Juventus may not be playing with any beauty, but they continue winning, with their latest triumph a 2-1 defeat of Sassuolo, who were second in Serie A ahead of the match.
It was clear from the first half that Juventus only really cared about delivering a pressure-relieving goal to Cristiano Ronaldo, and although it took 50 minutes, he was in the right place at the right time to open the scoring with a close-range finish.
A brilliant counterattack led to Juventus’ and Ronaldo’s second before the Italian champions lost some cohesion — spurning several good chances to add to their goal tally — to the anger of manager Massimiliano Allegri.
Ronaldo finally scored, and that can only be a good thing. As well as easing the pressure, it means Juve can get back to playing for the team as opposed to only passing to one player in the hope he will score and be happy.
Douglas Costa’s dismissal and general behaviour were poor. He could have received a red card earlier, but after he was eventually sent off — for spitting in the face of Federico Di Francesco — he will be fined and face a suspension of several games going forward, including the showdown against Napoli on Sep. 29.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — His side are yet to play to full potential and exhibit their full range of talent, but Allegri’s Juve still top the Serie A table with a 100 percent perfect winning record.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Wojciech Szczesny, 6 — Smooth sailing for the most part but forced to pull off a good save to deny Alfred Duncan.
DF Joao Cancelo, 7 — On a weekend that highlighted Inter’s absence of difference-makers, Cancelo showed his old club what they are missing. A tremendous performance by the Portuguese full-back, who fought, assisted, delivered brilliance, won duels and generally caused Sassuolo all kinds of trouble. Exactly what Allegri wants.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 5 — Susceptibility to drops in concentration is a weakness that he must get rid of. He lost Khouma Babacar, and Juventus gave up a clean sheet.
DF Mehdi Benatia, 6 — Looks to be in good shape despite not playing regularly. Read the game well and proved more reliable than his partner.
DF Alex Sandro, 6 — Played with more caution than usual but read the game well. He did not push forward a great deal but ensured defensive solidity.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 — Does well initially as his footballing brain is a sight to behold, but his athleticism is not what it used to be and that became more evident as the game wore on as he’s simply too slow.
MF Emre Can, 6 — He impressed in his first Juventus start, delivering the assist that secured Ronaldo’s second goal. Can must learn to play with more composure and attention in this league, but will surely improve as he learns about Juve’s game.
MF Blaise Matuidi, 6 — The player who gives Juve balance, Matuidi fights constantly to win the ball and put his teammates into advantageous positions. He is always working to plug holes and trying to find ways to push himself forward.
FW Paulo Dybala, 6 — The definition of a phenomenon is not one who produces brilliance only in the right circumstances, but one who adapts to perform in every situation. As such, Dybala does not qualify despite his silky footwork and talent. He improved in the second half but failed to make an impact that brought about end results.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 5 — All action but little substance, he looked out of sorts and, perhaps, a little tired.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 7 — It finally happened. Ronaldo scored after a 320-minute wait and followed it up with another goal 15 minutes later. He is still yet to perform at optimum levels but is getting there and would have bagged a hat trick if he was a little more efficient.
FW Douglas Costa, 4 — His play was good; he started the move that led to Ronaldo’s second goal with a delightful pass and also delivered an excellent would-be assist only for Ronaldo to miss. However, Costa’s behaviour late in the game was disappointing and hurt his team.
MF Rodrigo Bentancur, NR — Sometimes he is a little too eager when he plays; greater composure would be helpful as he loses the ball too often.
FW Juan Cuadrado, NR — Came on too late to make an impact.