There was one particular standout moment for me during Juventus’ opening game against Chievo. It was in the first half when the ball was played up to Ronaldo who was hovering around the half way line. He had his back to the goal and with his first touch he had sublime Cruyff-like flick. The defender had no idea what was going on and before he knew it, Juve were charging forward with numbers. It was a 3 vs. 2 situation and there Ronaldo was, lingering dangerously toward the back post with Juan Cuadrado on the opposite wing with the ball. The Colombian winger takes the shot for himself and the camera then pans to a frustrated Ronaldo. Clearly he has not seen enough gameplay of the reigning Ballon d’Or holder and should now by to always keep his head up to always looking for the talismanic Number 7. This basically summed up the game for Juve and Ronaldo. Both parties are still assimilating with one another though there were plenty of bright moments over the course of the ninety minutes.
For Allegri, this game was all about getting the win as they start their title defence and look to win Juve’s eighth straight league title. The main takeaway from this depth was the Juve bench: Bernardeschi, Rugani, Emre Can, Mandzukic, and Matuidi. These player can easily force themselves into the starting XI of most squads in Europe. It is stacked with the perfect blend of quality, class, youth and experience. It is by far the deepest squad that Allegri has had at his disposal. Winning the league should be their bread and butter. The likes of Napoli and Roma have had their key assets taken away by the big clubs in the Premier League. Inter Milan pose the only feasible threat to the Turin based club though even they simply do not have pieces to dethrone La Vecchia Signora. Allegri and Ronaldo are now expected to deliver a European title.
Many expected this juggernaut of a side to trample over Chievo. Though, for long stretches of the game the two sides looked to be fairly equal. Ronaldo was expected to deliver the goods though it was the young Federico Bernadeschi who came off the bench to score the winner. Bonucci also found himself on the scoresheet in his return to the club after a year away in with Milan. The win was hardly merited. Juventus was inconsistent for the duration of the game. They were gifted a dream start with Khedira driving the ball into the back of the net in the opening minutes of the game. Juventus saw much of the ball for the opening half of play though Ronaldo saw little to no service from Cuadrado, Dybala, or Costa. He was presented with a few open chances get his name on the score sheet but to no avail. This was costly for Juve as Chievo leveled the game just before the end of the first half. Mariusz Stepinski opened his account for the season with a header off an enticing Giaccherini cross.
Giaccherini was also involved in Chievo’s second. He calmly slotted in a penalty in the 56th minute after Cancelo clumsily fouled the former Juventus winger. The veteran winger did not celebrate in deference towards his former club. Ronaldo also did not get a chance to celebrate not that he did not try. He attempted to rescue his new team from losing their opening game of the season. The former Real talisman peppered the goal with shot after shot though it was Bonucci who leveled the game.
The stage was then set for a Ronaldo winner. He very nearly drew a penalty though VAR correctly intervened to show he was fouled outside the box. And it was Bernardeschi’s time to shine to possibly earn a starting spot for next week’s matchup against Lazio. At the end of the day, the fact that Juve got their three points is what counts the most. That being said, Chievo could have driven two double-decker buses through the middle of the park. Allegri has a lot to do to shore up the midfield and back four if they are to dethrone the Spanish teams’ dominance of the Champions League.
So how was CR7’s debut?
Cristiano Ronaldo made his Serie A debut for Juventus yesterday in an away game at Chievo. While he failed to score and did not have his best outing with his new club, the Portuguese Captain did have an impact on his maiden outing with the Old Lady. They came back from a 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 when Bernardeschi scored the winning goal in the third minute of stoppage time. He made a few threatening runs and had a couple of goal-scoring opportunities. There was a scary moment when he knocked out the Chievo goalkeeper with an unintentional collision with his head (Stefano Sorrentino suffered a broken nose, whiplash, and a bruised shoulder though he later revealed through a social media post that he was going to be ok)
He looked pretty sharp from the get-go given a shortened summer and that he started in an unfamiliar position as a sole-striker. Though it was always going to take time before he will fully ingratiate himself to this new team. Ronaldo was confident with the ball at his feet though he was not always a constant threat and often looked out of place. This is not unprecedented and can only be judged as the season progresses. The Madeira native came close to opening his account with Juve with his trademark header though he could not score. He linked up well with Paulo Dybala and dropped back into midfield to pick up the ball like he would with Real. Ronaldo was mobile enough to keep the Chievo defence guessing. Nevertheless, he simply cannot keep drifting to the wings if he is to operate as the sole Number 9.
Juve scored three goals though the fact that they conceded two goal to a side that finished in the bottom half of the Serie A last season is concerning. Ronaldo will take time to fit in with the team – that is an obvious given. He provides a different element to the team unlike Mario Mandzukic or the departed Gonzalo Higuaín. Ronaldo’s innate ability to draw the defenders to him and pull them away from their positions was key to setting up Bernadeschi’s winning goal. He looked a good fit in his 90 minutes against Chievo with better performances ahead for the Old Lady. The likes of Michel Platini struggled in their first years in Italy. And he went on to become a legend for Juventus. Ronaldo will look to do the same though time is not on his side and it will not be as straightforward as he first thought it would be.