AS Roma 2-2 Juventus
It had been a disastrous start to the Serie A season for AS Roma.
Not that a 0-0 draw at Verona in their opener was a disaster but what followed was highly embarrassing.
After it emerged the Giallorossi irregularly fielded Amadou Diawara due to an administrative error, they were awarded a 3-0 forfeit defeat.
Diawara was irregularly registered in the Under-22 list of players, despite turning 23 in July, so was not registered on the senior player list, even after the league officials informed them of the error.
While Roma have pledged to appeal the verdict – naturally because it was a simple administrative error that did not affect the result – presumably the last thing they wanted was the arrival in town of the champions.
A Juventus side boosted by the signing of Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrid to swell their forward ranks and a team who kicked off the Andrea Pirlo era in fine fashion with a comprehensive 3-0 success against Sampdoria last weekend.
So, what followed?
Well, AS Roma put in a much-improved showing and pushed the champions all the way of course. In fact, with better finishing, they could have won but their 2020/21 campaign is now officially up and running.
Highlights of the game
After months of speculation, Edin Dzeko lined up for Roma against the club he so nearly joined, while Juventus named Morata in their starting XI.
Dzeko had seemed on the verge of a transfer to Turin, so much that he was on the substitutes bench last weekend, but Arkadiusz Milik’s Napoli dispute stalled everything and Juve instead opted for Morata.
While Dzeko spearheaded their attack, Roma also had plenty of guile in their team with two former Premier League attacking midfielders in their ranks, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and former Chelsea man Pedro.
Yet it was one of their unsung players who was their main goal threat in the Italian capital.
Many of the key Serie A highlights arrived in quick succession in the first half.
On the half-hour, midfielder Adrien Rabiot blocked a shot with his arm and Jordan Veretout netted from the spot.
Just before the break, Cristiano Ronaldo saw his shot hit Lorenzo Pellegrini’s arm and Juve had a penalty of their own. The outcome was never in doubt and Ronaldo ensured Juventus were level.
However, immediately on the stroke of half-time, a counter-attack saw Mkhitaryan pick up a superb Dzeko pass, race down the left and roll the ball across for Veretout who got away from Juan Cuadrado and rifled the ball past Wojciech Szczesny.
Buoyed by their goal on the stroke of half-time, Roma went in search of a third after the interval as Pedro saw a shot palmed away from under the bar before Dzeko could only hit the upright when sent clean through.
When Rabiot completed an evening to forget by lunging through the back of Mkhitaryan and receiving a second yellow card, the Sbotop Serie A betting odds had turned in Roma’s favour.
But when you have Ronaldo you always have a chance and, sure enough, the Portuguese genius who won this corresponding fixture last season – a key win on their way to a ninth successive Scudetto – was their hero once more.
He had to hang in the air for what seemed an age to get his head to a pinpoint cross from Danilo and the inspirational number seven expertly directed it home grab his second for the 10-men.
They return home from the Olimpico with a point and a sign their resolve remains as strong as ever.
Ronaldo has scored in both the first two league games of the season for the fourth time in his career, after 2009, 2011 and 2014.
He has now scored 450 goals in three of the top five European Leagues, a record since 2003/04 (his Man United debut).
Since the start of the last campaign (2019/20), no team have faced more penalties than Juventus.
Serie A continues next weekend with Roma travelling to Udinese, while Juventus hold Napoli in one of the big matches of the weekend before the first international break of the new season.
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