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Ronaldo brace lifts Juventus past Cagliari

Agence France-Presse

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Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his second goal against Cagliari. / Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his second goal against Cagliari.

MILAN, Italy (AFP) — 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 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.

“We needed a match like this,” Pirlo said. “There were excellent performances, even from those returning from national teams.

“A lot of them arrived two days ago and did their first training yesterday and were also tired from the trip.

“Tonight they also had fun, performances like this allow the players to gain confidence.”

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

The Portuguese striker blasted in an Alvaro Morata cross on 38 minutes, before latching onto a Merih Demiral header from 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 at 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 match at Anfield in four days’ time, being held to a second consecutive stalemate.

Atalanta is sixth, level 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.

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