Football Features

Old Men shine for the Old Lady: Winners and Losers as Juventus beat Roma to move up to third in Serie A title race

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:14, 6 February 2021 | Updated: 21:12, 24 November 2022

In a bizarre evening of football, Juventus beat Roma 2-0 at Juventus Stadium.

The Giallorossi dominated the overall play but couldn’t penetrate the solid Boancoerni back-line and were un-done by two moments of magic in attack, allowing the Old Lady to leapfrog them in the table. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

There comes a time when every great player must face their own decline and the cruel impact time has had on their ability to be themselves. However Cristiano Ronaldo has managed to bypass most of those effects by, essentially, stripping his game down to the basics.

It’s as if he asked himself; “what do I do well?” and the answer was, of course, score goals. So he has shed almost everything else from his game and focused all his energies into playing in the middle of the pitch and getting shots off.

And because he’s so good at shooting, he’s still effective. He won Juve the game today with a stunning finish early in the game; the kind of thing that looks easy but there’s no way 90% of other players could pull it off. One touch and then a low weak-foot shot through defenders into the corner of the net so perfectly placed Pau Lopez could get nowhere near it. He later had another shot that was deflected onto the bar.

Loser: Gianluca Mancini

For the most part, Mancini was actually pretty good against Juventus. The defender stepped out from the back often, adding numbers to the Roma attack. He defended his side of the field well, winning possession back a massive 10 times.

But in the first-half, when Roma got one of their eleventy-billion corners right and had it peel low and hard away from Juve shirts and straight to Mancini rushing through just three yards out… the defender somehow put the ball wide. Sure he was off-balance but any sort of decent contact, maybe even only half-way decent, and it’s a goal. Instead he skewed it wide and allowed the score to remain 1-0, which meant Juve could later expand it to 2-0, and win the game.

Winner: Giorgio Chiellini

Giorgio Chiellini is 36-years-old and is not two years removed from a serious ACL injury but he is still Juve’s best defender. That’s not a very fancy way of complimenting him but Chiellini is not a very fancy player, he’s just a rock-solid centre-back who continues to excel.

At an age when he should be winding down and being replaced by Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt, he continues to out-do them both. Today he was the pillar of Juve’s defence with 98 touches, 76/87 passes completed and 6 clearances; all of which were game-highs and helped deliver a third consecutive clean sheet for the Bianconeri (a first under Andrea Pirlo). Just like Cristiano in attack, tonight’s defence was Old Men shining for the Old Lady.

Loser: Ibañez

Look, it’s unfortunate the things you sometimes do when you’re panicking. Ibañez knows all about that. Juventus have called for reinforcements from the bench and the two subs have combined down the right to send a ball low across the face of goal.

It’s a bad situation, made worse by the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo is making a run in behind. He’s already scored once and this could well be a tap-in for the Portuguese. So you act, you dive and try to get the ball and all you do is knock it back into your own net.

Hey, that sucks, for sure. And many would be sympathetic, but did you need you do that? Or did you have a team-mate running ahead of Cristiano in a better position to clear the ball from a standing position? Oh, you did? And if you had just kept your cool maybe that second, game-killing goal could have been avoided? Ah, that’s a shame.

Winner: Andrea Pirlo

Obviously as Juve won the game and leapfrogged Roma into third place on the table, leaving them four points behind Milan, you would say Andrea Pirlo is the winner. But honestly if you watched the game his team were getting outplayed for the most part by Roma and only individual genius of Cristiano Ronaldo and Giorgio Chiellini saw them through.

However Pirlo needs his flowers because when the game was finely poised at 1-0, with Roma still dominant, he made two changes just after the hour mark, bringing on Juan Cuadrado and Dejan Kulusevski. And less than five minutes later the pair had combined wonderfully to create the second goal out of nothing. A lovely pass from Cuadrado in behind the defence found a delicious run from Kulusevski whose first-time cut-back was headed to Cristiano Ronaldo when Ibañez scored an own goal.

Both his subs killing the game. And now Juve are just four points behind second-place Milan and five behind Inter who are top, but they do have a game in-hand over the Nerazzurri. To the dismay of everyone who hoped for a new champion this season, The Old Lady are well and truly back in the title race and with their young manager’s Midas touch with substitutes, would you rule them out??

Loser: Paulo Fonseca

Similar to how Andrea Pirlo isn’t just a winner for winning, Paulo Fonseca isn’t a loser just because he lost. In fact going off performance, Fonseca would be closer to a winner as his Roma side comprehensively outplayed the defending champions in their own back yard. In almost every phase of play Roma were superior, and were only undone really by two world-class legends doing their thing.

However the one phase where Roma were just making it too easy for Juve was in attack, where they started with their star man on the bench. Edin Dzeko had been left out of Roma’s last two games and stripped of the captaincy after falling out with Paulo Fonseca, and you could really see the absence of the big Bosnian for the first hour of the game, so much so that Fonseca had to swallow his pride and bring Dzeko on for the closing 30 minutes. Except by then Roma had already gotten into a miserable rhythm and only really created one chance for him.

The defeat leaves Roma down in fourth, just three points ahead of Lazio, Napoli and Atalanta having played more games than the former two as well. Any pretensions that they were in a title race have been set straight tonight. They are competing for top four and no more. It’s just a thought, Paulo, but maybe in future don’t beef your best striker?