Three years ago, Juventus bet on Cristiano Ronaldo leading them to Champions League glory. Since then, he has worked against the underdog in the knockout stages, losing to Ajax in the last eight in 2019, to Lyon in the knockout stages last season and now to Porto. Coincidentally, the president of Juve and his own bad idea machine, Andrea Agnelli, acknowledges that football would be better if transfers between big teams were a thing of the past.
Agnelli, president of the Association of European Clubs, is one of the main drivers of the reforms that will make the Champions League even more elitist. In his head, soccer is not about surprises. And in his world, the path to glory is achieved with one of the best examples of big club glut: betting everything on a retired superstar whose aging legs make it impossible for Juve to usher in a more expansive style of play with his inexperienced trainer. , Andrea Pirlo.
Maybe Ronaldo, always the showman, still has it in him to defy time. But there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Juve, who are 10 points behind Internazionale at the top of Serie A, have become a worse team since they bought them from Real Madrid.
They were deservedly honored by Porto, who somehow reached the round of 16 with away goals despite playing most of the second leg in Turin with 10 men after a moment of utter madness from Mehdi Taremi.
The decisive moment came when Porto, so brave on and off the ball, won a free kick with five minutes to go into extra time. Sérgio Oliveira, who had put the visitors 3-1 up on aggregate with a penalty in the first half, slammed the ball low and hard into the wall. Ronaldo jumped, turned his back and the ball went through his legs, leaving Wojciech Szczesny without seeing and unable to react in time. There was no better way to sum up Juve’s inertia.
Although Adrien Rabiot was quick to backtrack to set a frenzied finale on a crazy night, Juve seemed further away than ever from becoming European champions for the first time since 1996. Sérgio Conceição’s brave losers were deserved winners.
Porto kept their nerves and quelled Juve’s attempt to achieve a spectacular winner. They broke at the start of the second half, conceding when Ronaldo briefly moved and created a good goal for Federico Chiesa and the Portuguese team made their task even more difficult when Taremi gave Bjorn Kuipers the opportunity to show him a second yellow card after kick the ball. away when I was already on a reservation.
Chiesa soon tied Juve on aggregate, heading into his third goal of the tie. But Juve lacked ideas against 10 men. Waster Álvaro Morata had an offside winner disallowed and Juan Cuadrado smashed the crossbar late in regulation, but Porto’s heroic defense dug deep to force extra time and maintained their threat on the counterattack. Juve got lucky when Moussa Marega headed straight for Szczesny.
Ronaldo was poor. When Juve disbursed all that money to him, they had a glimpse of something greater than this. “These are their games,” Pirlo said before the game, building the legend, but Porto had no reason to be afraid. They did not sit to their advantage from the first leg. Strong in the back and dangerous at halftime, they created plenty of opportunities in the first half, with seven attempts on goal in the first 25 minutes.
They led after winning a penalty in the 17th minute, Merih Demiral committed an awkward foul on Taremi. Oliveira sent Szczesny down the wrong path.
Juve were often static in the last third and Agustín Marchesín denied Morata twice. While Ronaldo barely participated in the overall game, he made an impact when he finally had a touch in the Porto area. Running towards Leonardo Bonucci’s pass, he set Chiesa up for a delightful finish.
Porto, led by 38-year-old Pepe, as center back, began to get restless. Taremi, who had just received a warning, tried to waste time kicking the ball when Marega was penalized. The referee needed little convincing to fire Taremi.
Juve equalized in the 63rd minute, with a Chiesa header in a center from Cuadrado. Somehow, however, Porto accomplished the impossible.
The irony of Juve’s departure should not go unnoticed by anyone after Agnelli’s behavior.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism