The Bianconeri triumphed 3-2 on the Champions League night but bowed out at the last 16 stage on away goals after a dramatic encounter in Turin
Andrea Pirlo said Cristiano Ronaldo was “fired up” for Tuesday night’s Champions League showdown with Porto.
“These are his games,” the Juventus coach told reporters. This wasn’t his game, though – not even close. The Corriere dello Sport even went so far as to say that the Old Lady had been betrayed by Ronaldo.
Of course, the big question is what Agnelli will decide to do with Ronaldo and Pirlo? The former is a colossal strain on the club’s resources; the latter has failed to prove he can deliver the European glory Juve so sorely crave.
Sporting director Fabio Paratici insisted at the weekend that he retains full faith in the Pirlo project but it was telling that the rookie coach was asked on Monday if he felt his future depended on the outcome of the Porto game.
“If I thought so,” he told reporters, “I wouldn’t be here.” Who knows now, though, how long he’ll be at Juve?
The same goes for Ronaldo, who must now be questioning whether he should see out the final year of his contract.
He remains a goalscoring machine but looks unsuited to Pirlo’s style of play.
As in the first leg at the Dragao, the Portuguese superstar struggled to get into the game.
And as at the Dragao, it was Federico Chiesa – not Ronaldo – who dragged Juve back into the tie.
Juventus had performed pathetically in Porto, but the Italy international’s composed strike with just eight minutes to go secured the visitors a precious away goal.
It was wiped out just 18 minutes into Tuesday night’s return clash in Turin, with Sergio Oliveira coolly converting a penalty awarded for Merih Demiral’s clumsy challenge on Mehdi Taremi.
Consequently, Juve needed two goals just to force extra-time. They got them – thanks to the irrepressible Chiesa.
And it is he that the Bianconeri now arguably need to build their team around, given he has gone from strength to strength since joining from Fiorentina last summer.
Ronaldo, to his credit, was involved in the equaliser, laying the ball off for Chiesa, who finished emphatically into the top-right corner of the Porto net.
Then, after Taremi had been stupidly sent off for booting the ball away while already on a booking, Chiesa levelled the tie on aggregate by rising at the back post to expertly guide home the most inviting of crosses from the excellent Juan Cuadrado.
Juve had numerous chances to win the game, even before it went to extra-time, with Ronaldo surprisingly mistiming the kind of header he normally buries with ease.
Almost inevitably, the home side were punished for their profligacy when Sergio struck again, this time with a long-range free kick that Wojciech Szczesny really should have saved even accounting for the shameful disintegration of his wall, with Ronaldo again culpable.
That left Juve needing to win 4-2 to progress and Adrien Rabiot’s header with three minutes of extra time remaining gave the hosts renewed hope of a great escape.
But they could find no way past Pepe & Co. in the dying seconds despite intense pressure. It just wasn’t their night. Or Ronaldo’s game.
And one wonders now whether it will prove his last in the Champions League for Juventus