Juventus Denied by VAR as Szczesny Gifts Udinese Precious Point

Despite his absence from the starting lineup, Cristiano Ronaldo dominated the headlines ahead of the big opening round encounter between Udinese and Juventus. The legendary striker entered the pitch in the second half, and thought to have gifted his side an injury-time winner (reminiscently to last season’s match), but he was denied by a marginal offside call from the VAR room, as the visitors ended up dropping two important points despite having taken a healthy half time lead.

Luca Gotti maintained his 3-5-1-1 tactical formation from last season, with Ignacio Pussetto returning from a long layoff – due to an injury that he sustained against the Old Lady in January – to lead the line against the very same opponents. The Argentine was supported by his compatriot and former Watford teammate Roberto Pereyra who was facing his ex-club.

Nahuel Molina occupied the right wingback role for the Zebrette, with 18-year-old Destiny Udogie on the opposite flank. The midfield trio was composed of  Jean-Viktor Makengo, Walace and Tolgay Arslan.

On the other corner, Massimiliano Allegri adopted a hybrid formation between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. In the absence of Ronaldo, Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala started upfront, supported by Juan Cuadrado. Federico Bernardeschi played as a Mezzala alongside Rodrigo Bentancur, whilst Aaron Ramsey was deployed in a his new deep-lying playmaker role.

Dybala was eager to put his personal woes from last season behind him right from the get-go and he managed to break the deadlock after just two minutes of play. Cuadrado did well on the right wing to find Bentancur inside the Udinese box, and the Uruguayan was able to connect with La Joya who scored the first Juventus goal of the season with a simple finish.

After finding themselves trailing early on their home turf, the hosts tried to to make something going. Whilst they weren’t able to create a flurry of attacks, they did threat Wojciech Szczesny’s goal on a couple of occasions. Ignacio played a give-and-go with Pereyra, but he just couldn’t put enough power behind his shot, as the Polish goalkeeper managed to catch it. The striker was the main source of danger for his club, and he almost found the back of the net as he rose to meet a corner kick, but his header went wide.

Whilst Udinese were hoping to find an equalizer, they were hit by a swift counter attack from Juventus. Dybala’s long ball found Cuadrado who rounded Bram Nuytinck before coolly slotting his shot pass Marco Silvestri. The rest of the first half saw little action, as the visitors took a healthy two-goal lead despite creating very few goal-scoring opportunities.

Nonetheless, it was all about to change with the start of the second period. Udinese were adamant on giving it a real fight, and Szczesny couldn’t hang on to the ball after saving Arslan’s initial shot, before committing a foul on the German who pounced on the rebound. Pereyra converted from the spot as the hosts reignited the match.

The Old Lady almost restored her two-goal lead when Alex Sandro’s cross was met by Morata’s header, but the ball hit the post.

At the hour mark, Ronaldo entered the pitch alongside Giorgio Chiellini and Dejan Kulusevski as Allegri decided to make a change a personnel. The Portuguese almost immediately found the back of the net when Dybala fed him with a sublime cross from a free kick, but his header went wide.

Few minutes later, CR7 set up a ball for Bentancur who tried his luck from outside of the Udinese box, but Juventus were once again denied by the post.

However, the visitors struggled on the physical level during the final twenty minutes, and another shocking blunder from Szczesny gifted the home side the equalizer. The Pole tried to round Stefano Okaka, but his clearance hit the Italian’s body and allowed Gerard Deulofeu to score the easiest of goals.

The Zebrette almost found a winning goal at the 90th minute, when Okaka stormed into the box and fed Mato Jajalo, but the latter’s shot went high.

Two minutes later, Dybala’s brilliant curler was parried away by Silvestri. However, the action was far from over, as Federico Chiesa’a sublime cross found Ronaldo who thought that he headed home the winner. Nonetheless, VAR ended up denying the former Real Madrid star, as the match ended 2-2.

In a story of two halves, Juventus failed to gift their returning manager a winning debut, as they strangely wasted a two-goal, as Udinese secured an important first point.



August 22, 2021 – Serie A 2021-22 Round 1

SCORERS: 3′ Dybala (J), 11′ Cuadrado (J), 51′ Pereyra (U, pen.), 83′ Deulofeu (U)

UDINESE (3-5-2): Silvestri; Becao, Nuytinck, Samir (93′ Zeegelaar); Molina, Arslan (80′ Jajalo), Walace, Makengo (57′ Deulofeu), Udogie (57′ Stryger Larsen); Pereyra, Pussetto (80′ Okaka). (Padelli, Scuffet, Cristo, De Maio, Ianesi, Palumbo, Samardzic) Coach: Gotti
JUVENTUS (4-3-3): Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Bentancur (90′ Locatelli), Ramsey (59′ Chiellini), Bernardeschi (60′ Kulusevski); Cuadrado (74′ Chiesa), Morata (60′ Cristiano Ronaldo), Dybala (Perin, Pinsoglio, De Sciglio, Kaio Jorge, Lu. Pellegrini, Ranocchia, Rugani) Coach: Allegri

REFEREE: Mr. Pezzuto from Lecce
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Walace (U), Szczesny, Kulusevski, Cristiano Ronaldo (J); Added Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 6′

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