A decent first half showing with Ronaldo capitalizing on some appalling defending for a well taken hatrick and 0-3 lead at the break. Unfortunately, we emerged from the changing rooms lethargic, disjointed and were outplayed for most of the remainder of the match.

Plenty of chances were spurned in the opening 45 minutes. Morata especially seemed way off the pace. And despite Pirlo’s post-match words of expecting Kulu to tuck in to midfield, fill the gap of Juan who was directed to be the further forward more often, the giant Swede decided otherwise and finally found some flurries of play where he attacked high on the right flank, his natural role of last season, which dovetailed with Chiesa doing the same on the opposite side, stretching the home team constantly.

It makes a significant difference playing two natural wide forwards as wide forwards – which was further magnified when Freddy B came on to replace Sandro, as his game is more offensive than that of Sandro. This width stretches teams, creates more space in the middle. Which is why most teams play with a similar balance if focusing attacking play down the wide channels. Pirlo’s system is more to have Chiesa playing as a wing-back, with Juan also playing as a wing-back but also as a RB and RW, with a midfielder tasked with tucking in to the space he leaves to try avoid massive holes appearing. Its a cock-eyed system…

I didn’t feel we made any progress beyond gaining 3 points. Ronaldo probably broke another record, but its a shame he was not able to show that kind of form over both legs against Porto (could say the same of most the squad). However, there is a gulf of class between those sides.

Cagliari are down the bottom on merit. It was galling to see how easily they kept us on the back-foot for the second half. Yet no surprise to anyone who has watched us regularly this season.

The players often look like they don’t understand where they are meant to be, how they are supposed to move. Appearing shackled by a tactical overlay which either does not make much sense or is over complicated. Transitions look sloth. It is only when we play against teams committing men forward and hit them on the counter that we see a hint of the form we are capable of. This side should be regularly demolishing opponents.

It is staggering to find us often looking second best, tactically and cohesively, against much weaker opposition and I am hard pressed to list more than 2 games this whole campaign of 36 so far, where we looked comfortable from start to finish.

What depressed me mainly was Pirlo’s reluctance to give barely any minutes to the youth talent sitting on the bench. Especially when 0-3 up, why not bring on Fagioli??? Instead stick to playing a RB hybrid CB as a hybrid DM (Danilo)???

Why not give Di Pardo a solid half hour to relieve a tiring Juan Cuadrado?

Why not Dragusin for Chiellini?

3 points are welcome though I find it hard to offer accolades for managing to outclass, for almost a whole half, one of the weakest sides in the league who defended like schoolboys…and made us look second best for the second period.