The build-up to Saturday’s Serie A opener was all about Cristiano Ronaldo. Come the end of 96 minutes of play, it turns out Juve’s biggest impact was made by Federico Bernardeschi.
You need to look no further than how the game totally flipped in Juve’s favor once he came on in the second half.
On a blistering mid-August evening at the Bentegodi that was filled with Stefano Sorrentino’s latest superhuman performance in goal against Juventus, plenty of moments that will leave people talking into the next day, it was Bernardeschi’s 93rd-minute winner that helped Juventus avoid dropping points in Ronaldo’s debut. Juve’s 3-2 win over Chievo almost fell victim to the Ex Effect after Emanuele Giaccherini successfully converted a penalty midway through the second half, but the impact that Bernardeschi and Mario Mandzukic proved to be the perfect boost that this new-look Juventus team was in dire need of as the game went on.
And like that, another relaxing Juventus win is in the books.
Or maybe it was just about as stressful as a trip to the Bentegodi usually is.
I have yet to decide. It’s all still so much of a blur to me.
So much of the day was about Ronaldo, who didn’t score and will obviously turn in a transfer request because of it. It was always going to be that way. I could have told you that 20 minutes after Juventus signed him back in July. And you could see for a good portion of the first half that the attacking quartet that he’s now a part of really showed glimpses of putting on a show. The interplay between Ronaldo, Douglas Costa, Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado had quick touches going from one side of the field to the other with a snap of the fingers. The Juventus that grinded out wins last season and never truly got out of first or second gear was looking like a thing of the past. (And good riddance to it!)
But, also like last season — and years prior to that — Juve had to stage a late-game comeback to try and get three points against a team many thought they were going to cruise right on by.
Some of it was due to Sorrentino being absolutely nails in goal before he had to go off injured with what surely has to be a concussion. (Dude is 39 years old and pretty much playing like Gigi Buffon every time he faces Juventus.) Some of it was simply Juventus not being very good at finishing. (They had 12 shots in the first half and only two on goal, one of which was Sami Khedira’s opener.)
Basically, they were absolutely dominating possession, but the end product wasn’t something that left a whole lot to be desired. And if it wasn’t for the late-game heroics that Bernardeschi provided, it would have stayed that way in the second half.
New players, new era centered around Ronaldo, same old motto of “fino all fine” remains about as true as it can be. Leave it to an Italian to save the game on a day where Juventus start only two Italians.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I miss Claudio.
- Like, seriously, I miss him so much.
- Chievo had two shots on goal, and they scored both of them. Wojciech Szczesny didn’t have to make a save and yet his defense left him out to dry twice.
- Bernardeschi will get home to Turin in a few hours. Spike and Wendy will be happy to see their dog dad and bark at him. Fede deserves it.
- How Ronaldo almost scored this shot I have no idea. Dude basically first looked up at goal WHILE HE WAS WINDING UP FOR THE SHOT. Now that he’s a Juventus player and we will be watching him every week, it’s going to be pretty amazing to see just how many crazy moments like that one he does each game.
- Outside of a few fancy turns and passes, Dybala was not very good against Chievo. How he adjusts to playing alongside Ronaldo will be one of the biggest things to watch over the next month or two. And as the season goes on, it will obviously be one of Juventus’ biggest keys to success both domestically and in Europe.
- This was about 95 minutes of what we know about Joao Cancelo already — all kinds of desire to go forward, but sometimes shaky defensively.
- He didn’t technically get credit for it, but of course Leonardo Bonucci plays a key role in Juventus’ game-tying goal.
- He definitely played a role in Chievo’s opening goal, too. That marking on Giaccherini’s cross was about as bad as it could have been — and Juventus got killed for it.
- For those of us fellow Juventus fans in the United States experimenting ESPN+ for the first time today, the quality of the streaming is so much better than what we’ve had at our disposal in recent years. The announcers are still a work in progress, but the picture was in HD and buffer-free from the first minute onward.
- One down, 37 to go.