Cristiano Ronaldo Penalties Save Juventus In Battle with Atalanta

Cristiano Ronaldo buried the spot twice to score his 27th and 28th goals in this Serie A campaign and save Juventus against an Atalanta side who had taken the lead twice. Two controversial penalties kept the Bianconeri alive and made them keep their distance from Gian Piero Gasperini’s squad.

Had they won the game, Atalanta would have made a full score against Juventus for the first time since 2001 and would have come closer to threaten their leadership, reducing their gap to six points only. But goals by Duvan Zapata and Ruslan Malinovskyi were not enough as the Bianconeri resorted to their best man – who never fails to deliver when things get tough.

And so, Juventus went from risking to reduce their gap with the second to six points only, to increasing their lead over Lazio – who lost 1-2 to Sassuolo earlier in the afternoon and definitely bid farewell to any chance of disturbing the Bianconeri in their title race.   

Since the restart, Atalanta emerged as the most authoritative candidate to battle with Juventus for the Scudetto and, had they picked up their pace earlier in the season, we might be recounting a different story now. But their performance on Saturday night was really that of a great team. We’ll see what happens next year.

When everything seems to be going wrong, Juventus know that they can always count on Cristiano Ronaldo. With his brace to Atalanta, CR7 is just one goal behind Ciro Immobile in the Serie A top scorers table…

For the game at the Allianz Stadium, Maurizio Sarri recovered Matthijs De Ligt in defense. For the rest, his lineup was like the one which shockingly fell to Milan on Tuesday. Gian Piero Gasperini operated three changes versus his winning effort with Sampdoria, lining up Timothy Castagne in place of Robin Gosens who suffered a last-minute injury.

What was shocking was seeing how Juventus were totally vanquished by the Nerazzurri in the first half, not coming even close to threaten Pierluigi Gollini’s goal.

On the left side, Castagne proved to be an authentic scourge for the Bianconeri defenders who struggled to contain him – in particular Juan Cuadrado, who found himself once again in difficulty in his right-back position just like his previous performance against Milan.

Castagne served two sharp crosses for Duvan Zapata, with the Colombian narrowly missing the target in both occasions.

Zapata didn’t miss, however, in the 16th minute, finishing for the best a combination with Alejandro Gomez to put the Nerazzurri in the driving seat. Juventus protested over an alleged foul by Remo Freuler on Paulo Dybla from which the action originated, but the Swiss midfielder’s tackle seemed clean.  Zapata exchanged the ball with El Papu Gomez, who did a great work to free himself from his marker and serve it back to the Colombian – who thus netted his 14th league goal.

The restart saw Juventus more aggressive and the Bianconeri got some unexpected help as referee Piero Giacomelli awarded a controversial penalty to the home side. Paulo Dybala’s cross in the 54th minute hit Marten De Roon’s arm which was very close to the Dutchman’s body. Giacomelli was adamant in conceding the penalty. From the spot, Ronaldo made no mistake with a powerful shot.

Alejandro Gomez is challenged by Paulo Dybala. The two were among the best performers in Saturday night’s Juventus-Atalanta game

The unexpected equalizer frustrated Atalanta and gave courage to Juventus, which started to take advantage of the wider spaces left by the Nerazzurri.

In the 67th minute, Gasperini resorted to a double substitution as he pulled off his best men Duvan Zapata and Alejandro Gomez. The replacements were no less dangerous, however, in the names of Luis Muriel and Ruslan Malinovskyi. Mario Pasalic had previously replaced an uninspired version of Josip Ilicic.

A few minutes later, it was time to see Gonzalo Higuain back in action. El Pipita substituted Paulo Dybala in what would happen to be a decisive change, even if not in the way one would expect.

Gasperini’s changes also proved the right ones to make a difference as especially Malinkovskyi became a constant threat to Juventus’ backline. In the 72nd minute, the Ukrainian’s left-foot shot made a shiver run up Wojciech Szczesny’s spine as it ended its run just inches away from the goal.

Juventus’ answer lied again in Cristiano Ronaldo, who two minutes later caught a long-range pass, controlled the ball, and went for a shot which was saved by Pierluigi Gollini – with the help of his two center backs who cushioned CR7’s shot.

But Atalanta kept pressuring and found the back of the net again. In the 81st minute, Malinovskyi caught a suggestion by Luis Muriel from the left and whipped the ball past Szczesny with a stunning right-foot conclusion from out of the box.

Ruslan Malinovskyi showed that he can use both his left and right foot during Saturday night’s game with Juventus

Then fate helped Juventus again in one of the very last action of the game. From a corner kick, Pierluigi Gollini cleared the ball, which ended on Gonzalo Higuain’s foot. The Argentine’s touch made the ball bounce on Luis Muriel’s open arm and Giacomelli pointed to the spot again. Surely a clearer penalty than the first one.

Ronaldo renewed his duel with Gollini and came out as a winner again, even if this time Atalanta’s goalkeeper went close to catching his shot.

It ended 2-2, with the two sides leaving the pitch with a totally opposite mood. Atalanta put the future Italian champions to the ropes and were understandably scorned as they saw a potential victory vanish in the last minute. Juventus breathed a sigh of relief as they had to resort to two penalties to keep their distance with the ramping Nerazzurri. The difference in the night at the Allianz Stadium is all here.



July 11, 2020 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 32

SCORERS: 17′ Zapata (A), 55′ Cristiano Ronaldo (J, pen.), 81′ Malinovskyi (A), 90′ Cristiano Ronaldo (J)

JUVENTUS (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Danilo (57′ Alex Sandro); Rabiot, Bentancur, Matuidi (78′ Ramsey); Bernardeschi (58′ Douglas Costa), Dybala (71′ Higuain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Pinsoglio, Buffon, Chiellini, Pjanic, Rugani, Olivieri, Muratore) Coach: Sarri
ATALANTA (3-4-2-1): Gollini; Toloi, Palomino (75′ Caldara), Djimsiti; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler (76′ Tameze), Castagne; Gomez (69′ Malinovskyi), Ilicic (60′ Pasalic); Zapata (70′ Muriel) (Rossi, Sportiello, Sutalo, Czyborra, Bellanova, Colley) Coach: Gasperini

REFEREE: Mr. Giacomelli from Trieste
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Bernardeschi, Cuadrado, Rabiot (J), Pasalic, Hateboer (A); Extra Time: 2′, 2nd Half 3′