Udinese 2-2 Juventus: Ronaldo denied stoppage-time winner after Szczesny clangers

By Sports Desk August 22, 2021

Surprise substitute Cristiano Ronaldo was denied a winner by VAR deep into stoppage time as Juventus drew 2-2 at Udinese following a pair of Wojciech Szczesny blunders.

Impressive early strikes from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado looked to have paved the way for a season-opening Serie A success, and a first win of head coach Massimiliano Allegri's second spell in charge of Juventus.

But a mistake by goalkeeper Szczesny was punished from the penalty spot early in the second half, and a desperate clanger in the 83rd minute allowed Gerard Deulofeu to net a dramatic leveller.

In a ripsnorting finish, Udinese almost sneaked a winner, Mato Jajalo firing over in the 90th minute, before Ronaldo headed in a Federico Chiesa cross in the fourth minute of stoppage time. The celebrations were wild, and a euphoric Ronaldo was booked for removing his shirt, before he was left stunned to see the goal disallowed for offside.

Ronaldo and Dybala have contracts that run to the end of this season, and there seems scant prospect of both staying in Turin. Dybala is seemingly keen to remain, Ronaldo less so, and his omission from the starting XI here sparked fresh speculation about his future. 

Juventus took just two minutes and three seconds to surge ahead, their earliest goal in a season opener during the three-points-for-a-win era, which began in 1994-95. 

Giorgio Chiellini was on the bench so Dybala captained the team, and it was the Argentine forward who produced a special finish to catch the hosts cold. Rodrigo Bentancur slid in a low ball from the right and Dybala cleverly flicked the ball across goal into the left corner. 

Dybala then played a key role in the second Juventus goal, which came in the 23rd minute, looping a long pass to Cuadrado, who took his first touch just a couple of strides outside the Udinese penalty area. The Colombian shuffled skilfully past flummoxed Udinese captain Bram Nuytinck and lashed a low shot into the same corner that Dybala had earlier found. 

Juventus looked practically home and hosed at the break, but conceded a penalty in the 50th minute when Szczesny made a poor parry of Tolgay Arslan's shot before bringing down the Udinese man as he chased down the rebound. 

Former Juve man Roberto Pereyra fired the spot-kick into the right corner, before Alvaro Morata headed against the left post at the other end a couple of minutes later, from a chance he would expect to tuck away. 

Allegri saw the game potentially slipping away and sent on Ronaldo, Chiellini and Dejan Kulusevski on the hour mark, Morata among those to make way. Ronaldo soon teed up Bentancur to smash a shot against the right post, and then came the late drama, Juventus left smarting on day one of the new campaign.

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  • Croatia v Brazil: Neymar proud of matching Pele and Ronaldo as Tite explains dance joy Croatia v Brazil: Neymar proud of matching Pele and Ronaldo as Tite explains dance joy

    Brazil coach Tite has explained that joining in with his team's celebrations against South Korea was not an act of disrespect to the opposition.

    The Selecao ran out 4-1 winners against South Korea on Monday as they sealed their place in the World Cup quarter-finals in style.

    Vinicius Junior opened the scoring before Neymar converted a penalty after a foul on Richarlison, who added a sublime third prior to Lucas Paqueta rounding off Brazil's haul.

    After Richarlison's goal, which capped a superb move, Tite celebrated with the Tottenham forward by performing the 'pigeon' dance.

    He was criticised by some sections of the media, but Tite has explained he meant no disrespect.

    "We try to adapt to the athletes' characteristics. They are young, I have to get closer to their language," he said.

    "One day we were training and I said to Richarlison 'if you score a goal, I'll dance'.

    "I told the players to hide me a little, I know about the visibility.

    "I didn't want it to have any other interpretation than the joy of the goal, the result, the performance, but not disrespect for the opponent or Paulo Bento, who I have great respect for."

    With his goal, meanwhile, Neymar matched Pele and Ronaldo as the third Brazil player to score at three different World Cups. 

    The Paris Saint-Germain star is also just one short of matching Pele's record goal haul of 77 for Brazil.

    "Achieving marks is a great source of pride," Neymar said.

    "I reached numbers that I would never have imagined reaching, that's always very good. It makes me very happy."

    Croatia stand between Brazil and a place in the last four.

    Brazil have never lost in four previous meetings with Croatia, with this their first meeting since a 2-0 friendly win in June 2018.

    Brazil are looking to reach the World Cup semi-final for the ninth time, with only Germany (12) doing so more often. 

    Croatia, runners-up in 2018, have reached at least the last four of the competition on both previous occasions they've made it out of the group stages (1998 and 2018).

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Brazil – Neymar

    Neymar has been involved in 15 goals in his last 11 appearances for Brazil in all competitions (eight goals, seven assists), with each of his last six goals for the national side coming from the penalty spot.

    Last time out against South Korea, he became the first Brazil player on record (since 1966) to both score and provide an assist at three different World Cup tournaments.

