Bari and Verona in 1-1 draw in opening Serie A match


ROME, Agencies

Ending a long scoring drought, Juventus star forward Alessandro Del Piero kicked in the game winner for the Turin team Saturday, spoiling Napoli’s comeback into the Serie A in the opening day of the Italian first division campaign.

Before a sold-out crowd of 80,000, celebrating Napoli’s return to Italy’s soccer elite following a two-year relegation in the Serie B, Del Piero rallied Juventus from a one goal deficit to a 2-1 victory with a curled right shot past keeper Ferdinando Coppola.

Second-half substitute Darko Kovacevic had scored the equalizer for the Turin team, with a precise header, seven minutes earlier, driving away fears of a sensational upset of La Juve, a top title contender.

Napoli, keeping the more titled opponents at bay in the first part of the match, led 1-0 at halftime.

Del Piero, who had scored a single goal on action last season and who had been much criticized for missing crucial scoring chances in Italy’s loss to France in the Euro 2000 final, wildly celebrated the game winner in the 75th minute.

Del Piero’s touch of class almost silenced enthusiastic home fans, who had been hoping of a triumphant debut of their team at Naples San Paolo stadium. Shearer lifts Newcastle, Leeds win thriller

In London, Newcastle United and Leeds United took the opportunity to close on the leaders in the English premier league with narrow wins on Saturday.

An Alan Shearer goal after 74 minutes gave Newcastle a 1-0 win at Manchester City.

It was Shearer’s first goal from open play this season and lifted Bobby Robson’s side to third place on 13 points, two less than Manchester United and Leicester who visit Arsenal and Sunderland respectively on Sunday.

Leeds United overcame the loss of South African defender Lucas Radebe with a head injury to beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-3 in an Elland Road thriller.

Eighth-placed Leeds have 11 points with a game in hand.

Newcastle were denied time and time again by Manchester City’s stand-in goalkeeper Tommy Wright at Maine Road.

The Northern Ireland international produced fine saves to deny Shearer, Kieron Dyer and Lomano Lua Lua but could do nothing to prevent Shearer converting a Nolberto Solano cross for the winner.

Even then City could have grabbed an undeserved point but Costa Rica striker Paulo Wanchope fluffed a simple tap-in after rounding the goalkeeper in the dying minutes. “It’s a massive three points for us,” said Newcastle manager Robson. “It was a typical Shearer goal.” Real Madrid and Racing de Santander in 0-0 draw on waterlogged field In Madrid, Spain, amid pounding rain and brisk winds, Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid fought to a soggy standoff in a frustrating 0-0 match against Racing de Santander, placed 19th in the 20-team Spanish first division.

A waterlogged Santander field soaked both teams’ chances of goals throughout the first half as players slid behind the slipping ball. The second half saw slightly lighter rain but players still splashed water knee-high with each step on the soggy field.

Spanish striker Raul Gonzalez made his comeback after three weeks of injury Saturday, but despite close combination with fellow striker Pedro Munitis was unable to make a goal.

In the 46th minute, Racing’s Yugoslav striker Vladimir Bestchastnykh was expelled for insulting the linesman.

Madrid, with eight points and a positive goal difference of four after four games, is fighting for second place in the division. Defending champion Deportivo La Coruna, with seven points and a positive goal difference of five after three games, is ahead before its game Sunday.

Celta leads the division with nine points and a positive goal difference of six after three rounds.