Verona: Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo missed chances to score on his Series A debut but helped Juventus get their title defence off to a winning start with a late 3-2 victory against Chievo in the opening match of the 2018-2019 league season on Saturday.
Ronaldo, 33, who joined from Real Madrid last month in a deal worth 100 million euros ($114.5 million), played the entire match in the northeastern town, celebrating with his new teammates after the bruising encounter.
“Cristiano held up well on his debut, it’s a pity he didn’t score but he worked well with the team after only seven days together,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“I was struck by how at ease he was in the team, he was very happy with the win at the end, he had a good match.
“It’s a victory that we needed, to get us into the championship.”
Amid drama in the final minutes, substitute Federico Bernardeschi scored the winner in injury time after Mario Mandzukic had a goal disallowed and Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino was floored and required medical assistance.
Germany international Sami Khedira had opened the scoring after just three minutes at the Bentegodi Stadium for the seven-time defending champions.
Ronaldo came close to his first Serie A goal in the 18th minute from a Juan Cuadrado cross but drilled just wide, with Cuadrado firing over minutes later despite having the Portuguese striker well-placed, before Douglas Costa curled over the crossbar.
But the Flying Donkeys were not intimidated by their lofty rivals with ex-Juventus and Napoli player Emanuele Giaccherini setting up Mariusz Stepinski to head in a 37th-minute equaliser following poor defending by Leonardo Bonucci.
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny could do nothing to keep out his compatriot’s effort, having replaced the departed Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal for this season.
The game turned on its head when new Juventus signing Joao Cancelo fouled Giaccherini in the box with the latter slotting in after 56 minutes.
But Chievo’s Mattia Bani turned into his own net after 75 minutes following pressure from returning Juventus defender Bonucci to pull the champions level.
“We let our focus dip after the first goal, we thought we had the match in the bag,” said Allegri.
“Ronaldo had several shots on target today, Sorrentino made several saves, there were also some good movements that were not rewarded by the midfielders.
“He pulled a lot, he moved between the lines, but he was not being served on several occasions.”
Bernardeschi stabbed in a low Alex Sandro cross to seal the first three points for the champions as they target an eighth straight league title.
“We were caught napping on the equaliser and did better with Bernardeschi and Mandzukic coming on towards the end,” added Allegri.
“We need to find balance, but the most important thing is not to fall asleep when we’re doing well.”
The game had been preceded by a minute’s silence for the victims of the Genoa bridge disaster with players taking to the pitch wearing black armbands.
The opening round of matches involving both Genoa teams were postponed because of the bridge collapse in the port city.
Sampdoria had been due to host Fiorentina and Genoa to travel to AC Milan.
Meanwhile, another big-name arrival in Serie A, Carlo Ancelotti, makes his debut as Napoli coach as last year’s runners-up take on Lazio in Rome later Saturday. -APP