    Croatia – Luka Modric

    Real Madrid star Luka Modric was not on the pitch as Croatia progressed past Japan on penalties in the last 16, but if Zlatko Dalic's team are to beat Brazil, the 37-year-old will surely be crucial.

    He will go up against former Madrid club-mate Casemiro, and will need the assistance of Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, but if Modric can wield his influence, Croatia have a chance.

    PREDICTION

    Croatia have lost four of their five World Cup games against South American sides, with the exception being a 3-0 win over Argentina in 2018. Two of those four defeats have been against Brazil – 1-0 in 2006 and 3-1 in 2014.

    Despite getting to the final in Russia, Croatia have been handed only an 11.5 per chance of victory by Opta's model, which has Brazil as the favourites with 68.2 per cent.

    The draw is at 20.3 per cent.

  • Ronaldo: Portugal will not be broken by outside forces Ronaldo: Portugal will not be broken by outside forces

    Cristiano Ronaldo declared Portugal are "too close to be broken by outside forces" in response to reports he threatened to leave the World Cup.

    Portuguese outlet Record claimed on Thursday that Ronaldo threatened to leave his country's camp in Qatar after being told he would not start the last-16 tie with Switzerland.

    That came on the back of head coach Fernando Santos criticising the captain's reaction to being substituted in the 2-1 loss to South Korea in the final group game.

    However, the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) was quick to deny that Ronaldo, who came on as a substitute in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Switzerland, made any sort of threat.

    And free agent Ronaldo took to Twitter shortly after vowing to continue giving his all in Portugal's bid to win a first World Cup.

    "A group too close to be broken by outside forces," the forward posted alongside an image of his team-mates celebrating a goal against Switzerland. 

    "A nation too brave to let itself be frightened by any adversary. A team in the truest sense of the word, which will fight for the dream until the end! Believe with us! Strength, Portugal!"

    The FPF earlier stated: "News released this Thursday reports that Ronaldo threatened to leave the national team during a conversation with Fernando Santos.

    "The FPF clarifies that at no time did the captain of the Selecao, Ronaldo, threaten to leave the national team during the stay in Qatar.

    "Ronaldo builds up a unique track record every day at the service of the national team and the country, which must be respected and which attests to the unquestionable degree of commitment to the national team.

    "Incidentally, the degree of dedication of the player most capped by Portugal was again demonstrated – if necessary – in the victory against Switzerland."

    Ronaldo's replacement, Benfica youngster Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick in the thumping win against Switzerland to set up a quarter-final with Morocco on Saturday.

    Santos is expected to stick with Ramos against Spain's conquerors Morocco, meaning a place on the bench once again for Ronaldo.

    Ronaldo, who did not take part in full training on Wednesday, is both Portugal's most-capped player (195) and all-time leading goalscorer (118).

  • Dalic not offended by Brazil's celebrations but would not want to see Croatia players dance Dalic not offended by Brazil's celebrations but would not want to see Croatia players dance

    Zlatko Dalic has no issue with Brazil's players dancing to celebrate a goal, though he would not want to see his Croatia squad do the same.

    Brazil's celebrations during their 4-1 rout of South Korea have drawn criticism from some quarters.

    Coach Tite has had to explain no disrespect was intended when he joined in with Richarlison's 'pigeon' dance after the striker netted a sublime third goal in the round of 16 match on Monday, though he also said Brazil will not stop dancing in celebration.

    Croatia meet Brazil in the first quarter-final on Friday, and Dalic would prefer his players not to celebrate in such a manner.

    "[Brazil] have their own way that they celebrate," Dalic said in a press conference.

    "They celebrate how they know, they are so festive, so in unity, demonstrating their character and tradition.

    "It's their right. Is that a disrespect towards the opponent? I cannot say.

    "I would not like to see my players celebrate like that. But it's a different culture, they like to dance and it's nice."

    While Dalic would rather come up against Brazil later in the competition, he believes taking on the five-time world champions is the pinnacle of international football.

    "There is no better moment than playing against Brazil. Anyone could only dream of such a game," he said. 

    "We know what Brazil means in the football world but we do not have a lot to lose. We must fight them, must give our best.

    "Croatia is one of the eight best in the world, that’s a great success, and we want to do more, that would be spectacular."

    Dalic's sentiment was echoed by captain Luka Modric, who said: "They have great players. Top-notch players, playing in the best leagues and clubs and I enjoy playing against them, enjoy watching them and we have a chance to face a great team like Brazil.

    "It's pure pleasure watching them. This is all that one can wish for – to play against them."

    Four-and-a-half years on from reaching the final in Russia, Dalic says Croatia must recognise they are in a rebuilding process - regardless of the result against Brazil.

    "This is a new team, we have 18 new players from the previous World Cup," Dalic explained. "We cannot draw comparisons.

    "In 2018 we had a team playing together for 10 years in a row, playing in the best leagues and clubs. This is not the situation with our current team. We need time to mature.

    "Our new team is yet to prove itself, the World Cup is a great opportunity to prove that."

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