Alessandro Bastoni only needed one touch to put CR7 in his back pocket


For a 21-year-old central defender, facing Cristiano Ronaldo should be an intimidating prospect.

Anyone of that age with even a passing interest in football will have spent the entirety of their youth being bombarded with images of the Portuguese goal-robot banging them in for Manchester United, Real Madrid and, more recently, Juventus.

Goals from all angles and distances. Headers, right foot, left foot. Ronaldo has consistently smashed through men who are paid considerable sums of money to stop other men scoring goals like a wrecking ball would smash through a greenhouse.

But apparently Alessandro Bastoni wasn’t paying attention.

As his Inter Milan team comfortably defeated Juventus 2-0 on Sunday evening at San Siro – rescuing manager Antonio Conte from criticism after last weekend’s draw with Roma and putting Inter level on points with local rivals and league leaders AC Milan – Bastoni took Ronaldo and stuck him in his pocket like a naughty schoolchild nicking a chocolate bar from the corner shop.

Bastoni had already dealt uncompromisingly with a couple of Juve forays forwards when, just before the 20-minute mark, he received a poor pass from Arturo Vidal.

For most players, the situation would have spelled trouble. The Vecchia Signora’s perma-tanned sit-up monster was bearing down on Bastoni, arms pumping and neck veins bursting.

Yet rather than enter into the state of panic such a pickle would cause most mortals, Bastoni was as cool as a cucumber.

One touch with his left heel, a swivel on the big toe of his right foot and before you knew it, Ronaldo had run 10 yards past him without even getting a glimpse of the ball – watch the moment below around 25 seconds in.

Another touch took Bastoni past Alvaro Morata before he played a nicely angled ball into space for 23-year-old midfielder Nicolo Barella to start an Inter attack.

Bastoni had imposed himself on the game and his confidence was flowing more freely than Piedmontese red wine.

Juve’s attacks seemed to repeatedly to halt at his feet and at the start of the second half, he showed more of the quality that tempted Inter to pay Atalanta €31million for him when he was still just a teenager.

Bastoni received the ball from Samir Handanovic in his own penalty area, burst forwards past Morata and, seeing Barella with space to run into, launched an inch-perfect 70-yard pass to free him behind the Juve backline.

Barella took a touch to set himself and another to smash the ball into the top corner. In a few seconds, Inter fans had seen the future of the club flash across their screens. Boy did it look bright.

After the game, Bastoni was asked on Sky Italia about the pass and said: “We’d been trying that for a long time and it only really worked tonight. In fact, the coach told me, ‘At last, you did it!’”

It was worth the wait.

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