Cristiano Ronaldo learned Serie A is a tough league, as Juventus fought back from a goal down for a dramatic 3-2 victory at Chievo.
This was not only the opening game of the 2018-19 Serie A season, but also the debut of Cristiano Ronaldo and Giorgio Chiellini’s first as captain. Leonardo Bonucci returned after one year at Milan and was loudly jeered by some sections of the Juve support every time he touched the ball.
It took all of 162 seconds to break the deadlock, as new captain Giorgio Chiellini knocked down a Miralem Pjanic free kick for Sami Khedira to rifle home from seven yards.
The Bianconeri dominated possession (84 per cent in the opening 20 minutes) and Cristiano Ronaldo drilled inches wide, while Juan Cuadrado blasted a promising counter-attack over the bar.
Douglas Costa was already in fine form and his volley swerved past the far top corner, but out of nowhere Chievo equalised with their first genuine attempt.
Emanuele Giaccherini, a former Juve star, floated in a cross for the looping header of Mariusz Stepinski into the far top corner, taking advantage of Bonucci’s static defending.
On the stroke of half-time, Khedira nodded a Douglas Costa cross off target with Cristiano Ronaldo waiting right behind him.
Inevitably, Juve started the second half aggressively and Sorrentino used his legs to beat away a dipping Ronaldo strike, but Joao Cancelo tripped Giaccherini as he burst down the left for a penalty. Ex-Juve man Giak converted it perfectly, sending Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way to turn the game around completely.
This was an unexpected development for Juve, who hadn’t conceded two goals in their opening Serie A game since a 4-3 at Perugia in September 1998.
Sorrentino was comfortably behind Federico Bernardeschi’s effort and a Ronaldo header, but the 39-year-old flew for a sensational one-handed reaction save to deny CR7 what would’ve been a classic debut goal. Ronaldo controlled with his back to the goal, spun round between defenders and his dipping curler was heading for the far bottom corner.
Fabrizio Cacciatore deflected another Ronaldo attempt on to the roof of the net, then a Mario Mandzukic glancing header skimmed the far post.
After a series of corners, Bonucci and Mattia Bani both got on the end of a Bernardeschi set play to deflect it in from a couple of yards and set up a fiery finale.
Ronaldo’s free kick stung Sorrentino’s gloves from a tight angle, then the goalkeeper denied Emre Can with a diving header on his first touch in Serie A.
There was huge controversy in the final five minutes with a chaotic incident. Mandzukic’s header was cleared only after it had crossed the line, but Sorrentino was unconscious on the ground after a nasty collision with Ronaldo, who also seemed to handle. The referee viewed it again on VAR and opted to disallow the goal.
Sorrentino was dazed and helped off the field, but Andrea Seculin’s first contribution was to pick the ball out of the net, as Bernardeschi toe-poked in an Alex Sandro low assist.
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