The Primavera’s 2-1 victory over Spezia in their season-opener this afternoon will be a satisfying one not only for Andrea Zanchetta but also for Antonio Conte: the youngsters’ new boss has recorded a win in his first game in charge, while Conte will be pleased with the performance of Simone Pepe, a leading light in this match after a long injury layoff and now apparently all set to return to first team action.
The 29-year-old winger played the full 90 minutes, providing an assist for Matteo Gerbaudo’s opening goal and then scoring the Primavera’s second in an excellent overall display from the man who seems to be in the very final stages of his recovery.
The stifling heat made itself felt in the opening stages, and it wasn’t until around half way through the first 45 minutes that either side was able to make a breakthrough.
It was a confident finish when it came, with Pepe putting Gerbaudo through and the talented midfielder slotting it past Spezia goalkeeper Matej Vojar to score his side’s first goal of the 2013/14 campaign.
Edoardo Ceria came on for Lanini after the break, and Simone Emmanuello was forced to make an early exit after receiving a knock to the knee, Vykintas Slivka taking his place.
The Bianconeri looked almost certain to go 2-0 up when Pepe was through on goal with 59 minutes played but Vozar did well to close him down. From then on, the visitors began to carry a real threat, and it was Leonardi Citti’s turn to make some crucial saves.
But Juve put an end to the fans’ nerves when Pepe, lively throughout, slid in to net a perfect cross from Rodolfo Cifarelli, who had only just taken to the field after replacing Nicolò Curti.
Spezia did manage to deservedly pull one back with a goal from Andrea De Santis but it was a case of too little too late, and the Bianconeri finished the game victorious.
It was a commanding performance from the Primavera as a unit, especially given the notable absentees whom Zanchetta was forced to do without. Filippo Penna, Christian Tavanti and Federico Mattiello are all currently injured, while Bnou Marzouk was also unable to start.
But the side were able to draw upon the services of a more than able reinforcement in the form of Pepe, who turned out to be the decisive man on this occasion.
The Primavera will play their first away game next Saturday at Cesena as they bid to gain confidence for their important Youth League U19 fixtures.