Cristiano Ronaldo slotted away two penalties and Matthijs de Ligt applied the finishing touch as Juventus beat Fiorentina 3-0 to confirm their status as front-runners for the Serie A title.
The vital double strike from Ronaldo took the Portuguese to 14 goals in his last nine league games and 19 in the Italian top flight overall this season, and crucially it ensured Juventus would remain clear at the summit of the table after this weekend’s fixtures.
It also made Ronaldo the first Juventus player since David Trezeguet in 2005 to score in nine successive Serie A appearances.
De Ligt’s late header increased the misery for Fiorentina.
Victory allowed Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus to put behind them the disappointment of the 2-1 defeat to Napoli last time out, while keeping Inter and Lazio at arm’s length.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 2, 2020
Ronaldo proved lethal from the spot in the 40th and 80th minutes, finding the same corner each time.
Gonzalo Higuain had an early shot charged down before Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa tested Wojciech Szczesny from 25 yards, and in a lively opening Miralem Pjanic had a penalty appeal refused after tumbling in the Fiorentina penalty area.
Fiorentina’s Pol Lirola and Erick Pulgar were thwarted by Szczesny midway through the first half, while Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur saw a 30-yard swerving drive pushed away by Bartlomiej Dragowski.
Ronaldo wanted a penalty after going down in the box, but there looked to be no foul.
However, Juventus had the spot-kick they were looking for when Pjanic’s 22-yard shot struck German Pezzella on the left arm just inside the box.
With the calm assurance of a penalty master, Ronaldo rolled the ball into the bottom left corner.
Juventus again wanted a penalty midway through the second half when De Ligt’s header struck Patrick Cutrone, but this time there was nothing doing.
Once more though, just as in the first half, an infringement was around the corner.
Bentancur’s weaving run was brought to an end just inside the box when Federico Ceccherini impeded the midfielder, and Ronaldo stroked the ball home, Dragowski diving the wrong way.
De Ligt nodded in the third in stoppage time from substitute Paulo Dybala’s swerving set-piece delivery.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) February 2, 2020
What does it mean? Napoli was a blip
It looked like it at the time, and now surely that shock loss in Naples can be written off as a blemish within another impressive league campaign for Juventus. There was the Sarri factor against Napoli, the Juve coach going back to his former club and home city, and Gennaro Gattuso’s struggling hosts rose to the occasion. This, on the other hand, was a routine game and a routine win for Juventus, with Ronaldo brutally efficient from 12 yards. No frills and no doubts.
Szczesny shows why he’s number one
Gianluigi Buffon might be waiting for another chance, but there is no doubt Szczesny is the man Juventus can most rely on as the last line of defence. While Ronaldo was making no mistake at the other end of the pitch, Szczesny was immaculate in the Juventus goal, making a string of big saves in the first half.
Fiorentina’s defence found lacking
There were maybe questions to be asked about the second Juventus penalty. If there was a foul, it took some spotting, but referee Fabrizio Pasqua spotted something on the touchline monitor. However, Fiorentina rarely looked convincing at the back. In fact, they looked like an accident waiting to happen, and haphazardly they slipped to defeat.
Key Opta facts
– Fiorentina have collected 25 points or less at this stage of the competition for the first time since the 2004/05 campaign, as a promoted team.
– Juventus have now scored 17 goals from set-pieces in Serie A this season, the joint-most with Roma.
– Ronaldo has found the net in nine league games in a row for the third time in his career, after November 2014 and May 2018.
– Ronaldo played today his 50th Serie A game: he has had a hand in 50 goals (40 goals, 10 assists).
– Ronaldo scored his 50th goal for Juventus in all competitions, in his 70th appearance with the Bianconeri.
– Among the players to have made their Serie A debut in the three points for a win era, Ronaldo has scored the most goals in the first 50 appearances in the competition (40).
Juventus head to Hellas Verona next Saturday evening, while Fiorentina have home advantage against goal gluttons Atalanta earlier that day.
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