When Cristiano Ronaldo ran towards the corner flag for his usual celebration after his second goal against Crotone, every Juventus player shouted “Siuuuu” along with the Portuguese.
Ronaldo had seen Inter’s Romelu Lukaku leapfrog him on top of the Serie A top scorers with a goal against Milan and didn’t waste his chance to re-overtake the Belgian with a crucial brace against Crotone.
Juventus came off one of the worst weeks of Andrea Pirlo’s tenure. The back-to-back defeats against Napoli in Serie A and Porto in the Champions League were enormous blows for the Old Lady, who have an open account with Europe’s elite competition and want to win their tenth Serie A title in a row.
The Old Lady had a slow start against last-placed Crotone. They didn’t allow dangerous goal-scoring opportunities, except for a couple of tricky crosses wisely handled by Gigi Buffon, who made his 654th Serie A appearance.
The ball possession was too sterile and many players seemed tired after playing 15 games in 40 days. “It’s like playing half a season in little more than a month,” Pirlo put it in his pre-match press conference.
Nevertheless, it was Cristiano who came to the rescue at the Allianz Stadium with two goals in the space of seven minutes.
The first one came after a well-executed Alex Sandro cross from the left. Ronaldo squeezed between the visitors’ defenders to head home on the far post.
One could argue Crotone gave the Portuguese star too much space, but that’s what Ronaldo is about, as he’s always been able to find a gap between the opponents’ shirts and is still among the best finishers on the planet right now. When it comes to headers, though, the 36-year-old has no equals.
Ronaldo scored another headed goal before the break, yet again with a giant leap. It wasn’t as high as the one at the Luigi Ferraris, where he stunned Sampdoria’s defence by jumping 71cm off the ground and hitting the ball at 2.56m. Still, he remained up in the air for longer than his opponents and was able to score a goal that is easy only if you are him.
It’s not the finish itself that impresses, but the preparation that leads to it.
Cristiano works tirelessly on his fitness. As many of his current and former teammates often claim, he is the first to arrive at the training centre and the last one to leave. He leaves nothing to chance and he proves that on the pitch.
Surely, Ronaldo must not be happy with Juventus’ run of form and it is no coincidence he didn’t celebrate his first goal much.
Cristiano Ronaldo powers a header back across goal for the Juve opener!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) February 22, 2021
An important goal for Juventus on a night when they can't afford another slip-up pic.twitter.com/SGb9r1pkab
They sit eight points behind league leaders Inter with a game in hand and need a win against Porto in two weeks to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals.
“In the last couple of years, we went home sooner than we wanted, but we continue to aim higher every season, and this year is no exception,” CR7 wrote on Instagram ahead of last week’s first leg clash in Portugal.
It didn’t go well for Juventus, who had a terrible approach both in the first and the second half, conceding two early goals.
In all honesty, Juventus’ start against Crotone was similar to the one shown in Champions League earlier last week.
Luckily for them, they didn’t commit the same mistakes, and they slowly got the right confidence that eventually led to Ronaldo’s first goal.
He wanted to score the third one before the break, but his shot was wide, and just for a reminder of his mentality, he left the pitch fuming after the first 45 minutes.
This evening, Pirlo succeeded where Maurizio Sarri had failed as Ronaldo played mainly as a centre forward rather than starting on the left flank to cut inside.
He helped an injured-hit team with Paulo Dybala on the sidelines and Alvaro Morata on the bench after suffering a severe stomach-flu.
He was dominant and probably he could have scored more in the second half, but Alex Cordaz thwarted him. Sometimes Ronaldo is so dominant you have the feeling he is his FIFA avatar in real life.
Crotone are the 78th different side Cristiano Ronaldo has scored against in the Top-5 leagues. Only Ibrahimovic has scored against more teams since 2000 with 79.
As Opta points out, Ronaldo has also netted against every opponent currently in Serie A.
He now has 25 goals in 28 games in all competitions and 88 in 116 matches with the Old Lady since he arrived in 2018.
Juventus need more flights from CR7 to remain in the title race until the end of the season and continue their European path as long as possible.
They signed Cristiano Ronaldo to lift the Champions League finally, but Juventus don’t seem as strong as they were when Cristiano landed in Turin.
However, this season more than ever, winning the Serie A title against Antonio Conte’s Inter would be quite an achievement.
One would argue that the Bianconeri would have won the last two Serie A titles without the Portuguese star. Surely, this Juventus side can’t do without Ronaldo if they are to achieve their targets.