Ronaldo double lifts Juve, Atalanta stall before Liverpool trip

Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Chiesa celebrate after the match against Cagliari at the Allianz Stadium, Turin November 21, 2020. — Reuters pic
Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Chiesa celebrate after the match against Cagliari at the Allianz Stadium, Turin November 21, 2020. — Reuters pic

MILAN, Nov 22 — Cristiano Ronaldo scored his third brace in five games as champions Juventus moved up to second place in Serie A on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Cagliari in Turin.

Andrea Pirlo's side are one point behind leaders AC Milan, who travel to fourth-placed Napoli on Sunday.

Lazio also won 2-0 under torrential rain at Crotone, but rivals Atalanta were held 0-0 at promoted Spezia days before their Champions League trip to Liverpool.

Juventus had been held 1-1 at Lazio last time out -- one of four stalemates this season for the nine-time reigning champions -- but quickly took charge against the Sardinians.

Federico Bernardeschi had an early goal ruled offside before Ronaldo struck twice in a four-minute spell before the break.

The Portuguese striker blasted in an Alvaro Morata cross after 38 minutes, latching onto a Merih Demiral nodded cross off a corner for the second from close range minutes later.

Ronaldo, 35, has come back strong after his coronavirus layoff, scoring eight goals in five games to join Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the top of the Serie A scorers' chart.

Ragnar Klavan had a goal disallowed for Cagliari midway through the second half.

But it was Juventus who threatened a third with Demiral, Morata, Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala having shots at goal.

Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt played the entire game in his first match since shoulder surgery in August, a boost for Pirlo's side without injured duo Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini before Tuesday's Champions League game against Hungarian side Ferencvaros.

Gian Piero Gasperini's Atalanta stalled before their big game at Anfield in four days' time, being held to a second consecutive stalemate.

Atalanta are sixth, equal on points with seventh-placed Lazio after eight games. 

"Technically it was not a good performance but there are no easy matches and the team did what they had to do," said Gasperini, whose side failed to score for the first time this season.

Diego Farias hit the woodwork for Spezia with Atalanta's Duvan Zapata denied by the post before the break.

Germany's Robin Gosens had a goal ruled offside after 56 minutes for the visitors.

Spezia, in 12th, could thank goalkeeper Ivan Provedel for the point with a double save from Mario Pasalic and Gosens, with the Croatian denied again late.

 Immobile makes a splash

In Calabria, Ciro Immobile scored on his return from coronavirus isolation with his 21st-minute diving header paving the way for victory for Lazio on a waterlogged pitch in southern Italy.

It was the fourth Serie A goal in six games this term for the top scorer in Europe last season, who had missed Lazio's previous two league games.

The Italy international was also involved in the second goal, sending Joaquin Correa through just before the hour mark as the rain briefly subsided.

Argentine Correa fired in his first league goal this season from a tight angle through the legs of Crotone goalkeeper Alex Cordaz.

"Ciro's a leader, scoring a very important goal in a difficult match," said coach Simone Inzaghi, whose side host Zenit Saint Petersburg in the Champions League next week.

"We had problems with Covid and injuries. Today we had important players out like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic... those who replaced them gave their best.

"I'm happy for Correa, he scored in the Champions League and today in the league. 

"Let's not forget that he arrived on Friday after two days of travel and with jetlag. I asked him for this huge sacrifice and he repaid me today."

Rock bottom Crotone fell to their sixth defeat in eight games as they remain winless in their return to the top flight after two seasons in Serie B. — AFP

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