'Juve' continue to stutter

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ROME, January 1 – Alberto Zaccheroni was unable to deliver a winning start as Juventus coach on Sunday when the troubled Turin side were held 1-1 at home by lowly former club Lazio.
Stefano Mauri volleyed home in the 78th minute to earn the Roman visitors a draw just after Alessandro Del Piero had converted a dubious penalty to give Juve the lead.

The draw left Juventus, who also hit the woodwork with a crisp Diego shot, joint fifth in the Serie A table alongside Palermo on 34 points, and four points behind Napoli who currently occupy the final Champions League qualifying place.

Zaccheroni had replaced the sacked Ciro Ferrara on Friday.

Second-placed Milan’s hopes of taking a big chunk out of Inter Milan’s lead after their city rivals’ visit to Parma was snowed-off, were dashed when they were held 1-1 at home by Livorno.

Cristiano Lucarelli’s 53rd-minute goal earned the Tuscan visitors a point after Massimo Ambrosini had put Milan in front just before half-time.

Third-placed Roma took advantage to pull level with Milan on points, having played one game more, by beating basement side Siena 2-1 despite missing captain Francesco Totti, Luca Toni and Mirko Vucinic who were all unfit.

Milan have 41 points from 21 games, eight points less than Inter, at the end of a disappointing eight days in which they were knocked out of the Italian Cup by Udinese and lost last weekend’s derby 2-0.

Livorno were well organised at the San Siro and proved difficult to break down until Ambrosini hooked in with the help of a blunder by keeper Francesco Benussi, who gifted the midfielder the ball in front of goal when he flapped at a David Beckham cross.

Ronaldinho had come closest before that when he thumped the post with a right-footed strike from the edge of the area in the 36th minute.

Both sides had penalty appeals turned down after Lucarelli poked in a mis-hit Claudio Bellucci shot while Benussi produced a fine save to keep out an Ambrosini header.

"We lacked that little something," Milan coach Leonardo said. "We went into the game after these (bad) results and we needed a good performance.

"We didn’t play a great match but it wasn’t bad either. We didn’t take our chances against a side that came to defend."

In the capital, John Arne Riise, who scored a stoppage-time winner against Juventus last weekend, gave Roma a deserved lead with a spectacular left-footed volley into the far corner in the 29th minute.

The visitors responded four minutes before half-time when Simone Vergassola touched in the rebound of a Mato Jajalo effort.

But Stefano Okaka, who is set to join Premier League side Fulham on loan on Monday, back-heeled a cross from fellow substitute Adrian Pit to seal victory for Roma in the 88th minute.

"The goal was really satisfying. I wanted to put on a beautiful performance," Okaka said.

"I’m going to England to improve myself. This opportunity came up and I couldn’t say no."

Fiorentina, rocked in the week by Romania forward Adrian Mutu’s failed drugs tests, drew 2-2 at 10-man Cagliari.

Sampdoria, who denied reports they plan to loan out injured fan favourite Antonio Cassano after tension with coach Luigi Del Neri, beat second-from-bottom Atalanta 2-0 with first-half goals by Angelo Palombo and Giampaolo Pazzini.

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