At some point, Juventus’ unbeaten run to open the 2018-19 season will come to an end and we will look back on it with (hopefully) happy thoughts because the end game will be another trophy-lifting celebration after the final home game at Allianz Stadium.
But we are still able to talk about in the present tense because of Juventus, down a man, turning to Cristiano Ronaldo to try and bail them out. And that’s exactly what he did.
For the first time in his still-short Juventus career, Ronaldo was called upon to come off the bench and play the role of hero on an otherwise forgettable day for Juve as a whole. All of 13 minutes after coming on for Sami Khedira, Ronaldo did exactly what he was brought on to do, scoring the game-tying goal off a corner kick to help 10-man Juventus grab a 2-2 draw against Atalanta in Bergamo on Boxing Day.
And thus, the unbeaten run lives on.
It didn’t look like it would for a large portion of Wednesday afternoon’s match — and that was thanks to how well Atalanta, who always seem to make it tough for Juve in Bergamo, was playing even though they were the ones who were behind after less than two minutes.
Yes, the same Atalanta that laid an absolute dud against Genoa a couple of days ago.
But as we’ve come to know against Gian Piero Gasperini’s side — even though Atalanta has rarely beaten Juventus in the last 15 years — it’s never a piece of cake or anything close to it.
It didn’t help that Rodrigo Bentancur was sent off for a second yellow card all of eight minutes into the second half. (Don’t you worry, I will have a talk with my son about his recent flurry of yellow cards. We will figure out where it has gone wrong for him lately.) And of course Duvan Zapata, one of the most in-form strikers in Serie A right now, took full advantage of some more shaky defending at the back for Juve all of two minutes after Bentancur was sent to the showers early.
Even down a man, Max Allegri went for it. His two second-half moves proved vital — Miralem Pjanic and Ronaldo came on eight minutes after one another, with Douglas Costa and Khedira being removed. Ronaldo, obviously, was the spark Juve needed, as the usual sense of desperation set in as the latter stages of the second half arrived.
But as I’ve said before, I will say again: It’s sure nice to be on the good side of Ronaldo goals this season as compared to, oh, the last decade or so when so many of his strikes were either game-winners or go-ahead goals.
This time around, on a day where Juventus were far, far, far from their best and down a man for the vast majority of the second half, Ronaldo’s first Hero Ball effort proved to be one that allowed Juve to get a point in Bergamo and keep their unbeaten run intact.
Knowing how that game went, not a bad result — at all.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- This isn’t Juventus-related, but since we’re about to see this weekend I guess it could be in a way: Fabio Quagliarella did another Fabio Quagliarella thing during Sampdoria’s win over Chievo on Wednesday. And y’all think Zapata is in crazy-good form over the last month or so...
- At some point, announcers who call Serie A matches are going to have to come to the realization that Leonardo Bonucci is not the same Leonardo Bonucci that wore a Juventus jersey a couple of years ago. The mistakes he’s made that have led to goals this season are really far from a rare sight at this point, and if his name wasn’t Leonardo Bonucci then he’d probably be getting serious heat and probably some calls for him to be benched based on how costly those mistakes have been. Juventus winning has masked some of the mistakes, but tell me this: Of the 10 league goals Juve have allowed this season, how many of them have been directly tied to something Bonucci did wrong?
- That’s the long way of saying that Milan Bonucci is still around and who knows when we’re going to see Juve Bonucci 1.0 again — if at all.
- Pretty amazing how things changed for the better after Juve took Khedira off, huh? That’s an easy observation, but it’s pretty much the truth.
- It’s a by-product of being down a man after Bentancur got sent off, but when was the last time that Juventus was out-shot by a Serie A opponent like they were against Atalanta?
- If signing a contract extension was a weight being lifted off Alex Sandro’s shoulders and a way for him to really hit a rich vein of form again, then the last two games are proof of that. He’s been pretty damn good ever since he signed his new deal, hasn’t he? (Yes he has.)
- Juve’s starting lineup tweet listed Bentancur as the regista in the three-man midfield, but it turned out to be Emre Can who filled the Pjanic role for most of the afternoon. For the most part, outside of losing track of Zapata on Atalanta’s second goal, I thought he played pretty well with five tackles, three interceptions and two clearances to his name. That’ll do just fine no matter what midfield role he’s asked to play in.
- So with Bentancur suspended against Samp over the weekend, Allegri has to go with a midfield trio of Matuidi-Pjanic-Can, right? Please, Max?
- Who’s the Atalanta player that Juventus’ front office was actually scouting as they sat in the stands on Wednesday? You know there’s gotta be somebody on that team that catches their eye.