WHAT WE LEARNED: CAGLIARI VS JUVENTUS
After the midweek painful elimination from the Champions League, it was imperative that Juve shifted their focus back on the league and what is still a difficult road towards any challenge for the title. Against the bottom dwellers Cagliari, most observers expected a drubbing from Juve. While the result in the first half led many to believe this game would run away from being competitive, it remained very much in play. Surprisingly, Cagliari did not back down in the second half and proved a formidable opponent. What many grasp coming away from this game was the very much media-driven Ronaldo exorcising his demons game. It sure did seem that way and after a hattrick within the first half, it was clear Ronaldo had a point to make, his goals are not drying up anytime soon.
The figure of this game and this quick turnaround in this complex season continues to be Ronaldo. While all week we heard from the media about how Ronaldo was invisible against Porto and how he was on his way out, he made sure to say after his third goal that he heard the criticism and all of that made him stronger. Unleashed on the poor Cagliari defense was a Ronaldo wanting to put the past behind him and focus on the road ahead. Despite his impeccable goalscoring record, we were all treated to a Ronaldo hat trick which is very rare in this league. A variety of abilities defined this hat trick as well with a trademark hang time header, him calling for the ball off the corner before it was even kicked. The next few minutes signified an encounter marked between Cagliari’s keeper Cragno and Ronaldo, multiple clashes with one ending with a bloodied keeper. An accidental clash, nevertheless a game impacting one. A few minutes later Ronaldo was tripped up by Cragno and a critically finished penalty ensued. The final one was purely vintage Ronaldo with a slight stopover followed by a powerful strike with the weaker foot. All three goals with immense power and fury, he was definitely wanting to turn the page. It is and will continue to be immensely frustrating to see him get the blame for our shortfalls this season, he alone at times is the only reason why are competitive at all. He along with Chiesa who had a speedy run and assist for the third goal was the difference today.
Overall, it was a quiet game for most of the squad. Once the time came that a 3-0 lead was quickly established, conformity set in, and the team eased up. To start the second we saw a decent half from Cagliari, significant waves of attack leading to a goal team goal by the way of Simeone who was left wide open in the box. These lapses which are rare to see gave the perception that Juve would have rather seen the game ended at the half. As for the rest of the squad besides Ronaldo and Chiesa, it became a matter of defending the lead. However, I must point out at this moment the increasingly worrisome run of form Kulusevski is in. There is no doubt in my mind that if he were a well-established player in his prime he would be receiving much more criticism for his performances. The last few games have seen him turn into a ghost of his former self of early this season. There is a lack of composure, awareness of his surroundings, and a general disconnect with his teammates. We all know he has the ability on the ball, but once he gets by a player or two there is rarely if any end product. Whether this has to do with his general random positioning remains to be seen, but in a time where the money is increasingly scarce, it is time we see some return on investment.
Finally, I just wanted to briefly address the nostalgia of playing against two former Juve players today in the form of Rugani and Asamoah. Rugani has unfortunately not been a significant player for any team this season, coming off the bench in this game. This is his second loan spell this season alone so I highly doubt that will see him again in a Juve shirt. It was also great to see Asamoah again, this time thankfully not in an Inter shirt. Players like him remind me of our great days in the mid-2010s, so every time we get to play against his teams he brings back many memories and I am eternally grateful for his time at the club.
In a weekend that did little if anything to shift the tide of the Serie A season, Juve did what was necessary in a brief 30 minutes of fury to unleash the pain inflicted by the midweek champions league elimination. All that remains is for Juve to keep on winning and hope for Inter trips. Something so simple yet mind-boggling in a season where everything seems to be going Inter’s way.