Saturday, September 25, 2021

Udinese 2-2 Juventus: Ronaldo denied stoppage-time winner after Szczesny clangers

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 Aug 2021


Surprise substitute Cristiano Ronaldo was denied a winner by VAR deep into stoppage time as Juventus drew 2-2 at Udinese following a pair of Wojciech Szczesny blunders.

Impressive early strikes from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado looked to have paved the way for a season-opening Serie A success, and a first win of head coach Massimiliano Allegri’s second spell in charge of Juventus.

But a mistake by goalkeeper Szczesny was punished from the penalty spot early in the second half, and a desperate clanger in the 83rd minute allowed Gerard Deulofeu to net a dramatic leveller.

In a ripsnorting finish, Udinese almost sneaked a winner, Mato Jajalo firing over in the 90th minute, before Ronaldo headed in a Federico Chiesa cross in the fourth minute of stoppage time. The celebrations were wild, and a euphoric Ronaldo was booked for removing his shirt, before he was left stunned to see the goal disallowed for offside.

Ronaldo and Dybala have contracts that run to the end of this season, and there seems scant prospect of both staying in Turin. Dybala is seemingly keen to remain, Ronaldo less so, and his omission from the starting XI here sparked fresh speculation about his future. 

Juventus took just two minutes and three seconds to surge ahead, their earliest goal in a season opener during the three-points-for-a-win era, which began in 1994-95. 

Giorgio Chiellini was on the bench so Dybala captained the team, and it was the Argentine forward who produced a special finish to catch the hosts cold. Rodrigo Bentancur slid in a low ball from the right and Dybala cleverly flicked the ball across goal into the left corner. 

Dybala then played a key role in the second Juventus goal, which came in the 23rd minute, looping a long pass to Cuadrado, who took his first touch just a couple of strides outside the Udinese penalty area. The Colombian shuffled skilfully past flummoxed Udinese captain Bram Nuytinck and lashed a low shot into the same corner that Dybala had earlier found. 

Juventus looked practically home and hosed at the break, but conceded a penalty in the 50th minute when Szczesny made a poor parry of Tolgay Arslan’s shot before bringing down the Udinese man as he chased down the rebound. 

Former Juve man Roberto Pereyra fired the spot-kick into the right corner, before Alvaro Morata headed against the left post at the other end a couple of minutes later, from a chance he would expect to tuck away. 

Allegri saw the game potentially slipping away and sent on Ronaldo, Chiellini and Dejan Kulusevski on the hour mark, Morata among those to make way. Ronaldo soon teed up Bentancur to smash a shot against the right post, and then came the late drama, Juventus left smarting on day one of the new campaign.

What does it mean? Cruel twist to Ronaldo story 

When Ronaldo rose so elegantly to meet the inswinging delivery from Chiesa, few doubted he would find the back of the net, and duly his header was magnificent. He had pepped up a Juventus side who were losing their way, a real worry for Allegri, and a Ronaldo winner felt very much part of the narrative, after the pre-match shock of his bench duty. But machines decide football games these days, and fairytale writers have no part to play, so Juventus end week one of their season with one point, and a goalkeeper who will not want to relive any of that game. 

Dybala delivers as Morata has an off day 

Dybala is reportedly edging towards agreeing a new Juve deal, and assuming that comes to fruition he is a player they can build around for some years to come. He had a fine game, scoring once from three shots and notching up an assist, and in tandem with a clinical target man his silky skills would be the perfect complement. Morata was not clinical by any stretch here, failing to hit the target with any of his three efforts on goal and playing just seven accurate passes in an hour. Ronaldo proved, somewhat inevitably, far more dynamic than the oft-maligned Spaniard when he took his place as the attack’s focal point. 

Four saves good, two blunders bad 

Bring back Gianluigi Buffon? This was an awful way to begin the season for Szczesny, plainly at fault for both of Udinese’s goals. He should not have allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp for the first and compounded his error by giving away the spot-kick, and it was humiliating when he kicked the ball against Stefano Okaka for the second, the ball bouncing kindly for Deulofeu to fire into the empty net. Szczesny also made four saves across the 90 minutes, but who remembers those? 

What’s next? 

Juventus will welcome Empoli to Turin next Saturday, while Udinese have a second successive home game as they tackle Venezia on Friday.


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