Barak Replies to Cristiano Ronaldo as Juventus Are Held by Verona

Juventus were held by Verona for the second time this season and failed to get closer to Inter and Milan, who will both play tomorrow. The Saturday night Serie A game at the Marc’Antonio Bentegodi ended 1-1 as Antonin Barak canceled Cristiano Ronaldo’s lead and pushed the Gialloblu towards the remarkable achievement of ending the season unbeaten against the incumbent Italian champions.

The Bianconeri can blame it on their multiple absences as coach Andrea Pirlo was forced to take with him nine players from his Under-23 squad to reinforce his depleted roster. But Juventus lost again some important points against a lower-ranked side: A bad and destructive habit for Pirlo’s band, for which they may pay the price in the table at the end of the Serie A campaign.  

With Juan Cuadrado, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Danilo all unavailable in defense, Pirlo had to re-invent Alex Sandro as a center-back, placing him next to Matthijs De Ligt and Merih Demiral in a back three setup. Dejan Kulusevski was Cristiano Ronaldo’s attacking partner – being Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala both still at bay.

Verona and Nikola Juric welcomed the Bianconeri with their usual 3-4-2-1 formation, with Kevin Lasagna as a lone striker supported by Mattia Zaccagni and Antonin Barak. Former Juventus man Stefano Sturaro was deployed in the middle of the park.

The match was not what you would call a memorable one, especially in the first half. Juventus’ start was aggressive and resulted in the Bianconeri threatening Marco Silvestri’s goal multiple times, though almost never finding the target between the two posts.

On the other hand, it was Verona to come closer to breaking the deadlock on 14 minutes as Davide Faraoni headed the ball towards Wojciech Szcezesny’s goal from a right-side cross. The Polish goalkeeper’s reflexes kicked in and helped him deflect the ball into the frame, sparing his side some early blushes.

The rest of the first period was a nervous stalemate, often interrupted by referee Fabio Maresca to prevent the play from getting too rough.  

In such a standoff, there was only one man who could set the match on fire. It was – guess who?  – Cristiano Ronaldo to open the scoring on 49 minutes. Federico Chiesa caught a Dejan Kulusevski filtering pass and served the ball to the Portuguese ace, making it child’s play for him to slot it into the bottom left corner of Marco Silvestri’s goal.

But Verona were well alive and drew level on 77 minutes, when Antonin Barak climbed over Alex Sandro to receive a Darko Lazovic cross from the left side and headed the ball home, making it 1-1. Lazovic went even close to making it two for the Scaligeri, but Szczesny denied him – once again with the help of the post.

Such a colorless version of Juventus didn’t deserve more than one point and indeed the game came to an end with no further emotions from either side. A golden point for Verona, and another lost chance for the Bianconeri.



February 27, 2021 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 24

SCORERS: 49′ Cristiano Ronaldo (J), 77′ Barak (V)

VERONA (3-4-2-1): Silvestri; Magnani, Gunter, Lovato; Faraoni (84′ Dawidowicz), Sturaro (67′ Vieira), Ilic (46′ Veloso), Dimarco (51′ Lazovic); Barak, Zaccagni (84′ Bessa); Lasagna (Berardi, Pandur, Salcedo, Favilli, Udogie, Ceccherini, Taméze) Coach: Juric
JUVENTUS (3-5-2): Szczesny; Demiral, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Chiesa (86′ Di Pardo), Bentancur, Rabiot, Ramsey (68′ McKennie); Kulusevski, Cristiano Ronaldo (Pinsoglio, Buffon, Dragusin, Frabotta, Fagioli, Rafia, Peeters, Capellini, Marqués, Aké) Coach: Pirlo

REFEREE: Mr. Maresca from Naples
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Barak, Dawidowicz (V), Ramsey, De Ligt (J); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 3′