Juventus earned a first away win in seven Serie A matches with a 4-1 victory over Spezia on Sunday, but it required the introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo to swing the match.
The Bianconeri were labouring to a draw after Tommaso Pobega cancelled out Alvaro Morata’s early strike, but Ronaldo’s impact from the bench after a three week coronavirus-enforced absence was instant.
Ronaldo netted within minutes of entering the pitch in the second half and after Adrien Rabiot had added gloss to the scoreline, the Portuguese star completed his brace with a late penalty.
Ronaldo’s return papers over the cracks
With nine consecutive Scudetti under their belts, Juventus entered the new campaign as favourites once more, but it is fair to say that the season has not gone to plan. The Bianconeri had only won two matches on the pitch and without Ronaldo had only managed a single victory, against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.
Despite having a Morata goal disallowed and Spezia’s Julian Chalot clearing off the line, Andrea Pirlo’s side looked disjointed and were on the backfoot in the second period.
In stepped Ronaldo to turn the tide and seal a first away victory since early July, but Juventus must find a way to win without the former Real Madrid man. An over-reliance on the 35-year-old is not sustainable and Pirlo will have been disappointed that Paulo Dybala was unable to raise his game on Sunday.
Morata’s growing influence
Leading the line as Ronaldo started on the bench, Morata was Juventus’ brightest spark and was unfortunate to only finish with a single goal.
The Spain international was gifted the easiest of finishes in the opening quarter of an hour courtesy of unselfish play from Winston McKennie, but he looked to return the favour by laying on a fine cutback for the midfielder, only for the ball to be hooked off the line.
Similarly, Morata teed up Federico Chiesa and Dybala with some wonderfully weighted through balls, whilst seeing a magnificent break from the halfway line and clinical finish ruled out for a marginal offside.
It was the latest in a series of positive performances from the summer arrival and he has had a hand in six of the Bianconeri’s 10 goals this season. The perfect foil for Pirlo’s system, Juventus would be wise to focus on getting the former Atletico Madrid striker as involved as possible.