Ronaldo warms up to huge cheers ahead of Juventus debut
The 33-year-old forward appeared relaxed after Saturday’s 3-2 victory against Chievo Verona and, although Ronaldo did not stop to speak to reporters, he responded with those gestures when asked how he felt his debut had gone.
His coach wasn’t too troubled either.
“Cristiano Ronaldo had a good game. He had several shots on goal. Today he didn’t score because clearly it was written somewhere that he wouldn’t score,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri with a smile.
For the thousands of fans who descended on the medieval city of Verona, this was one of the rare occasions when the five-time world player of the year couldn’t score.
Ronaldo had scored in both pre-season friendlies he played for Juventus since his surprise 112 million euro (then $131.5 million) move from Real Madrid but could not find the back of the net on his competitive debut.
And it was up to Federico Bernardeschi to rescue Juventus, with a stoppage-time winner as the Bianconeri fought back from a goal down to beat Chievo and get their pursuit of an eighth straight league title off to a winning start.
Ronaldo should make his home debut next week against Lazio and there were encouraging signs for Juventus from this game.
He linked up well with Douglas Costa, notably in the 18th minute when Ronaldo’s effort went just the wrong side of the left post.
Ronaldo also fired narrowly over from a tight angle on the half-hour, while he drew several smart saves from Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino, who is still going strong at the age of 39.
The Portugal international almost scored the winner at 2-2, but Sorrentino got down quickly to beat away his angled free kick.
“(Ronaldo) moved well at times but he wasn’t picked out by his teammates,” Allegri said. “He’s a different footballer, you can see that. He’s integrated into the team with ease.”
The excitement had been building in Verona since the fixtures were announced. The match at the Stadio Bentegodi was sold out and long queues to get in formed more than three hours before kickoff.
The team bus carrying Ronaldo and his Juventus teammates was greeted by huge cheers, with fans crowding onto the balconies of the stadium.
Ronaldo warmed up with crowd-pleasing ball tricks and Juventus fans cheered his every touch.
Juventus took the lead after just 162 seconds as Chievo failed to properly clear a free kick and Sami Khedira fired Juventus in front.
The Bianconeri wasted chances to double their lead, with Ronaldo going close on several occasions.
Mariusz Stepinski headed Chievo level shortly before halftime and Emanuele Giaccherini converted a penalty after being brought down by Juventus debutant Joao Cancelo.
But Leonardo Bonucci marked his return to Juventus with a role in the equalizer after the Italy defender spent just one season at AC Milan.
Bonucci headed in a corner in the 75th. The goal, which went down later as an own-goal from Chievo defender Mattia Bani, was met with a mix of cheers and jeers by the visiting fans.
Mario Mandzukic’s goal was ruled out by the video assistant referee shortly before full time following a foul on Sorrentino which led to an anxious few minutes as the goalkeeper received medical treatment on the pitch.