Ronaldo brace fires Juventus past Crotone to go third, remain in title hunt - GulfToday

Ronaldo brace fires Juventus past Crotone to go third, remain in title hunt

Cristiano Ronaldo scores against Crotone during their Italian League match in Turin. Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a Juventus 3-0 home stroll over wooden spoon holders Crotone in the Italian League on Monday, with the victory taking the champions up to third in the standings.

Juve were a little sluggish to get going, but their ever-reliable talisman arrived to meet an Alex Sandro cross in the 38th minute to give Andrea Pirlo’s side the lead.

Ronaldo looked hungry for more and another bullet header in first-half stoppage time doubled the lead, taking the Portugal forward back to the top of the league’s scoring charts on 18 goals, one ahead of Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku.

The 36-year-old had chances to complete a hat-trick but it was Weston McKennie who added the third, hammering home his fourth Serie A goal of the season in the 66th minute.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with Dejan Kulusevski and Merih Demiral. AFP

A first win in four matches in all competitions ensured Juve climbed from sixth to third in the table and onto 45 points, eight behind leaders Inter with a game in hand.

“The desire we have to return to the top makes me feel comfortable,” Pirlo said. “The attitude of the players also pleases me.

“When we have more players free from injury I will have more choice and this also makes me feel comfortable. We know that Inter are a great team and we know we have to fight [to win the title].” Crotone remain rooted to the foot of the table with 12 points from 23 games, eight points from the safety zone.

Juventus' Federico Chiesa in action with Crotone's Lisandro Magallan. Reuters

Aaron Ramsey thought he had given the champions the lead with a looping header only to see the ball come out off the crossbar, before Ronaldo showed him how it is done with two expertly-taken headers.

Always looking to break records, Crotone became the 78th different side Ronaldo has scored against in Europe’s top five leagues -- only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored against more teams since 2000.

Juventus' Nicolo Fagioli in action with Crotone's Lisandro Magallan. Reuters

A glaring miss at the end of the half showed Ronaldo is only human, before two fine saves denied him another hat-trick after the break. McKennie’s close-range finish put the game beyond doubt, but the league’s top goalscorer was still doing everything he could, right until the last minute, to add another.

SEMPLICI NAMED CAGLIARI COACH: Cagliari named Leonardo Semplici as their new coach on Monday after sacking Eusebio Di Francesco in a bid to drag the Serie A club out of a miserable 16-match winless run.

Cagliari said that Semplici, 53, had signed a deal until the end of next season.

Semplici will be tasked with saving the Sardinian team from relegation as they sit in the drop zone after picking up just five points since early November.

Semplici spent five years in charge of SPAL before being sacked last February. Former Roma boss Di Francesco had his contract extended last month by Cagliari until 2023 despite the team’s struggles that have left them five points from safety. Di Francesco, 51, joined Cagliari in August but won just three of 23 league matches under his charge. The club has lost nine of their past 10 games and scored just once in the last seven outings.

‘OSIMHEN TO BE ASSESSED DAILY’: Victor Osimhen will be assessed daily and gradually resume training following his head injury scare in Napoli’s 4-2 away defeat at Atalanta on Sunday, according to media reports.

Osimhen, 22, fell awkwardly after a collision with Atalanta defender Cristian Romero and hit his head on the ground during the closing stages of the game. The striker was immediately stretchered off and rushed to the hospital.

He spent the night at the hospital as a precaution and was released on Monday.

“Victor Osimhen in the morning underwent clinical examinations and diagnostic tests at the Pineta Grande Clinic with Dr. Alfredo Bucciero and Dr. Elpidio Pezzella who gave negative results,”reads a statement on the club’s official website .

“The player will take a few days of rest and will gradually resume training. The player’s condition will be assessed daily.”

The Nigeria international is expected to miss Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 return leg clash against Granada.

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