Milan (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as voracious Italian champions Juventus finished 2018 on a high with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria to set a new record of 53 points before the winter break.
Ronaldo curled in the opener after just two minutes in Turin adding a second from the penalty spot after 66 minutes, putting the Portuguese top of Serie A’s scoring charts on 14 goals.
Evergreen Sampdoria striker Fabio Quagliarella pulled the Genoa outfit level with a penalty after 33 minutes, with the visitors having a late Riccardo Saponara goal ruled offside after consultation with the video assistant referee.
VAR proved decisive in the game with Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo, dismissing Ronaldo’s penalty as “a gift,” adding “that Saponara goal should never have been cancelled”.
“Juventus are strong, they consume everything. They are a cannibal,” said Giampaolo.
“For me, morally, the game was 2-2.”
Juventus open up a 12-point lead at the top of Serie A ahead of Napoli who can reduce the gap when they host Bologna later on Saturday.
The seven-time reigning champions also have a record number of points before the three-week winter break with 53 from 19 games.
“Records are meaningless, if not to improve and raise the bar,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri, whose team target a first trophy of the season in the Italian SuperCup on January 16 against AC Milan.
The reigning champions have dropped points just twice, being held 1-1 by Genoa at home in October and 2-2 against Atalanta midweek, and are firmly on track for an eighth consecutive Scudetto.
– VAR decisive –
Ronaldo had come off the bench to score in Bergamo last Wednesday but returned to the starting line-up in the Allianz Stadium.
And the Portuguese striker found a way through early, picking up a Paulo Dybala cross to fire in past Sampdoria’s on loan Juventus goalkeeper Emil Audero.
Sampdoria pulled level following a penalty awarded following an Emre Can handball with Quagliarella making no mistake beating Mattia Perin in the Juventus goal.
The 35-year-old became the first player to score in nine consecutive Serie A games since David Trezeguet for Juventus in 2005.
Audero denied Dybala before the break with Mario Mandzukic missing a chance to finish off a Ronaldo cross.
The Sampdoria goalkeeper again deflected over a Ronaldo header on the hour but the hosts went ahead when the referee pointed to the spot for an Alex Ferrari handball off a corner after a VAR viewing.
Substitute Saponara looked to have grabbed a point deep into injury time but VAR ruled he was in an offside position as Sampdoria stay fifth, two points behind Lazio who occupy the final Champions League spot.
“I like VAR a lot because it reduces the number of mistakes,” said Ronaldo.
“It’s not easy for the match officials to analyse everything that goes on in a match. We just have to let them get on with their jobs.”
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner joined Juventus from Real Madrid last summer.
“The first half of the season has gone really well,” said the 33-year-old, “but there’s still a long way to go. We must stay focused and keep working away if we want to achieve great things.”
Inter Milan, in third, travel to Tuscany outfit Empoli on Saturday, without their fans, who are barred after racism and violence overshadowed their midweek game against Napoli in the San Siro.
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