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By ESPN Staff

Serie A: Mutu brace as Juve restart with win

ROME, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Serie A leaders Juventus proved they had not lost the winning habit during the mid-season break when Adrian Mutu struck twice in a 2-1 triumph at Palermo on Saturday.

The victory gave champions Juventus 49 points from 18 matches, 11 more than second-placed Inter Milan, who play in Siena on Sunday.

Palermo went ahead in the 12th minute, Christian Terlizzi spinning to volley Eugenio Corini's cross past Juve keeper Christian Abbiati.

Romania striker Mutu levelled three minutes later when he fired the ball through a gaggle of defenders after his initial header had rebounded off the bar.

Palermo might have been expected to crumble. Instead, they poured forward.

Abbiati tipped Andrea Caracciolo's powerful long-range effort over the bar while Stephen Makinwa headed a fraction wide of the post.

But Juventus showed their ruthless streak to seize the lead at the first opportunity, Patrick Vieira flicking the ball forward for Mutu to slot his second on 34 minutes.

The tempo of the game did not drop after the break.

Juventus went close to notching their third when David Trezeguet curled a shot against the post before Caracciolo almost grabbed a late equaliser when he nodded narrowly wide.

Another high-flying team, Fiorentina, looked rusty as they drew 1-1 at Reggina in an earlier match.

The result put Fiorentina fourth on 37 points, level with third-placed AC Milan, who host Parma on Sunday.

Reggina took advantage of a sluggish start by the visitors to go ahead in the 12th minute, defender Alessandro Lucarelli firing in at the far post after Luca Vigiani nodded on a corner.

The twice Italian champions struck back immediately with Martin Jorgensen heading the equaliser less than a minute later.

Fiorentina came out more aggressively after the interval but continued to struggle to create chances for Luca Toni, who was searching for his 17th Serie A goal of the season.

Reggina went closest to a winner midway through the half when Nicola Amoruso shot wide after going through one-on-one against goalkeeper Sebastian Frey.