Recent weeks in football have largely been defined by the enduring fairytale of the unlikely comeback.
Manchester United got the ball rolling with a stunning night in Paris which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against PSG. The Red Devils stunned the Parc des Princes with a huge comeback win which hauled the Premier League side into the next round of the competition against the odds.
Never a club to be outdone, Real Madrid responded from their stunning elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Ajax by re-appointing Zinedine Zidane as their head coach – just ten months after the Frenchman had stepped down from the post. An impulsive decision from Florentino Perez? A great comeback, but hardly a surprise from the Madrid president.
However, Juventus produced arguably the finest comeback around Europe in recent weeks. The Bianconeri looked to be in real trouble after falling to a 2-0 defeat in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid.
Enter Cristiano Ronaldo. At 33, the Portuguese may not have the same electrifying pace that he once had, but the iconic forward scored a hat-trick in the second leg in Turin to turn the tie on its head and prove once more that he is Europe’s leading man for the big occasion.
If anyone seriously thought that an away game against Genoa five days later was going to prove difficult for Massimiliano Allegri’s side, with Juve 18 points clear at the top of Serie A, unbeaten in the league and strolling towards another title, they were absolutely right.
Allegri fielded a heavily rotated side with a Ronaldo-sized hole in attack and a weary set of players which appeared to have indulged too heavily in riding the wave of their European triumph.
Genoa fans had sold out today’s game vs Juventus at the Marassi…
…but then found out Ronaldo was to be rested for Juventus!
♂️ Fans protested outside the club’s HQ.
They even threatened to return their tickets.
勞 The @Cristiano effect. pic.twitter.com/JTM6iFeuHQ
— SPORF (@Sporf) March 17, 2019
I don’t think this is the abscence of Ronaldo that has hurt #Juve against Geona. They’ve won 4-1 without Ronaldo. I think it is simply the team that underperformed & Dybala missed his opportunity.#GenoaJuve
— Bhaarat Kurda (@TheBhaaratKurda) March 17, 2019
The champions survived an early scare when Genoa were awarded a first half penalty after the home side had enjoyed the brighter start to the game, only for further analysis through VAR to reverse the decision.
That incident should have served as a wake-up call to the champions, but clearly the Italians should were in need of a stronger blend of coffee this morning.
Paulo Dybala looked to have fired his side in front in the second half, despite Juve largely struggling to find a foothold in the game, but VAR intervened once more to chalk off the goal for offside.
The game seemed to be drifting towards an inevitable stalemate for the remainder of the half, until Genoa boss Cesare Prandelli, a former Juventus midfielder, made two inspired substitutions.
Stefano Sturaro, formerly of Juventus, and former Inter and Napoli forward Goran Pandev both entered the field in the second half with real motivation to make their mark against the champions. And boy did they.
I felt this match was a fixed match..
Nice one #Juve .. Ticket won.. #GenoaJuve
— StewGang (@ezzyperry1) March 17, 2019
Sturaro was the man who finally broke the deadlock, striding through the heart of a leggy Juve rear-guard before firing a venomous drive past Mattia Perin, who really should have done better.
The goal, from one of their own against them, was one which really epitomised the disappointing nature of the defeat for Allegri’s side. Having enjoyed arguably the most glorious week of their season so far, it was to end in bitter disappointment.
Genoa 2-0 Juventus FT:
Passing accuracy: 77%-82%
Chances created: 15-4
Ronaldo-less Juventus fall to their first defeat in Serie A this season. pic.twitter.com/Kg2L3l14fw
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 17, 2019
Are you kidding me #Juve, are you freaking kidding me郎?
— Mustafa Rashid (@Beautifulmind83) March 17, 2019
The defeat was to be Juve’s first in their Serie A campaign, one in which they had strolled towards retaining their title at a canter and had previously appeared unbeatable in the division.
However, if the 1-0 scoreline could have been argued as a fluke, Pandev stepped up to put any lingering doubts over the result firmly to bed with an emphatic finish of his own in the final ten minutes.
The defeat was not only Juve’s first in Serie A this season, but the first league game the Bianconeri have lost by a two-plus goals margin since a 3-1 reverse away to Roma in May 2017.
2 – Juventus have lost a Serie A game by a 2+ goals margin for the first time since May 2017 (1-3 v AS Roma). Fall.#GenoaJuve
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 17, 2019
They may have become kings of the comeback in midweek but, just five days later, oh how they mighty have fallen in the same week.