MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo finally scored with a free kick in Serie A to help Juventus beat Torino 4-1 on Saturday in a match which also saw Gianluigi Buffon set a new appearances record.
Ronaldo scored Juve’s third goal to take his tally to 25 league goals this season, four behind Lazio forward Ciro Immobile who leads the Serie A scoring charts.
It was the 46th club goal Ronaldo had scored in his career direct from a free kick but his first in nearly two seasons with Juve and on his 43rd attempt.
“I needed to score from a free kick to get some confidence back,” the 35-year-old Ronaldo said.
Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado had scored in the first half before Andrea Belotti’s penalty kick reduced the deficit. Torino defender Koffi Djidji netted an own-goal late on.
Juve continued their march towards a record-extending 10th straight title as they moved seven points clear of second-placed Lazio, who lost 3-0 at home to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired AC Milan.
The Turin derby was Buffon’s 648th appearance in Italy’s top flight, moving the 42-year-old ‘keeper one ahead of AC Milan great Paolo Maldini, who set the record in 2009.
Buffon only had a couple of saves to make before being faced with a penalty in first-half stoppage time after Matthijs de Ligt was somewhat harshly judged to have handled the ball. Buffon got a hand to Belotti’s penalty.
Juve had taken the lead in the third minute when Cuadrado threaded the ball through for Dybala, who beat two defenders before curling in his fifth goal in as many Serie A matches.
Juve doubled their advantage in the 29th when Ronaldo ran from well inside his own half to the penalty area and rolled the ball across for Cuadrado to fire into the bottom left corner.
And Ronaldo got on the scoresheet himself in the 61st, floating the free kick over the wall and into the top left corner.
He became the first Juventus player since 1961 to score 25 league goals in a season.
Matters went from bad to worse for Torino when Djidji turned Douglas Costa’s cross into his own net.
The only sour note for Juventus was that Dybala was booked as well as De Ligt and both will be suspended for Tuesday’s match against Milan.
Ibrahimovic scored a penalty on his first start since lockdown to boost Milan’s chances of qualifying for the Europa League.
Milan provisionally moved above Napoli into sixth spot with their third win in four league games since Italian football resumed.
Lazio struggled to find their cutting edge without a recognised striker, as Immobile and his natural replacement Felipe Caicedo were both suspended.
The away side took the lead midway through the first half when Ibrahimovic teed up Hakan Calhanoglu to score with a long-range deflected effort.
The 38-year-old Swede netted a penalty in the 34th minute to score his fifth goal since rejoining Milan from LA Galaxy in January.
Ibrahimovic was substituted at half-time, but his replacement Ante Rebic put the result beyond doubt in the 59th minute as Lazio’s dream of a first league title in 20 years suffered a potentially fatal blow.
We’ve got to look forward and prepare for the next match. We know the journey we have taken and have no intention of letting go,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi told DAZN.
Sassuolo were twice pegged back before beating relegation-threatened Lecce 4-2. Lecce remained a point from safety.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020