MILAN (Reuters) - Juventus began their pursuit of a seventh successive Serie A title with a 3-0 home win over Cagliari on Saturday after the Sardinians missed a penalty awarded with the help of a video replay.
Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain scored for the Turin side in the match which kicked off the Serie A season, but the game could have taken a different course if Diego Farias had converted a spot kick for Cagliari when they were 1-0 behind.
Napoli picked up where they left off last season with another fine attacking display to win 3-1 at promoted Verona.
Mandzukic broke the deadlock in the 12th minute when he volleyed in from Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross.
Serie A is among the leagues which are trialling the use of video assistant referees (VAR) this season and they were brought into action for the first time just after the half hour mark at the Allianz Stadium.
Cagliari’s Duje Cop went down under a challenge from Alex Sandro and the ball ran on to Farias who sent a deflected shot over the crossbar.
Referee Fabio Maresca awarded a corner, however, after consulting with the VAR, he went over to the television monitor on the touchline, returned to the pitch, drew a television in the air and pointed to the spot.
Replays showed that contact was minimal and Juventus protested but they need not have worried as a weak Farias penalty was comfortably saved by Juve’s 39-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
“I can just say that we’re lucky to have Gianluigi in goal, he’s still the best,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. “If it takes a minute and a half to make the decision, we could use that time for a time-out like they do in basketball.”
Instead of going in level at halftime, Cagliari found themselves 2-0 down when Miralem Pjanic hoisted a ball over the opposition backline to Dybala who chested it down and struck it past Alessio Cragno.
Higuain added the third in the 66th minute with a typically clinical finish after a sweeping passing move.
Juventus coasted home and gave debuts to newcomers Douglas Costa and Blaise Matuidi, although 40 million euro ($47 million) signing Federico Bernardeschi remained on the bench.
Soccer’s law-making body the International Football Association Board (IFAB) authorised trials of VAR last year and is due to make a final decision on whether to approve their use permanently in March.
Napoli raced into a two-goal halftime lead when a corner bounced off Verona defender Samuel Souprayen and into the net before Lorenzo Insigne set up Arkadiusz Milik for the second.
Faouzi Ghoulam finished off another Insigne-inspired move just after the hour, although Napoli had a nervous few minutes as Elseid Hysaj gave away a penalty, was sent off and Giampaolo Pazzini pulled one back from the spot.
($1 = 0.8503 euros)
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar