After a week of scrutiny, suspicion, allegations and denials, Cristiano Ronaldo found sanctuary – and the back of the net – on the football pitch and made the sort of headlines his nervy sponsors would no doubt prefer.
It was on Tuesday that news broke of Las Vegas police opening an investigation into claims the Juventus star raped American teacher Kathryn Mayorga in a hotel room in 2009.
Ronaldo strongly refutes the accusations and the club he joined for £99million in the summer have stood by him with a statement which spoke of their ‘great champion’.
Sponsors such as Nike and EA Sports, meanwhile, have been more cautious, the former even labelling the allegations as ‘disturbing’. Juventus’ share price then dropped by 10 per cent on Friday, shaving £88m off their value.
So when Ronaldo arrived here in Udine, the crackle of thunder up above was somehow symbolic of the storm clouds which have gathered over him and his employers this week.
Boss Max Allegri, however, refused to entertain the idea of removing the 33-year-old from the glare of the watching world.
And, come the end of a 2-0 victory which left them nine points clear at the top of Serie A, you knew exactly why.
Ronaldo’s goal – his fourth of the season – was not his prettiest, but it would have felt like a thing of beauty to a man who has seen his customary adulation turn to unsavoury speculation in recent days.
He had earlier been subdued during the warm-up, not that the pre-match routine allows for showmanship, but one shooting exercise saw his radar malfunction and, with supporters behind the net cheering every goal, Ronaldo gave them little to get excited about.
That could have changed had Rodrigo Bentancur not got his head to Joao Cancelo’s cross before Ronaldo to turn in the opener on 33 minutes. Ronaldo started the move with a flick on halfway and charged into the penalty area in the hope of climaxing the break only for his Uruguayan team-mate to get there first.
It was a similar story moments later when Mario Mandzukic stole the ball from toe of Ronaldo only to then see his close-range blast saved by goalkeeper Simone Scuffet.
Ronaldo shot a glance towards the Croatian which, if translated into words, would have read something like, ‘I would have scored’.
It must have registered with Mandzukic, for within a minute he was rolling the ball into the path of Ronaldo, 14 yards out and faced with a difficult angle.
He has long since been defying the odds to score from such positions, however, and the Portuguese swept first-time into the far corner, even if his connection was not the cleanest. He went airborne in celebration and there was more than a hint of relief in his landing when he exhaled before accepting the hugs of his team-mates.
There was one chance after the interval for what would have been a deserved second but Scuffet blocked his low steer on the line.
Still, it mattered not, Ronaldo had his goal and Juventus were the winners. Normal service resumed, at least for the time being.