Udinese – Juventus (22 Aug 21)

2021 European Apertura Top 25 (4 of 25)

With Italy’s Serie A finally joining the fray, this season opener looked like an easy win to kick off Max Allegri’s second spell in charge of Juventus. Even with Cristiano Ronaldo benched in anticipation of a late-breaking transfer, Paolo Dybala scored an early goal, and while Udinese looked much better after conceding, Juan Cuadrado added a second midway through a first half that Juventus confidently owned.

But at the start of the second half, Wojciech Szczęsny gave up a rebound on a Tolgay Arslan shot—and then a penalty trying to recover from the first error. Former Juventus man Roberto Pereyra converted to pull Udinese back within one. Just before the hour mark, Gerard Deulofeu came on as part of a double substitution to refresh Udinese’s right flank, and almost immediately drew what looked like a penalty.

While VAR considered the matter (eventually denying a penalty), Allegri made a triple-change of his own, bringing Giorgio Chiellini in to create a back three and replacing Álvaro Morata with Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus continued to threaten, and with 15’ remaining Allegri added Federico Chiesa to the mix.

But it was Udinese’s Deulofeu who instead scored an 83’ equalizer when Szczęsny gifted him an opportunity trying to dribble his way out of trouble. In injury time, Ronaldo scored a game-winner off a Chiesa cross, whipping his shirt off in celebration—only to have a lengthy and controversial VAR offsides ruling deny the goal.

This would prove to be Ronaldo’s last performance as a Juventus player, as his return to Manchester United was announced six days later. A loss to newly-promoted Empoli the following weekend would further underline the scope of Allegri’s task. 5th place going into the winter break leaves work to be done for Allegri’s side, though an unexpected 1st place finish ahead of Chelsea in the Champions League group stage offers cause for optimism. For their part, Udinese managed to win their next two games before falling back to Earth, and by the winter break they were in 14th, matching their final position last season.

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