Rimini 1 Juventus 1: Juventus get harsh welcome to Serie B

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The Independent Online

The Juventus roadshow, with its World Cup heroes and football legends, came to Rimini on Saturday, but it was the home side's little Argentine playmaker, Adrian Ricchiuti, who gave the star performance.

Ricchiuti's goal after 74 minutes gave his team a fully deserved draw and provided a day to remember for the majority of the 10,000 fans here. They had taken their seats two hours before kick-off to savour their role in Juve's first Serie B appearance in their history following the club's enforced relegation for match-fixing. Outside, stalls selling "I was there" T-shirts did brisk business.

The stadium sits in a sedate neighbourhood of art nouveau villas and umbrella pines, but it still proved to be an unnerving environment for such a noble Old Lady. Rimini's collection of journeymen never looked overawed, snapping into tackles to break up Juve's rhythm. The midfielder Domenico Cristiano was sent off in the second half after picking up two yellow cards and fellow midfielder Ahmed Barusso should have been dismissed for a wild lunge at Pavel Nedved. Welcome to Serie B.

There was more to Rimini's play than aggression, though. Ricchiuti, who hails from the same Buenos Aires suburb as another diminutive playmaker who wore a No 10 shirt, was the game's best player. He might not possess the dribbling skills of Diego Maradona but his close control and vision caused Juve problems throughout.

Lapo Elkann, scion of the Agnelli dynasty which controls Juventus, arrived at the stadium saying that "operation being-liked" was now under way after a summer which had brought disgrace on the club. He and brother John signed autographs, chatted to fans and posed for photos.

Juve's players were keen to show their sportsmanship, too. On one occasion they put the ball into touch when the referee, Massimiliano Saccani, wrongly awarded them a throw-in despite Juve winger Marco Marchionni animatedly pointing out that he had touched the ball last.

Lapo Elkann will not have expected Juve's new-found generosity to extend to the gift which allowed Ricchiuti to scurry clear of the Juventus defence and slot calmly past keeper Gianluigi Buffon. Central defenders Jean-Alain Boumsong, signed from Newcastle United, and Robert Kovac, went for the same ball, only for Boumsong to toe it beyond his team-mate. At that point Juve were a goal up, from a Matteo Paro strike on the hour, and had a man extra.

By the final whistle, Lapo Elkann's mood matched Juve's all-black strip and he left with a warning for the players: "They had better wake up, this is Serie B. They didn't work hard enough."

Didier Deschamps, the Juventus coach, put the draw down to inadequate preparation, with many players having returned late to training after the World Cup. Buffon said that the game had been a salutary lesson in "real football," adding: "We came here with a smile on our face, but in Serie B you have to play with a knife between your teeth."

Juve have 20 more such dates around the peninsula between now and May, facing men desperate to have something to tell their grandchildren. Their most important fixture, however, comes later this month in Rome, when they will ask the Italian Olympic Committee's arbitration panel to cut the club's 17-point penalty. Only then will it become clear whether the Turin giant's battle this season will be to win promotion or to avoid relegation. For the moment, Juventus are bottom of Serie B on minus 16 points.

Rimini (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Vitiello, Peccarisi, Milone, Regonesi; Cristiano, Barusso; Pagano (Baccin, 66), Ricchiuti, Jeda (Tasso, 77); Matri (Moscardelli, 75). Subsitutes not used: Pugliesi (gk), Bravo, Digao, Valiani.

Juventus (4-4-1-1): Buffon; Birindelli, Kovac, Boumsong, Chiellini; Marchionni (Camoranesi, 78), Paro, Giannichedda (Bojinov, 63), Nedved; Del Piero (Palladino, 85); Zalayeta. Substitutes not used: Mirante (gk), Balzaretti, Guzman, Marchisio.

Referee: M Saccani.

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