Two games, zero goals. Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t even score from four meters (yards) on Saturday.
The Juventus forward was, however, able to offer a wry smile at his misfortune as he threw his hands up in the air. Ronaldo seemed certain to open his Serie A account in the 75th minute of the 2-0 victory against Lazio.
Joao Cancelo rolled the ball across to his Portuguese compatriot but goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha did just enough to stop him from tapping in from four meters, instead it ricocheted off Ronaldo’s feet and fell to Mario Mandzukic to score into an empty net.
“He is not angry at all, he smiled because these things happen,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. Just as it was on Ronaldo’s debut last week, when Juventus won 3-2 at Chievo Verona, it was down to his teammates to fire the Bianconeri to victory, with Miralem Pjanic also netting as the seven-time defending champions downed Lazio.
Ronaldo is finding life in Serie A harder than he might have expected. “It’s only two weeks that he’s with us,” Allegri said. “He’s intelligent and understands that Italian football is different to that in Spain. Today he played well also in defense, everyone is waiting for his first goal. I’m happy with how he’s fitting in, he is a very humble lad.”
Ronaldo left Real Madrid in the offseason in a Serie A record 112 million euro (then $132 million) deal, but has yet to fully adapt to Italian football. His teammates aren’t too concerned.
“He is the best player in the world. For us it is something exceptional, we are very happy to play with him,” Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi said. “We’re going to help him score goals because it is in his DNA.
“We know that if he scores goals it will help us win more matches. Of course we will learn from his game. Juventus is another culture. For him, for us, to understand his game. He is someone who goes forward very quickly, who is very mobile, we need to understand each other better. We will improve in that sense and I know he will score an enormous amount of goals.”
Ronaldo scored in Turin in three previous visits with Madrid, including a spectacular overhead kick which earned him a standing ovation from the Juventus fans last year.
Those same supporters were anxious for Ronaldo to find the target on his home debut on Saturday, and there was an air of nervous expectation around the Allianz Stadium.
He was largely anonymous in the first half and had only one touch in the opposition box. The closest he came to scoring was when his hand appeared to brush Federico Bernardeschi’s attempt, which was palmed away by Strakosha.
Pjanic gave Juventus the lead, shortly after Sami Khedira had hit the post, with a 20-meter volley into the bottom corner on the half hour. The 33-year-old Ronaldo did better in the second half. He almost laid on a second goal with a series of stepovers on the left of the penalty area before putting in a cross that Mandzukic somehow ballooned over.
Excitement grew to a crescendo when Juventus was awarded a free kick just outside the area, but Ronaldo sent his effort into the Lazio wall. He was getting closer, though, as he sent a header narrowly wide and then fired a dipping 20-meter shot which Strakosha did well to fingertip over the crossbar, before his moment of misfortune arrived.
Dries Mertens came off the bench to grab the winner as Napoli rallied from 2-0 down to beat visiting AC Milan 3-2 and seize a second victory in two matches. It meant that Carlo Ancelotti got the better of Milan counterpart Gennaro Gattuso, who used to play under the new Napoli coach when he was with the Rossoneri.
After Giacomo Bonaventura (15 minutes) and Davide Calabria (49) took advantage of questionable goalkeeping from David Ospina to give Milan a 2-0 lead, Piotr Zielinski scored twice before Mertens was left unmarked to tap the ball in 10 minutes from time.