x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Juventus turn the jeers to cheers

The much-maligned Brazil midfielder Melo scores the winner over third-from-bottom Atalanta yesterday to end their four-game winless streak.

Juventus's Felipe Melo celebrates after scoring the winner against Atalanta yesterday.
Juventus's Felipe Melo celebrates after scoring the winner against Atalanta yesterday.

Felipe Melo gave Juventus fans a rare reason to cheer after scoring the winner eight minutes from time in a nervous 2-1 home victory over third-from-bottom Atalanta yesterday to end their four-game winless streak. Juve fans protested before the kick-off over the club's plight this season and Italy's best supported team looked to be heading for another poor result until the Brazil midfielder, often ridiculed by supporters this season, netted with a header.

Alessandro Del Piero put Juventus in front with a curling free kick in the 30th minute before Nicola Amoruso, a former Juve striker, equalised for Atalanta in the 45th after beating the offside trap. Del Piero also provided the cross for Melo's header, after which Melo held his hands together as if to beg for fans' forgiveness. One of Juve's most expensive pre-season acquisitions, Melo had so far failed to make an impact with the Turin side.

Juventus had gone three games without a win in Serie A and last week were eliminated from the Europa League by Fulham, squandering a 3-1 first-leg win with a 4-1 loss in the return game. With 11 losses this season, Juve have matched their worst previous performance in 1956-57. Juventus fans protested outside the team's hotel before the game and one supporter slapped defender Jonathan Zebina on the back of his neck as he boarded the team bus. Other fans threw eggs and bottles at the bus.

Zebina played without problem, but the Bianconeri lost playmaker Diego to an apparent muscle injury in the 32nd minute. Juventus are sixth in Serie A, level on points with Napoli who moved up to fifth place with a hard-fought 1-0 home win against spirited Catania. Palermo's 3-1 win against Bologna on Saturday ensured they still hold fourth spot by three clear points. Napoli's win came courtesy of a second-half strike from captain Paolo Cannavaro, brother of Juve's Fabio.

* With agencies