Milan, Feb 9: Juventus remained unbeaten this season after winning 2-1 at AC Milan in the first leg of the Italian Cup semifinals on Wednesday with Martin Caceres scoring twice on debut.
Caceres gave Juventus the lead in the 53rd minute with a simple tap-in before doubling his tally with a stunning finish seven minutes from time.
Stephan El Shaarawy had leveled for Milan shortly after the hour mark, while teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a goal ruled out for handball as Milan finished a third straight match without a victory.
"We have to accept this defeat, knowing that nothing is lost yet," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "We were a bit naive in the second goal and that's disappointing in a game of this type. Those are errors that should be avoided. But we'll remain calm.
"I know the strength of my squad, although we have had so many strange injuries. We have to remain calm and continue to work. It's now a bit of an uphill struggle to qualify, but we haven't lost anything."
The second leg will be played in Turin on March 20 or 21.
Earlier, Catania held Roma to a 1-1 draw in Serie A after the remaining 25 minutes of a game that was called off last month was played. Juventus is top of the Serie A standings, one point above Milan, with a game in hand.
Caceres, who spent the 2009-10 season on loan at Juve, returned to the Serie A giant — again on a temporary basis — last month and he enjoyed a dream second debut.
After a first half of few chances, it took less than eight minutes of the second period for the game to jump into life.
Padoin, also making his Juventus debut after joining from Atalanta, was muscled off the ball as he raced into the penalty area but he managed to squeeze it through to Marco Borriello. His shot was parried by goalkeeper Marco Amelia, but only as far as Caceres, who slotted it into an empty net.
Milan almost leveled moments later but goalkeeper Marco Storari got down well to keep Ibrahimovic's fierce free kick from going into the bottom left corner.
The home side was level when Massimo Ambrosini nodded the ball on for El Shaarawy to rifle home in the 62nd minute.
Milan thought it had taken the lead soon afterward, but Ibrahimovic's goal was ruled out for handball by the Sweden striker.
Juventus restored its advantage in the 83rd with Caceres' second goal of the night.
If the first had been easy, the second was anything but. Emanuele Giaccherini raced down the left flank and put a cross into the area that was Ambrosini headed out but only as far as Caceres. The Uruguayan controlled it with one touch and looked up before lifting it beautifully above Storari and into the top left corner.
There was tension at the end of the game involving Ibrahimovic, who has already been banned for three league games for hitting an opponent, was once again in the middle of the fray and had to be pulled away from Storari.
It will surely heighten the atmosphere when the two teams meet in Serie A at the end of this month — a match which Ibrahimovic will miss because of his red card at the weekend.
Meanwhile, in Catania, Roma had new problems after last month's game was suspended halfway through the second period with the score at 1-1 due to heavy rain in the Sicilian city.
The team was unable to return to the capital after flights were grounded after Mount Etna once again erupted.
On the pitch, while there were no goals on Wednesday. Roma goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg and Catania counterpart Tomas Kosicky pulled off smart saves to deny Cristian Llama and Fabio Borini, respectively.
Nicola Legrottaglie had given Catania the lead in 24th minute before Daniele De Rossi leveled four minutes later.
Roma remains sixth while Catania moves up a place, opening up a seven-point gap on the relegation zone.