.

Juve had other chances of their own however, with David Trezeguet heading just past the post from strike partner Del Piero's clipped cross.

Winger Mauro Camoranesi, who later left the field injured, headed another good Del Piero cross against the outside of the post while midfielder Christian Poulsen went close with a flick in the second half.

Juve next travel to BATE Borisov of Belarus on Sept. 30 when Zenit host Real Madrid.

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