03 November 2018
Juve continued their devastating early-season form by picking up another three points against Cagliari to make it 31 from a possible 33.
Paulo Dybala's opener with less than a minute on the clock suggested the floodgates may open but it turned out to be a fairly dull encounter with few moments of note, save for the two goals Cagliari scored in as many minutes (one in each end) and Juan Cuadrado's late third having been selflessly set up by Cristiano Ronaldo.
READY, SET, PAULO!
Ronaldo took centre stage before kick-off as President Andrea Agnelli handed him a commemorative jersey to celebrate his 400 goals in the Premier League, Liga and Serie A. The striker reached the milestone against Genoa but has since taken the figure to 402 thanks to his double against Empoli.
No sooner had the opening whistle blown than the spotlight switched to Dybala. 43 seconds was all it took him to find the back of the net as he collected the ball on the edge of the box and feigned to shoot before twisting away from two defenders and slotting past Alessio Cragno.
TWO MINUTES, TWO GOALS
After their lightning start, the Bianconeri seemed to content to take it easy and did little by way of probing except for the odd acceleration from Douglas Costa and Ronaldo on the flanks.
Cagliari kept plugging away and very nearly found an equaliser when Joao Pedro's close-range effort was miraculously kept out by Wojciech Szczesny.
The Brazilian got another bite of the cherry in the 36th minute and this time made no mistake, controlling the ball well before firing inside the near post.
It took Juve just two minutes to restore their lead. Douglas Costa skipped away down the left and put in a low delivery which Filip Bradaric – stretching to beat Miralem Pjanic – inadvertently put through his own net.
The Croatian defender received a let-off shortly afterwards as Maurizio Mariani, having consulted with the VAR, decided not to award a penalty for a handball in the area.
That was the third time the referee had made use of the pitchside replays (the first was after Dybala's goal, to check if he was onside, and the second after the ball bounced off Medhi Benatia's hand in the area) so a lengthy amount of stoppage time was awarded. It was enough for Ronaldo to go within inches of making it 3-1, his fierce effort slamming off the upright with seconds remaining.
Cuadrado replaced Douglas Costa during the interval and the second period began at a slow pace. Cagliari moved the ball about well and often succeeded in passing around the Bianconeri's attempts to press them high.
Juve slowly began to up the pressure, albeit without stringing together any particularly effective moves, so Massimiliano Allegri turned to the bench and brought on Alex Sandro for Pjanic and switched to a 4-4-2 formation, with the Brazilian and Cuadrado operating as traditional wingers and Dybala and Ronaldo up front.
CUADRADO WRAPS IT UP
The match remained a largely sterile affair until the final ten minutes when it suddenly exploded back into life.
Ronaldo and Rodrigo Bentancur both attempted efforts from angles that proved to be too wide while Dybala had a shot charged down.
Down the other end a series of ricochets in the box gave Paolo Farago the chance to shoot from a central position and Benatia was forced to make a crucial interception. The ball spun out for a Cagliari corner, which in turn led to a Juve counter-attack. Dybala played Ronaldo into space and the Portuguese bore down on goal, drawing the last defender towards him before laying off for the onrushing Cuadrado, who smashed home to seal the points.
Victory means Juve continue to march on at the top of Serie A, maintaining a six-point lead over their nearest rivals, Inter and Napoli.
JUVENTUS 3-1 CAGLIARI (HT 2-1) SCORERS: Dybala 1, Joao Pedro 36, Bradaric og 38, Cuadrado 87.
Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Benatia, De Sciglio; Bentancur, Pjanic (Alex Sandro 70), Matuidi (Barzagli 82); Douglas Costa (Cuadrado 45), Ronaldo, Dybala. Subs not used: Perin, Pinsoglio, Chiellini, Rugani, Spinazzola, Khedira, Kean. Coach: Allegri. CAGLIARI
Cragno; Srna, Pisacane, Ceppitelli, Padoin (Sau 80); Ionita (Farago 67), Bradaric (Cigarini 56), Barella; Castro; Joao Pedro, Pavoletti. Subs not used: Rafael, Aresti, Romagna, Pajac, Andreolli, Dessena, Cerri. Coach: Maran. REFEREE: Mariani. ASSISTANTS: Fiorito, Galetto. FOURTH OFFICIAL: Marinelli. VAR: Massa, Posado. BOOKED: Bradaric 32, Pavoletti 49, Pisacane 63, Matuidi 75.