Juventus Beat Valencia in Champions League Despite Cristiano Ronaldo Red Card

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2018

Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after receiving a red card during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Valencia CF and Juventus FC at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on September 19, 2018. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images)
JOSE JORDAN/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off on his UEFA Champions League debut for Juventus, but the Bianconeri still beat Valencia 2-0 at the Mestalla on Wednesday. 

Juve had Miralem Pjanic to thank for starting their Group H campaign with three points after the classy midfielder netted a pair of penalties for the 10-man visitors against a Valencia side that were toothless in attack.

Ronaldo had been given his walking papers after clashing with Jeison Murillo, but Juventus proved the depth and quality of their squad without the club's record signing.

   

Juventus Good Enough to Win CL Without Ronaldo

Ronaldo's dismissal in the 29th minute helped Juve prove something manager Massimiliano Allegri should have known already. Namely, his squad was good enough to win this tournament even before signing Ronaldo from Real Madrid in the summer.

Not having Ronaldo as the focal point of the forward line didn't deter Allegri's men from controlling all phases of the game. The visitors were tough and resourceful at the back, intuitive in midfield and ruthless up top.

One look at Allegri's bench summed up the depth of talent in this squad. He was able to bring on former Liverpool midfielder Emre Can to replace an injured Sami Khedira, while winger Douglas Costa subbed for two-goal hero Pjanic late on.

Ronaldo had initially been joined by Mario Mandzukic and Federico Bernardeschi in attack. It meant Allegri was comfortable leaving dynamic pair Juan Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala in reserve.

Obviously, Allegri has more chance of lifting this trophy with Ronaldo in the lineup, but he'll also know his star-studded ranks can cope without the 33-year-old.

   

Pjanic's Creativity as Important as Ronaldo's Goals

Juve may be counting on Ronaldo's goals to make the difference this season, but the club can't overlook the presence of Pjanic. His creativity will be as important as anything Ronaldo does in determining the Bianconeri's success, particularly in Europe.

The cultured playmaker showcased his composure when Valencia midfielder Daniel Parejo felled Joao Cancelo in the box two minutes before the break. Pjanic was coolness personified again four minutes after the restart when Murillo took down Leonardo Bonucci:

Pjanic has always been a technical marvel when it comes to set-pieces. Yet his eye for a pass is just as significant in Allegri's setup:

The 28-year-old former AS Roma and Lyon star is the one true maestro in a midfield otherwise defined by brawn and energy. None of Khedira, Can nor Blaise Matuidi can match Pjanic's ability to flourish between the lines and create chances.

Juve will need the magic he can conjure as this tournament wears on.

   

Goal-Shy Valencia Not Equipped for the Highest Level

Valencia managed to put just six of 28 shots on target, according to the tournament's official website. It continued the profligacy plaguing Los Che since the start of the season.

Batshuayi couldn't make an impact.
Batshuayi couldn't make an impact.Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Manager Marcelino's squad has mustered a mere three goals in four La Liga matches. The group will do well to match the tally in Group H, based on the anaemic way they set about 10-man Juve.

Marcelino started Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi alongside Spain international Rodrigo Moreno. Yet neither attacker stretched an ageing Juventus back line or bullied people in the air.

Kevin Gameiro replaced Batshuayi on 70 minutes, but the former Sevilla and Atletico Madrid man couldn't add the spark Valencia were missing. There's also a general lack of pace to Valencia's approach play that isn't helping those leading the line.

Gameiro was also unable to make a mark.
Gameiro was also unable to make a mark.JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

The talent is there, but Marcelino needs to change the way his team is creating chances in order to get the best from his strikers. More width and less funnelling through crowded central areas would help.

   

What's Next?

Ronaldo-less Juve will host Young Boys next time out in the Champions League, while Valencia will be at Old Trafford to face Manchester United. Before then, the Bianconeri are away to Frosinone in Serie A on Sunday, the same day Valencia's La Liga campaign continues in Villarreal.

Related

    Messi All but Claims European Golden Shoe

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Messi All but Claims European Golden Shoe

    Evening Standard
    via Evening Standard

    Mbappe Taps In for PSG in Reims Defeat 🎥

    Ligue 1 champions fell 3-1 in their season closer

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Mbappe Taps In for PSG in Reims Defeat 🎥

    Ligue 1 champions fell 3-1 in their season closer

    Streamable
    via Streamable

    Messi on Griezmann at Barca: No Comment

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Messi on Griezmann at Barca: No Comment

    Matt Jones
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Bayern Offer Sane $145M over 5 Years

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Report: Bayern Offer Sane $145M over 5 Years

    Tom Coast
    via Sport Witness