PIX: Ronaldo denied last-gasp winner by VAR; Real held

Juventus substitute Cristiano Ronaldo was denied a stoppage-time winner by VAR as Udinese came from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw in their thrilling Serie A season opener on Sunday.

Reports in the Italian media suggested Ronaldo had asked to be named as a substitute in order to remain fit for a move away from the club, something Juve vice-president Pavel Nedved denied pre-match.

After coming off the bench, the 36-year-old Portuguese forward thought he had headed his side to victory right at the death in dramatic fashion, only for VAR to rule him offside.

In Massimiliano Allegri’s first game in charge after returning for a second spell at the club, goals by Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado gave Juve a comfortable halftime lead.

A soft penalty conceded by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny six minutes after the break gifted Udinese a route back into the match before an even more calamitous error by the Pole let Gerard Deulofeu in to level in the 83rd minute.

Ronaldo, who came on for Alvaro Morata in the second half, then celebrated meeting Federico Chiesa’s cross with a perfectly-timed header, only to see Juve’s joy curtailed by VAR after a lengthy review.

Ronaldo had sat out of Juve’s final pre-season friendly in midweek, with the club saying the Portuguese was not fully fit.

He had been expected to start against Udinese but was left on the bench, with Nedved saying before the game that fitness concerns had again kept him out and any talk that he had asked to miss the match to remain fit for a move away from the club was just speculation.

On the pitch, Juve did not need last season’s top goalscorer in Serie A, as Dybala put a frustrating campaign last term behind him with an instinctive finish early on before Cuadrado finished brilliantly to make it 2-0 inside 23 minutes.

But the visitors then conceded a soft penalty, which was converted by former Juve forward Roberto Pereyra, as the hosts came back into the contest.

Szczesny then was far too casual on the ball, trying to flick it past Stefano Okaka, who made the block, and Deulofeu was on hand to sweep the ball into an empty net to stun the visitors.

The goal was initially ruled out for a foul on Szczesny, but VAR intervened to overturn the decision.

The video assistant referee’s night was far from over. The cross from Chiesa, one of Italy’s standout performers in their Euro 2020 success this summer, was perfect, while the leap from Ronaldo unstoppable.

The veteran looked to have snatched yet another victory for his side, but it was not meant to be as Juve, many experts’ tip for the title this season, got off to a disappointing start.

Vinicius Jr rescues draw for Madrid after collapse at Levante

Gareth Bale scored his first goal in almost two years for Real Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday but substitute Vinicius Jr stole the show with two late strikes to grab a 3-3 draw at Levante in a game that had it all.

Welshman Bale got Real off to a fine start in the fifth minute by stroking home a cut-back by Karim Benzema and nearly grabbed another goal with a ferocious free kick which fizzed just wide as Carlo Ancelotti’s side dominated the first half.

But they found themselves 2-1 down early in the second period after a remarkable transformation from Levante, who were playing for the first time in front of fans at their renovated Ciutat de Valencia stadium.

Levante striker Roger Marti beat Thibaut Courtois to level just after the interval before Jose Campana put the hosts in front with a sensational volley in the 57th.

Ancelotti took off Bale, Eden Hazard and Isco moments after the goal and substitute Vinicius made the difference, levelling in the 73rd minute with a coolly taken finish following a defence-splitting through ball from deep by Casemiro.

Levante restored their lead in the 79th though Roger Pier following a free kick and were inches away from grabbing a fourth when Alejandro Cantero struck the far post on another rapid counter-attack.

But Vinicius again came to Real’s rescue, levelling in the 85th minute with an audacious shot in off the post from a tight angle.

The Brazilian also netted in last week’s 4-1 win at Alaves and is joint-top scorer with Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa on three goals from two games after adding some ice-cool finishing to his already impressive skill set.

“I haven’t just been work on finishing, I’ve been working on every aspect of my game to put in a performance like that,” said Vincius.

“We are working a lot on escaping from our markers and Casemiro gave me a great pass for the first goal. For the second I struck the ball with my toe.

“I’m very happy to have started the season well and I’ve been working hard since day one and I’m not going to change.”

More chaos was to come as Levante keeper Aitor Fernandez was sent off for flying out of his area and handling the ball to stop a Real counter, leaving defender Ruben Vezo to don the gloves and protect the goal for the remaining few minutes.

Real coach Ancelotti was furious with his side’s drop in intensity after the break.

“We had everything under control but we were very soft in the second half, that’s not what you expect from Real Madrid. We threw away two points today,” said the Italian.

“It’s difficult to explain, I told the players that any small detail can cost you the game and that’s what happened. We leave here with a bad taste because we should have got more than a point after our brilliant first-half performance.”

Levante also felt they got less than they deserved.

“We’re a brave team that goes looking for our opponents in their own half,” said Campana.

“They didn’t finish us off in the first half and we showed our best football in the second. We were very comfortable on the counter-attack and could have killed the game.

“But when you let Real off the hook you always end up paying for it. But overall a point is very good seeing how much pressure they put us under.”

Roma off to winning start under Mourinho

Jordan Veretout’s double helped AS Roma to earn a 3-1 victory over his former club Fiorentina in their season opener on Sunday, as Jose Mourinho got off to a winning start back as a Serie A coach in a match where both teams finished with 10 men.

Fiorentina goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski was given a straight red card for a foul on Roma new boy Tammy Abraham in the 17th minute, much to the bewilderment of the visitors’ coach Vincenzo Italiano.

Roma made the numerical advantage count in the Stadio Olimpico when Henrikh Mkhitaryan broke the deadlock in the 26th minute, the hosts going into the interval in control.

The tide turned when Nicolo Zaniolo, starting his first Serie A match in more than a year following a long injury layoff, received his second yellow card and was dismissed just after the break, before Nikola Milenkovic levelled on the hour mark.

With the numbers evened up, Roma stepped up a gear, with Mkhitaryan squaring for Veretout to restore the hosts’ lead, before the Frenchman made it 3-1 11 minutes from time.

“The referee got every decision right,” Mourinho told DAZN. “VAR is there to spot every tiny error, which can at times be decisive in games.

“We have many different solutions but at this moment what I like is the spirit of the team; the defensive organisation is getting there.

“Fiorentina made it very, very difficult for us. Italiano deserves a lot of credit because he has his team playing very, very well so early into the season.”

In Sunday’s other late kick-off, goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Eljif Elmas gave Napoli a 2-0 win over Venezia in Naples, even though the home side had Victor Osimhen sent off in the first half.

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