For the first 45 minutes Monday afternoon, you were able to see what has made Cagliari such a tough team to beat this season. They were organized, they were defending well as a team and, despite not having much in terms of an attacking threat, they were able to absorb Juventus having the vast majority of the possession and keep things scoreless going into the halftime break.
Then, the second half arrived.
And ... derp.
Once the dam broke and the flood gates opened, Cagliari simply didn’t have the man power to slow down the Italian champions’ surge. With Cristiano Ronaldo (and his new hairstyle) leading the way, Juventus’ monster second-half showing didn’t just put them ahead of Cagliari at Allianz Stadium, it allowed them to completely run away with things in a 4-0 demolition of Serie A’s feel-good story to open the 2020 calendar year.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the first Portuguese player to score a hat-trick in Serie A history.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 6, 2020
It was the kind of second half that we’ve been waiting to see for weeks — if not months — now, with just about everything clicking against a team that was, up until the 48th minute or so, going toe for toe with the eight-time defending Italian champions.
Then one bad pass at the back and Ronaldo — and Juventus as a whole — was off and running.
In the span of a little more than half an hour, Juventus went from struggling to generate a whole lot of offense against Caglari’s young defense to absolutely making them pay time after time after time. Ronaldo didn’t just make Cagliari pay once for its defensive lapse, but once the final stages of the second half had arrived, he was off and celebrating his first hat trick in a Juventus shirt since that game against Atlético Madrid 11 months ago.
Not a bad day for Juventus to trot out the new goal celebration music, huh?
It wasn’t a bad showing to start out the new year, either.
This was as complete of a Juventus win as we’ve seen in a good amount of time. And to have it come right out of the holiday break, one where Maurizio Sarri said the team worked to try and correct the mistakes they made over the first four months of the season, is quite the first impression when it comes to things turning for the better.
Will it be the thing that puts the wheels in motion and get Juventus rolling entering the second half of the season? That still is TBD. But it’s a damn good start.
Basically, just bottle up that second half and recreate it as much as possible over the next five months. That was about as fun as any extended period of time watching Juventus as there’s been in quite a number of weeks.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Welp ... Merih Demiral starting over Matthijs de Ligt is a thing now.
- Cagliari, a team that entered Monday’s game against Juventus with more goals on the season than the Italian champions, had just one shot in total in the first half of play. It was off the foot of our old buddy Radja Nainggolan, and it wasn’t exactly something that tested Wojciech Szczesny in goal ... or even was put on goal. Oops.
- Paulo Dybala had another one of those “He didn’t score a goal, but damn did he play well!” kinds of games. The penalty that led to Ronaldo’s goal was all because of Dybala’s dribbling ability, and just the second half he had was yet another reminder that he’s on a different level this season compared to last.
- I don’t know what kind of player Luca Pellegrini is going to be in a couple of years, but Monday gave us the chance to see what Juve’s potential left back of the future brings to the table — and, overall, he played quite well. He certainly held his own going up against the likes of Ronaldo, Dybala and Juan Cuadrado. Juve aren’t exactly brimming with a lot of on-loan young talent around Serie A, but Pellegrini is definitely a young player to be excited about.
- This definitely was one of Adrien Rabiot’s best games in a Juventus shirt. The best part of it was probably to see how he got better as the game went on, too. And with Rodrigo Bentancur still suspended for another couple of games, the chance to play is there for Rabiot, as is the opportunity to make a case for more playing time.
- It still makes me shake my head sometimes that Maurizio Sarri can bring the likes of (this season’s version of) Gonzalo Higuain and Douglas Costa off the bench more often than not. That’s just such a luxury to have — and to do it when you’re already up a couple of goals is just cruel to a team that was wobbling like Cagliari was.
- That Douglas Costa run that ended in a non-call in the penalty area ... he’s fast.
- Aaron Ramsey had four key passes, according to WhoScored, yet I’m still sitting here wondering if he actually had a good game or not.
- Juan Cuadrado had a pass completion percentage of almost 97 percent and had 111 touches against Cagliari. That will do just fine, Johnny.
- We will now play a game that we’re becoming somewhat used to around here — sitting back and watching a game where we hope Inter Milan lose to whoever they’re playing. Today it’s Napoli. Please do something good, Napoli. It will benefit the both of us greatly.