16.09.2018 17:00 - in: Serie A S

      Ronaldo fires double as Juve down Sassuolo

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      Ronaldo decisive as brace helps Juve past Sassuolo, leaving the Bianconeri out on their own at the top of Serie A

      Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first and second goals of his Juventus career on Sunday afternoon as the Bianconeri beat Sassuolo 2-1 at Allianz Stadium. The result preserves Juve’s 100% record at the start of the season and leaves them out on their own at top of the table.

      The Portuguese scored his maiden strike for the Old Lady five minutes into the second half, tapping in from close range to give Juve a 1-0 lead, before adding a well-taken second on 65 minutes following an Emre Can assist. Sassuolo grabbed a late equaliser through Khouma Babacar as the seconds ticked away, but there was to be no denying Juventus.


      It was Ronaldo who had the first chance of the game, with just five minutes on the clock. Joao Cancelo made good ground down the right, allowing Blaise Matuidi to link up with Ronaldo only for the striker’s shot to be deflected away from danger.

      Though the Bianconeri were not always able to work space to shoot, there was real zip to their play and the fans showed their appreciation for Paulo Dybala’s slick dribbling and Alex Sandro’s foray down the left with rapturous applause.

      Sassuolo were a threat from set plays, as Juve found out when Gian Marco Ferrari smacked a header off the crossbar (albeit having fouled Leo Bonucci). Minutes later, Wojciech Szczesny was called into action to save another Ferrari effort.

      With the first half ticking on, the dynamic Matuidi won the ball back in the Sassuolo box and set up Mario Mandzukic, but the Sassuolo defence stood firm. Juve’s best chance before half time was a near own goal from Pol Lirola following a Cancelo cross, but luckily for Sassuolo Andrea Consigli was well-placed to make the save.


      Juve needed to find an extra gear – and sure enough Massimiliano Allegri’s men upped the tempo as soon as the second half began. The eyes of the entire stadium seemed trained on Ronaldo, as if the stage were set for him to score his first Juventus goal and tip the match in Juve’s favour.

      The wait lasted just five minutes. From a Cancelo corner, Bonucci flicked the ball towards goal only for Ferrari to block on the line, with the ball bouncing off the post and tamely into the path of Ronaldo. He made no mistake. It was a simple goal but a precious one all the same – the stadium erupted as one as Ronaldo tore off in celebration.


      Sassuolo did their best to rally, most notably through an audacious Kevin-Prince Boateng backheel, but Juve were playing with much more freedom now. Allegri switched Mandzukic for Douglas Costa, with the change bringing added creativity to the Bianconeri. Indeed, it was the Brazilian’s smart control following a Sassuolo corner that set Juventus moving for their second goal. Costa found Emre Can, who played through an inch-perfect ball for the onrushing Ronaldo to slot back past Consigli and into the far corner.


      With the clock counting down, Sassuolo pushed forward in search of a way back into the game. It was the perfect scenario for Juve, who could exploit the pace of Douglas Costa on the counter. The Brazilian first thundered one right-footed effort just wide, before combining with Ronaldo to tee up what proved to be a wayward shot from the Portuguese.

      Allegri sent on Juan Cuadrado for Alex Sandro on 80 minutes, with the Colombian taking up a position at right-back and Cancelo switching to the left. The Portuguese was soon bombing down the left, forcing Consigli into action and allowing Ronaldo a chance at completing his hat-trick – though he could only find the side netting.

      There was an unexpected sting in the tail as Babacar – left unmarked in the middle of the Juve box – fired the ball into the net for 2-1 in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. And things took another unwelcome turn after Douglas Costa was – following review by VAR – sent off as a result of a clash with Federico Di Francesco. Juve had Szczesny to thank for keeping out a late effort from Domenico Berardi, in what was an avoidably tense finale at Allianz Stadium, though not one capable of overshadowing a first brace from Ronaldo. The performance bodes well for Wednesday’s Champions League opener away at Valencia.


      GOALS: Ronaldo 50’ and 65’, Babacar 90+1’.

      Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Benatia, Alex Sandro (Cuadrado 79); Khedira, Emre Can (Bentancur 71), Matuidi; Dybala, Mandzukic (Douglas Costa 61), Ronaldo.
      Subs not used: Perin, Pinsoglio, De Sciglio, Rugani, Chiellini, Pjanic, Bernardeschi, Kean.
      Coach: Allegri.

      Consigli; Lirola, Marlon, Ferrari, Rogerio (Dell’Orco 72); Locatelli (Babacar 83), Duncan, Bourabia; Boateng, Djuricic (Di Francesco 60), Berardi.
      Subs not used: Pegolo, Adjapong, Lemos, Magnani, Boga, Magnanelli,  Brignola, Sensi, Matri.
      Coach: De Zerbi.

      REFEREE: Chiffi.
      ASSISTANTS: Del Giovane, Longo.
      VAR: Di Bello, Posado.

      YELLOW CARDS: Djuricic 23', Berardi 26', Cancelo 32', Bourabia 40', Alex Sandro 60’.

      RED CARDS: Douglas Costa 90+3’.

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