There was a time in November and early December when we wondered just when exactly things were going to click for Cristiano Ronaldo like they have so many times before. There was #KneeInjuryGate to talk about. There was #SubstitutionGate to talk about and overanalyze, too, with Lionel Messi fanboys reveling in the BWRAO Twitter mentions at an incredible rate.
That was two months ago.
We’re not talking about that now. Nope, not even close.
Ronaldo, his new hairstyle and his iPod Shuffle have all started 2020 just as they finished 2019 — absolutely on fire. Two weeks after scoring his first Serie A hat trick to lead Juventus to a win over Cagliari, Ronaldo recorded yet another multi-goal game, this time scoring on either end of halftime to carry Juve to a 2-1 win over Parma at Allianz Stadium and, more importantly, extend the Italian champions’ lead atop the league standings to four points thanks to Inter’s 1-1 draw with Lecce earlier in the day.
It was Ronaldo’s 14th and 15th goals of the Serie A season.
It was Ronaldo’s 11th goal in Juventus’ last seven Serie A games.
It was Ronaldo’s 12th goal in Juventus’ last 10 games in all competitions.
Basically, Ronaldo has gone from struggling to in some of the best form we’ve seen from him in a Juventus within the span of about a month and a half.
Juventus needed it, too.
It was far from the impressive showing that we saw in the second half against Cagliari or the opening half hour or so against Roma. Juve were disjointed for a good portion of the match, with passes failing to connect between teammates and Luigi Sepe rarely troubled in the Parma goal. Juventus had plenty of the possession, but the end result was far from what you would expect when you’ve barely seen the opponent venture into your defensive third.
And it’s exactly like things got better as time went on, either.
We haven’t seen Wojciech Szczesny as busy as he was in the close 10 or 15 minutes of a game like he was on Sunday. Parma came close, sure, but thankfully Juventus’ sometimes-present ability to cough up a lead in the dying minutes didn’t kick in.
That meant that a Ronaldo-led Juventus was capable of extending its Serie A lead thanks to Inter being, well, Inter just a couple of hours earlier.
That was, honestly, the biggest thing that needed to happen once the earlier slate of games took place Sunday. Like I said in the game thread, at worst Juventus had to keep the Serie A lead right where it was entering the weekend. But then once Inter dropped points for the second consecutive weekend, opportunity was there to extend the lead from two points to four.
We don’t know Juve players outside of Ronaldo had an iPod Shuffle in their ears when they opened the door as opportunity knocked, but let’s just go along with it. (And I’m pretty sure the amount of mini ponytails among the younger male population in Turin is going to continue to trend upward as well. And it’s not because of Adrien Rabiot.)
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- It’s rather hard for Dejan Kulusevski to try and impress Juventus fans watching his every touch of the ball when he barely gets a touch on the ball. He touched it all of 20 times in the first half — and that’s it.
- There were more than a couple of times that Kulusevski saw himself suddenly closed down by Matthijs de Ligt. They pretty much ended the same kind of way, too: the 20-year-old winning out over the 19-year-old. Juventus might be in win now mode with Ronaldo around, but it was pretty cool to see two future building blocks in Turin going up against each other.
- I think we can officially declare de Ligt as settled in. As good as Ronaldo has been in 2020, de Ligt has been the defensive equivalent to that. The sheer numbers might not be all that impressive for de Ligt against Parma, but he has really stepped up his game a level or two since came back into the lineup. That time off — which Maurizio Sarri will continue to remind us was injury related — really seems to have done him some good. Our young Dutchman is thriving, folks.
- Who finished with as many tackles as de Ligt? Danilo ... because of course he did.
- Speaking of 2019 summer signings thriving, the aforementioned Rabiot continues to get better by the game. He is certainly making quite the argument to get some playing time even with Rodrigo Bentancur coming back into the fold after his three-game suspension.
- Speaking of another 2019 summer signing thriving, Aaron Ramsey was really good in the first half. With Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala drifting out wide, he had a lot of room to roam in the center of the field, and his runs into the box might not have resulted in goals, but they certainly made some things happen. Juventus need more of that going forward.
- With the way this game started, did you expect Wojciech Szczesny to finish with more saves than Luigi Sepe? Because he did.
- Even with Parma’s late-game surge, they managed all of eight shots. That speaks to how little they did in the opening 45 minutes.
- I know Paulo Dybala got the assist on Ronaldo’s game-winning goal — and it was a really nice assists at that — but watch the run that Leonardo Bonucci made to open up just that much more space for Ronaldo. You don’t exactly see Bonucci that advanced outside of corner kicks, but that was a nice little wrinkle to arguably Juve’s best combination of the game.
- In conclusion, LOL INTER!