The eyes of the footballing world were on Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday as the Ballon d’Or holder made his Serie A debut.
But the story almost a nightmare for Ronaldo and Juventus in Vernona as Chievo came close to registering a famous victory.
Drawing 2-1 with 10 minutes to go was not what anyone expected before the match, But as Juve laid siege to the Chievo goal in the final 10 minutes of a breathless clash the script was ready for a famous Ronaldo last-minute winner.
And the €100m man almost delivered when his attempt to score a last minute winner led to him knocking Chievo keeper Stefano Sorrentino out cold as they went for a cross. As play continued Paolo Dybla bundled the ball over the line.
To the shock of footballing fans across Italy, the match officials did not automatically confirm the goal. They went to VAR and ruled the goal out as Ronaldo had used his hand as he strained to meet a cross.
If that wasn’t dramatic enough, the signal for five minutes of added time enabled Juventus to mount one more attack. Again Ronaldo was in the middle but, on this occasion, Federico Bernardeschi beat him to it, tapping in from six yards to give the defending champions the three points.
Juventus started, though, like an express train. They had the lead after just 163 seconds when Douglas Costa’s free-kick from the left flank caused mayhem in the area and two ricochets led the ball to fall invitingly for Sami Khedira, who thrashed in from eight yards.
Ronaldo hadn’t even had a touch by that point and knew immediately when that changed as the stadium erupted for him; that was in the fifth minute and by the eighth the second should have arrived but Giorgio Chiellini planted a header wide.
If Chiellini should have better, the same was true for Ronaldo in the 13th minute. One of those moves that look to have come from a computer game – when passes zip left, right and back again without anyone breaking stride – ended with Ronaldo dragging his shot from 20 yards wide.
You could see he was enjoying it. Soon there were stepovers and there was even a cushioned lay-off with his back into the path of Paolo Dybala. The best moment of all, though, was his pass around the corner in the 22nd minute that left Chievo midfielder Mattia Bani wondering what had happened.
Bani had attempted to close Ronaldo down but before he got there, the 33-year-old angled his foot and cushioned a ball around Bani to Dybala before spinning and running off. Bani looked like he had been mugged, chasing after a Ronaldo but looking around unable to process the movement.
Then, inexplicably, Juventus allowed all their efforts to be ruined. Chievo were gifted an equaliser just before half-time when striker Mariusz Stepinski was left alone in the area to bury a header past Wojicech Szczesny from 10 yards.
Juventus stumbled at the start of the second period and gifted Chievo a second goal when Emanuele Giaccherini, once of Sunderland, dusted himself down after being tripped to convert a penalty and raise hope of an almighty shock.
In the end, they simply couldn’t repel wave after wave of attack. Leonardo Bonucci, back at Juventus following a season at AC Milan, equalised with a header from a corner in the 79th minute before the siege really started.
Ronaldo, who ended up playing on the left-wing, had a couple of opportunities but the debut goal he craved proved elusive. The win will do for now.