Ronaldo rescues a point as Juve slip at home to Sassuolo

Sassuolo's forward Jeremie Boga from Ivory Coast, top, fights for the ball with Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, center. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2019

Ronaldo rescues a point as Juve slip at home to Sassuolo

  • We didn’t use our heads, laments Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri after the 2-2 draw

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo rescued a 2-2 draw for Juventus at home against Sassuolo on Sunday but the result left the way open for Inter Milan to take top spot in Serie A.

“We didn’t use our heads,” lamented Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri.

Leonardo Bonucci had scored early for the eight-time reigning Serie A champions but Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo hit back for Sassuolo before Ronaldo’s point-saving intervention from the spot in Turin.

Juventus have a two-point lead on top of Serie A but were overtaken by Inter Milan, who beat struggling SPAL  2-1, later on Sunday.

Sassuolo, in 12th, claimed their first-ever point at Juventus, and held Sarri’s unbeaten champions to their third draw of the season.

“We got into trouble on our own, we didn’t use our heads in the first half, as the goals conceded show,” said Sarri.

“Every time we lost the ball we left ourselves open. We had a first half without application and little energy from the character point of view.

“But we were coming off two games in which we used up a lot of energy against Atalanta and Atletico Madrid.

“The reaction came at the end and we could even have won it.”

Ronaldo started up front, having missed last weekend’s league game with a slight knee problem, as Paulo Dybala, who scored in their Champions League win over Atletico Madrid, started on the bench.

Eighteen-year-old Stefano Turati made an impressive debut in the Sassuolo goal, and pulled off a string of fine saves, denying Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Dybala late.

But Juventus counterpart Gianluigi Buffon had a nightmare. The 41-year-old, making just his fifth start this season, was at fault in Caputo’s goal just after the break.

Bonucci got Juventus off the mark with a long-range effort on 20 minutes.

Three minutes later Boga pounced on a Caputo cross and sent it past an out-rushing Buffon from an angle.

Caputo added a second following a mix-up between Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs De Ligt in the Juventus defense, with Buffon then fumbling the effort into the back of the net.

Turati got down low to deny Higuain after getting his hand to send a Ronaldo free kick over the bar. Ronaldo’s penalty pulled the hosts level on 68 minutes after Filippo Romagna fouled substitute Dybala.

It was the Portuguese star’s fifth Serie A goal this season.

“Ronaldo has regained stamina, the next step will be to recover brilliance, but the road is right,” insisted Sarri.

Sassuolo coach Roberto De Zerbi hailed “an important point” for his team.

“You need courage when playing here, otherwise you’re dead before kick-off,” said De Zerbi.

He also heaped praise on Turati for his solid performance.

“The lad is crazy completely. Yesterday I called him in the hotel and told him to enjoy it, that if he didn’t sleep it was normal, but not to have too many expectations, too much anxiety.”

Later, Inter host SPAL with third-placed Lazio at home against Udinese and city rivals Roma at Verona.


Revamped Barcelona start new season with spotlight on Messi

Updated 24 September 2020

Revamped Barcelona start new season with spotlight on Messi

MADRID: Lionel Messi will be there when Barcelona start their season on Sunday, just as he has been for the last two decades.

His every move, however, will be scrutinized like never before.

After all, never before had Messi told the club that he wanted to leave, and never before had Messi been forced to stay.

Will Messi still give his best? Will he still be motivated? Will the transfer saga affect him?

Some of those questions may start being answered on Sunday when Barcelona open their Spanish league season against Villarreal at the Camp Nou. It will be the club’s league debut after the first two matches were postponed because of their  participation in the Champions League late last season.

The team’s last official match was the embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals in August, one of the worst defeats in the club’s history and in Messi’s career. The result thrust Barcelona into one of their worst crises ever, and led Messi to make public his desire to leave.

The Argentina great eventually backtracked after Barcelona denied his request to leave for free. He said he didn’t want to get into a legal dispute with the “club of his life.” But Messi made it more than clear that he would have rather left, and openly criticized club president Josep Bartomeu for not keeping his promise to let him go.

Still, Messi said he would give his best despite having wanted to leave, and there were no signs of any letdown in the preparation matches in which he played ahead of what should be his final season with the club.

“For a moment I thought he wouldn’t stay with us,” Barcelona teammate Sergi Roberto said. “He’s our captain, the best player this club has ever had and the best player in the history of soccer. I couldn’t imagine Barça without Leo. It’s normal that he may have wanted a different experience, but he has given it all for this club throughout the years. He has been motivated since he came to the first team. He is very professional.”

Messi stayed but Barcelona will have a new coach as part of the profound changes announced by the club following the loss to Bayern. Ronald Koeman arrived to replace Quique Setien, and it didn’t take long before the Dutch coach said he wanted to revamp the squad. Barcelona will start the season without some of their key players from recent years, including Ivan Rakitic, who rejoined Sevilla, and Luis Suarez, who joined rival Atletico Madrid.

Also new for Barcelona is the fact that they will be coming off a trophy-less season for the first time since 2007-08. The team finished five points behind Real Madrid in the league last season despite having the lead when the competition was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic with 11 matches remaining.

 

Madrid vs. Pellegrini

Defending champion Real Madrid have a difficult second match on Saturday against Real Betis, which have won two in a row to start the season under veteran Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini, a former Madrid coach.

Madrid struggled in attack in its opening 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad last Sunday, when Eden Hazard still wasn’t available. It remains unlikely that Hazard will be fit to face Betis at the Benito Villamarín Stadium.

 

Suarez’s Atletico

Atletico will make their Spanish league debut on Sunday against Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, but it’s unclear if Suarez will be ready to play after joining from Barcelona.

Diego Costa was set to be in the attack after Alvaro Morata joined Juventus to open space for Suarez.

Like Atletico and Barcelona, Sevilla also had their first two matches postponed because of European competition after winning the Europa League in August. And their  opener on Sunday at promoted Cadiz will come only three days after they play  Bayern Munich in the the Super Cup.