Two days after Juventus announced that Cristiano Ronaldo was coronavirus-free after a COVID-19 infection forced him to miss five games, Ronaldo made up for lost time in his return to the field by scoring twice in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Spezia.
Ronaldo was diagnosed with COVID last month while on duty with Portugal’s national team. He missed his country’s UEFA Nations League contest against Sweden on Oct. 14, then four straight matches for his club, including last week’s Champions League group stage loss to Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.
The 35-year-old forward finally tested negative for the coronavirus on Saturday, but Juve manager Andrea Pirlo opted to start Ronaldo on the bench for Sunday’s Serie A contest following his long spell on the sidelines.
With the game tied 1-1 early in the second half, though, Pirlo went straight to the veteran. Just three minutes later, Ronaldo broke the deadlock with the eventual game-winning goal, which he scored after rounding home keeper Ivan Provedel and slotting home Álvaro Morata’s slick through-pass that sent him behind the hosts’ back line:
Ronaldo scores three minutes after being subbed on in his return! 💥 pic.twitter.com/mOHXRXVmWH
— ESPN (@espn) November 1, 2020
Morata had opened the scoring for Juve early in the first half off an assist by American Weston McKennie. But Tommaso Pobega equalized for Spezia, which is in its first season in Italy’s top flight.
Another of Pirlo’s subs, Adrien Rabiot, all but sealed the result when he made it 3-1 with a little more than 20 minutes to play. And when Spezia defender Paolo Bartolomei hacked down Federico Chiesa inside Juve’s penalty area, there was no question about who would step up to take the kick.
Ronaldo converted it with aplomb, too, his “panenka” kick settling into the middle portion of the net that Provedel had just vacated by diving to his left:
RONALDO DOUBLE ON HIS RETURN!
Panenka style 🔥 pic.twitter.com/wwuHCQsRvw
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 1, 2020
The three points sent Juventus into second place in the Serie A table behind league-leading AC Milan.
Ronaldo and Co. now turn their attention to Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Hungarian side Ferencváros. They’ll travel to Rome next weekend to face Lazio, which beat Torino Sunday despite missing several regulars who had also contracted COVID-19.
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