Juventus consolidates top spot

Goes 11 points clear of Napoli as Ronaldo takes his tally to 20 goals in all competitions

Cristiano Ronaldo headed in his 18th league goal this season as Juventus bounced back from last week’s stalemate to soar to an 11-point lead in Serie A on Sunday with a 3-0 win at Sassuolo.

Ronaldo proved decisive, scoring after 70 minutes as Sami Khedira found the net first in Modena with fellow German Emre Can slotting in the third four minutes from time.

The Serie A champion had been held by Parma last week despite the Portugese forward’s double.

Now it has left second-placed Napoli trailing after Carlo Ancelotti’s side was held to a goalless draw at Fiorentina on Saturday.

Paulo Dybala again started on the bench coming on late for the champion, to help set up the third goal, with coach Massimiliano Allegri saying he needed to find the right balance.

“Ronaldo and Dybala can certainly play together and they will do, but we need everyone to work hard in order to keep the team balanced,” said Allegri.

“It all depends on who you are playing against. Sassuolo have a strong midfield, so I had to balance my team that way today.

“Players are disappointed, but every now and then sitting on the bench is necessary to recharge batteries and rediscover the right mental toughness.”

Juventus had started slowly with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saving twice in the opening minutes as the champion was without injured defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.

Juventus broke through after Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli rushed out to parry a Ronaldo shot leaving the way clear for Khedira to turn in the rebound after 23 minutes.

It was the German international’s second league goal of his injury-hit campaign, after scoring the opening goal of the Serie A season against Chievo on August 18.

Consigli denied Federico Bernardeschi just before the break with a Khedira header flying wide.

But Portuguese star Ronaldo jumped highest after 70 minutes to meet Pjanic’s corner for his fourth goal in his last three league games to bring his tally to 20 goals for Juventus in all competitions.

The 34-year-old celebrated by mimicking Dybala’s ‘mask’ goal celebration.

Argentine Dybala came off the bench seven minutes from time along with Can and was involved in the buildup for the final goal with Ronaldo proving the assist.

Inter Milan is third —20 points behind Juventus —after beating Parma 1-0 on Saturday, for its first league win of 2019.

But city rival AC Milan is just four points behind Inter in fourth after beat struggling Cagliari 3-0, with new signings Lucas Paqueta and Krzysztof Piatek both scoring.

Cagliari defender Luca Ceppitelli gave the host its first with an unfortunate own goal after 12 minutes.

Brazilian Paqueta volleyed in the second after 22 minutes with Polish forward Piatek again finding the net after 62 for his fourth goal in all competitions.

Paqueta dedicated his first goal in Italy to the ten victims of the fire that ripped through buildings at Rio club Flamengo, where he started his career.

“It was a very difficult time for me,” said the 21-year-old.

“I am living a dream playing for Milan and scoring my first Serie A goal, but it was also a dream for me to be in the Flamengo youth academy and I can’t forget those who were experiencing the same thing.”

The battle for Europe remains tight with Atalanta, Roma and Lazio all just a point behind AC Milan.

The side from Bergamo battled to a 2-1 win over SPAL, with Roma beating Chievo 3-0 and Lazio seeing off Empoli 1-0 during the week.

Lionel Messi was short of fitness and Barcelona lacked spark as a goalless draw away to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in La Liga offered fresh hope to its rival in the title race.

A thigh injury had limited Messi against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Messi was not at his best and neither was Barcelona, which would even have lost had it not been for Marc Andre ter Stegen’s stunning late save to deny Inaki Williams.

The results:

Serie A: Bologna (Destro 17) 1 drew with Genoa 1 (Lerager 33); Atalanta 2 (Ilicic 57, Zapata 79) bt SPAL 1 (Petagna 8); Sassuolo 0 lost to Juventus 3 (Khedira 23, Ronaldo 70, Can 86); AC Milan 3 (Ceppitelli 12-og, Paqueta 22, Piatek 62) bt Cagliari 0.

La Liga: Leganes 3 (En-Nesyri 22, 36, 66) bt Real Betis 0; Valencia 0 drew with Real Sociedad 0; Sevilla 2 (Ben Yedder 88, Sarabia 90+2) drew with Eibar 2 (Orellana 22, Charles 63); Athletic Bilbao 0 drew with Barcelona 0.

Bundesliga: Werder Bremen 4 (Rashica 5, 28, Eggestein 27, Mohwald 83) bt Augbsburg 0; Fortuna Dusseldorf 3 (Karaman 34, Fink 49, Raman 85) bt VfB Stuttgart 0.

Premier League (On Sunday): Manchester City 6 (Sterling 4, 80, Aguero 13, 19, 56-pen, Gundogan 25) bt Chelsea 0.

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