By Ivan Carvalho at the Stadio Delle Alpi
A solitary header from Mauro Camoranesi ensured Juventus FC came through their UEFA Champions League Group C encounter against Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC in Turin, unscathed.
The two-times European champions had to wait until eight minutes before the break to take the lead. Pavel Nedved delivered the perfect corner for Camoranesi to head in past the impressive Liran Strauber in the Maccabi goal, but the Serie A side never quite looked like adding to their tally.
Juventus opened aggressively, and had their first chance as early as the second minute when a dangerous cross from Camoranesi, intended for the ever-alert David Trezeguet, forced Strauber to punch away. Nir Klinger's side, however, quickly proved they were not in the Delle Alpi just to make up the numbers, and served notice of their intent just four minutes later when Eli Biton pounced on a cross inside the Juve penalty area, only to be thwarted as he shaped to shoot by Emerson.
Juve's defence, superbly marshalled by Lilian Thuram and with Croatia defender Igor Tudor deputising for the injured Fabio Cannavaro, snuffed out Maccabi’s attacking runs with little difficulty. On the half-hour mark Ishmael Addo reminded the Italian side's back four that he was around, firing low into the side netting, but this only served to make Juventus tighten things further at the back.
The best attacking moments of a scrappy first half were provided by Camoranesi, who lofted in delicious crosses with remarkable ease. One such cross found the tireless Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the Swedish forward subsequently scuffing his shot and seeing it deflect off Trezeguet’s head into the arms of the relieved Strauber.
The home side could have doubled their advantage just before half-time when Trezeguet latched on to a pass from Tudor, but after spinning to avoid a Maccabi defender he blazed his shot over the bar from 15 metres.
After the interval, Maccabi tried to step up a gear but the visitors seemed devoid of ideas in the final third of the field. Even when they did manage to get past Thuram and his colleagues, they spurned their chances, notably when Erez Mesika shot right across Gianluigi Buffon with the goal at his mercy.
Juve's efforts to seal the points were spearheaded by the imperious Nedved. Ten minutes into the second half, a Juventus free-kick broke to the Czech playmaker, who drilled his shot into the side netting having already beaten the Maccabi keeper. Just after the hour, Nedved missed another opportunity to put the game beyond Maccabi's reach, sending a 20-metre shot wide of Strauber's goal having eased his way past Maccabi’s Ghanaian defender, John Pantsil.
Desperate for an equaliser, Maccabi coach Klinger replaced winger Eli Biton with Elad Bounfeld but his players seemed overwhelmed and neat play again from Emerson and Nedved almost paid off seconds later at the other end. The Brazilian's effort was blocked by the outstretched leg of a visiting defender as Juve were frustrated. Tudor almost got the elusive second ten minutes from time with a well-placed header from a corner, but Strauber pushed the ball over the bar superbly.
Bayern in wait
Fabio Capello is likely to expect more from his star-studded Juve side if they are to lift this trophy for a third time. The Turin club's next match against FC Bayern München may well tell the continent whether this revamped team are serious title contenders or not.