MILAN: It was meant to be the match where Mario Mandzukic showed he could be more than an understudy to Gonzalo Higuain this season.
Instead, the Croatia forward again appeared off form and disinterested as Juventus struggled to a hard-fought 1-0 win at Palermo in Serie A on Saturday.
This was the first time the duo played together in a tactical experiment that appears to have failed. Juventus looked thoroughly unimpressive.
Juventus found it hard to break down a resilient Palermo side and the only goal came about thanks to a slice of fortune for Massimiliano Allegri's side three minutes after the break. Dani Alves' long-range effort took a massive deflection off Edoardo Goldaniga's heel, sending the ball past Palermo goalkeeper Josip Posavec.
Mandzukic netted 10 goals in his debut season at Juventus but has been overshadowed since Higuain arrived from rival Napoli for an Italian-record fee of 90 million euros ($99 million) in the offseason. He has yet to score in six matches, including four starts.
In Sicily, Mandzukic again failed to impress, wasting a free header in the first half and seeing a tame effort saved in the 70th, when he should have done better from close range.
The former Bayern Munich forward did have the ball in the back of the net moments later but he was offside when Dani Alves' free kick was floated in. Video replays showed Mandzukic should have left it for Alex Sandro, who was in a similar position but onside.
Mandzukic, who played only the final 10 minutes of the midweek 4-0 victory over Cagliari, started in last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Inter Milan, but Juventus looked much more threatening when he was replaced by Higuain with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Juventus moved four points clear of Napoli, which hosted Chievo Verona late.