Sarri's men splutter in Ronaldo's absence

By Sports Desk February 16, 2020

After 37 minutes at the Allianz Stadium, Brescia could at least be grateful Maurizio Sarri had spared them the torment of trying to contain Cristiano Ronaldo.

Serie A's second-bottom side had just been reduced to 10 men, forward Florian Aye bounding untidily into Aaron Ramsey with the enthusiasm and poise of a Labrador puppy to earn a second booking in the space of three and a half minutes.

The visitors were already operating with their third-choice goalkeeper between the posts, an early head injury having accounted for Jesse Joronen's understudy Enrico Alfonso and thrusting Lorenzo Andrenacci into an unexpected top-flight debut.

It meant opportunity knocked for Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, the Argentina duo who were leading the Juve attack as Ronaldo, who has scored in every appearance in 2020, enjoyed a well-earned rest.

Higuain and Dybala have had to tailor their games this term under Sarri, operating within a significantly different tactical setup and very much at Ronaldo's service.

Nevertheless, the gulf in Serie A goal returns from the trio heading into the weekend was stark: Ronaldo boasting a haul of 20 in 2019-20 set against five apiece for his two attacking colleagues.

As Juve resume their pursuit of that elusive Champions League crown and contend with Inter's unflinching challenge domestically, it would be preferable to see the burden shared more equitably – irrespective of Ronaldo's superpowers showing little sign of fading.

Higuain offered a demonstration of his underrated selflessness just after the half hour, stealing in front of Ales Mateju and cutting an inviting ball back across goal. It laid on the sort of chance Ronaldo has gleefully gobbled up time and again over recent weeks, but Dybala failed to adjust to the bounce and skewed woefully wide from eight yards.

Aye's indiscretion allowed him to make amends in style, lifting a delicate free-kick beyond Andrenacci.

Higuain and Dybala each went close with fine angled strikes before the break but, not for the first time over recent weeks, a presumed formality for Sarri's men became a bit of a slog.

Brescia's defending was often of the last-ditch variety – Stefano Sabelli showing great poise to clear off the line and deny Higuain before Birkir Bjarnason bravely denied Dybala at the end of a slaloming run – although their Iceland midfielder fired a presentable half-chance over from 20 yards in the 72nd minute.

It required the more unheralded member of Sarri's Ronaldo-less trident, Juan Cuadrado, to make the points safe. Cuadrado found a cute finish after a clever one-two with substitute Blaise Matuidi.

Like Dybala's, this was another goal wonderfully easy on the eye. The concern for Juventus and their coach is they are increasingly reliant on such moments of magic or Ronaldo's enduring brilliance. Sarrismo is yet to fully take hold in Turin, with the collective frequently underwhelming.

Higuain had a header ruled out for offside and Dybala crashed against the crossbar late on, meaning Inter's goal difference remains five better than Juve's ahead of Sunday's blockbuster clash with third-placed Lazio in Rome.

For the fine-margins battle ahead, it is hard to escape the feeling Juventus need more than the sporadic flashes of brilliance that are just about sustaining them at present.

Related items

  • Messi to Inter? Of course Nerazzurri can sign Barca star – Cauet Messi to Inter? Of course Nerazzurri can sign Barca star – Cauet

    Former Inter midfielder Benoit Cauet insisted the Nerazzurri can sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

    Messi has been linked to Inter since ex-president Massimo Moratti said the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining the Serie A club was not a "forbidden dream".

    Barca captain Messi is contracted to the LaLiga champions until 2021 but his future is far from certain at Camp Nou, where he has clashed with board members this season.

    "Of course Inter can sign Lionel Messi, there are no doubts that they could," Cauet, who won the UEFA Super Cup with Inter in 1997-98, said in an Instagram Live interview.

    "President Steven Zhang has the financial capabilities and the potential ambition. He is a president who thinks big."

    Messi – who moved to Barca from boyhood club Newell's Old Boys in 2001 – had scored 24 goals across all competitions before the 2019-20 season was postponed due to coronavirus.

    The 32-year-old attacker tops the LaLiga scoring charts with 19 goals through 27 rounds.

  • 'Who is the Greatest?' Pele? Messi? Ronaldo? 'Who is the Greatest?' Pele? Messi? Ronaldo?
  • Coronavirus: Sampdoria president says Serie A season 'must end here' Coronavirus: Sampdoria president says Serie A season 'must end here'

    Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero said the Serie A season "must end here" as it would be pointless to restart the league without fans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Serie A was suspended indefinitely last month due to the spread of COVID-19, and authorities have insisted they will not even consider resuming action until it is safe to do so.

    It remains to be seen if and when the 2019-20 campaign returns but matches behind closed doors are almost a certainty in Italy, where more than 17,600 people have died from coronavirus.

    "Let's organise ourselves to say that this championship must end here and now," Ferrero told Telenord.

    "I say it with a heavy heart, because I do want to resume, but only when I can see our beautiful stadium with fans beating their drums.

    "I saw Sampdoria-Verona behind closed doors and it hurt my soul to see it played in silence. How can you celebrate a result in that desolate landscape?

    "Why bother playing a game without fans, the colours all around, the noise and cheering, this is football, this is entertainment and 90 minutes of pure adrenaline. A game without fans, what even is it?"

    The last Serie A game before the league's postponement was on March 9 – Sassuolo defeated Brescia 3-0.

    Sampdoria were 16th and only a point above the relegation zone after 25 games when the Serie A came to a halt last month.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.