When Aaron Ramsey poked in Juventus' opening goal against Inter at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night, there was a potent sense of relief.
It wasn't from the stands; they were empty, since the coronavirus epidemic meant the game was being contested behind closed doors.
Nor was it from Maurizio Sarri or the rest of the Juventus' players; they controlled the game to such an extent that they never felt in any danger of losing it anyway.
It was from the player himself. Rambo drew first blood; he'd come up with the big moment on the biggest (if eerily muted) stage, and had every reason to feel this was his coming of age moment in his new surroundings.
Aaron Ramsey has scored in back-to-back league games for the first time since October 2017.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 8, 2020
Finding his feet in Turin. pic.twitter.com/lI7VCGEYVF
It's been a pretty rough ride for the midfielder since swapping Arsenal for Italia. The manager who signed him departed before he could even don a Juve shirt for the first time, and under Sarri he has struggled for game-time; the expansive cast of midfield talent, as well as a couple of injury issues, seeing to that.
He scored his first Serie A goal against SPAL two weeks ago, however, and if that one teed it up for him, then his performance in Derby D'Italia knocked it out of the park.
Starting in a deeper position as part of a midfield three, joining Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur, his display was everything you'd want from a holding midfield player. In what was an attritional battle for long spells, he didn't shy away from the fight, while simultaneously maintaining the attacking influence we all know he can have on his day.
Aaron Ramsey : 91% passes completed, tackles, interceptions, driving forward. An assist and a goal in the Derby D'Italia. Tonight, he arrived. Bravo Rambo ! pic.twitter.com/mXotUEQliw— Juventus News - Juvefc.com (@juvefcdotcom) March 8, 2020
Driving into the final third from deep, the Inter trio of Nicolo Barella, Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino - a triumvirate so dominant so far this season - stood no chance.
The harmony he struck up with the judicious Bentancur and the combative yet creative Matuidi was pitch-perfect. It's not often you can say that Juve looked better without Miralem Pjanic, but a midfield that had at times looked imbalanced was working like clockwork, the three near telepathic as they nullified the creative threat posed by the visitors while providing steady, and occasionally explosive, support for the front.three.
Naturally, it was in the penalty area that Ramsey's influence grabbed the most headlines. He reacted like lightning as he arrived late into to drive home the opener, before bursting a gut to keep up with the electric Dybala and provide the one-two for the substitute's magnificent clincher.
Great dybala goal, Ramsey looking promising and with a goal, lots of Ronaldo dribbles/runs, matuidi better than usual, clean sheet. Improved win from recent performances and a vital one— Daniel (@Dannn777) March 8, 2020
It was exactly the type of midfield performance Juve needed to claim what was a priceless win to reclaim the initiative in the title race, and exactly the type they will need going forward if they are to claim nine - or perhaps even 10 - league titles on the spin.
It's early days in his Juventus career yet and as ever there is scope for plenty to change between now and the end of the season. You can't shake the feeling it was a watershed performance for the Welshman in Turin, however, and one both he and his manager will take confidence moving forward.
If he's not one of the first names on the team-sheet after this, then heads should roll.