Having won the title on previous nine occasions, Juventus obviously aim to make it 10 out of 10 this season, but it’s fair to say they haven’t gotten off to the best possible start. They did cruise to victory in the opening round against Sampdoria, but this match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome revealed that the newly appointed boss Andrea Pirlo has a lot to do to make this team tick properly.
Jordan Veretout gave the home side the lead from the penalty spot in the 31st minute. Cristiano Ronaldo equalized in the same manner in the 44th, only for Veretout to strike again almost immediately. The Portuguese superstar rose to the occasion to set the score level once more in the 69th, despite his team being a man down at that point.
Juve’s midfield issues
The visitors, interestingly enough, had more of the ball in their possession (38%-62%), but only goes to show how misleading this particular piece of stat may be in the modern game. Roma played far more directly, and despite the significantly lower possession percentage, they managed 11 shots in total, compared to Juventus’ eight. Roma’s midfielders simply performed better, possibly helped by teammates who often joined them in the middle of the park from other areas.
But it has to be said that neither Winston McKennie nor Adrien Rabiot played well, faced with Veretout and Lorenzo Pellegrini in the midfield battle. Rabiot was particularly poor. He conceded the penalty and earned a yellow card, then he made a few unnecessary fouls, before losing possession and mowing down Henrikh Mkhitaryan to get himself sent off in the 62nd minute, leaving his teammates both a man and a goal down to fight for a result as best they can.
Roma rue missed chances
Roma captain Edin Dzeko, who was incidentally linked with Juventus most heavily before they signed Alvaro Morata instead, played very well. He was a constant handful for the experienced duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci and he was very efficient in holding the ball up and involving others in attack, but there were several chances that you’d always expect a striker of his quality to convert without too much trouble. However, he seemed to have put on a wrong pair of boots, especially in the 56th minute when he beat Juan Cuadrado to the ball and sent Chiellini to the ground with a superb dummy, before hitting the outside of the post from next to the penalty spot.
Mkhitaryan also had a great chance early in the game (11′) when escaped from McKenny, broke past Bonucci and stormed into the box, only to fail to beat Wojciech Szczesny in the Juventus goal one on one.
Roma were the better team in this game even before Rabiot’s second yellow card and they really should have kept all three points for themselves, but it often so happens that the team which misses its opportunity to secure victory ends up punished for it. Roma might yet find themselves missing the points they dropped on Sunday later in the season.
Ronaldo to the rescue
It was very fortunate for the Old Lady that they have someone like Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks. The man has been a marvel of the football world for around 15 years now, and he still doesn’t show any signs of slackening. Regardless of the way the team performs, you can always bet that Ronaldo will relentlessly seek a way to hit the back of the net, and you can never bet against him doing so at some point in the game, whatever the situation.
That proved the case again. The 35-year-old always looked lively and sought to get involved, showing his tremendous skill and perseverance. In the end he was rewarded with a ball nicely delivered into the box by Danilo. He still had to beat his markers, but he made the most of the fact that the closest opponent was the 5’10” substitute Bruno Peres, as opposed to one of the tall centre-backs, as he rose high to head past Antonio Mirante in the Roma goal to set the final score.
Nonetheless, Juventus will certainly have to raise their game and quickly, if they want that 10th successive title. Ronaldo may still be the best player in the world along with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, but it would be unfair to expect him to always pulls the team out of sticky situations.
It should be said, however, that Pirlo only recently returned to the club, initially to coach the U-23 side and was only thrown into the fray after the sacking of Maurizio Sarri after the Champions League exit this summer. Given his lack of experience in this role, it will be interesting to see what exactly they expect from him in his first season in charge of the first team.