VALENCIA (Reuters) – Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League debut for Juventus lasted only 29 minutes as he was red-carded but the Italians began their Group H campaign impressively with a 2-0 victory at Valencia on Wednesday.
Penalties either side of halftime by Miralem Pjanic sealed the points for the visitors as Valencia’s return to European competition after a two-year absence fell flat.
The night was meant to be all about Ronaldo’s first Champions League appearance for the club he has tormented so often down the years for Real Madrid.
His first real impression, however, was not what anyone in the Mestalla could have imagined though as he was sent off for the first time in the Champions League in his 154th appearance.
After a lively opening half hour the Portuguese forward, scorer of a record 121 Champions League goals, was involved in a tangle in the penalty area with Valencia defender Jeison Murillo as he awaited a cross from the left.
It did not appear too sinister but German referee Felix Brych, after consulting with his assistant behind the goal, pulled out his red card to the dismay of Ronaldo.
After leaving the pitch the five-times Champions League winner, whose stoppage time penalty for Real Madrid knocked Juve out in the quarter-finals last season, waited by the tunnel entrance, seemingly on the verge of tears.
Juventus responded to the shock in positive fashion and were ahead before halftime.
They had already threatened to pierce Valencia’s rearguard with Joao Cancelo having an effort turned on to the woodwork by Valencia keeper Neto and Sami Khedira wasting a good chance for the Italian champions.
On the stroke of halftime Daniel Parejo’s reckless challenge on Cancelo earned him a booking and gave Pjanic the chance to send 10-man Juventus into the interval ahead.
Five minutes after the break the home crowd fell silent when Jeison Murillo pushed Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci in the back and Brych pointed to the spot again.
Once again Neto guessed right but Pjanic’s penalty was placed into the corner. Valencia dominated possession after that but Juventus’s well-drilled defence held firm until stoppage time when Brych awarded the third penalty of the game.
Parejo stepped up but Wojciech Szczesny saved his spot-kick to sum up the Spanish side’s frustrating evening.
Bonucci, who was imperious throughout, said Juve’s togetherness had helped them prevail in difficult circumstances.
“We proved to be a very united team,” he said. “We continued to play our football even with 10 men.
“We all suffered together in the final stages of the game but this is a great group and we proved it again tonight.”
Ronaldo’s red card will mean he is likely to miss Juve’s clash against his former club Manchester United who they face in the third round of fixtures.
Elsewhere, Captain Paul Pogba produced an outstanding performance garnished by two goals to help Manchester United to a resounding 3-0 win at Swiss debutants Young Boys Bern in their Champions League Group H opener.
Pogba bossed midfield and fired United ahead in the 35th minute with a goal of the highest quality, drilling a left-foot shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area after side-stepping his marker.
The France World Cup winner made it 2-0 with a contentious 44th-minute penalty, harshly awarded by German referee Deniz Aytekin after Luke Shaw’s cross struck Kevin Mbabu’s arm as the defender tried to avoid contact.
A darting run by Pogba midway through the second half released Anthony Martial and the forward scored with a clinical finish from eight metres after his compatriot’s good work left him with time and space to find the back of the net.
Roared on by a vocal home crowd, Young Boys charged at United in the opening 30 minutes, forcing two saves by David De Gea as the Spain goalkeeper kept out long-range efforts from Mohamed Ali Camara and Christian Fassnacht.
United’s defence looked vulnerable on either flank to the home team’s breakaways, although 19-year-old Portuguese right back Diogo Dalot showed pace going forward on his debut for the Premier League side.
After Marcus Rashford clipped the outside of the post with a flicked shot in the 22nd minute, United’s nerves were settled when Pogba broke the deadlock thanks to a piece of sublime individual skill.
Young Boys’ hopes of a comeback evaporated after Pogba confidently converted the penalty and Martial, enjoying a rare start up front, made no mistake at the near post as United maintained cruise control in the second half.