Milan (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty but Italian league leaders Juventus eased past bottom club Chievo 3-0 to pull nine points clear on top of Serie A on Monday as AC Milan returned to the Champions League berths with a 2-0 win in Genoa.
Portuguese superstar Ronaldo had sealed Juventus’s first title of the season — a record eighth Italian Super Cup trophy against AC Milan last Wednesday.
But the 33-year-old was off-form in the first league game after the three-week winter break and on the eve of his return to Madrid where he will appear in court for tax fraud charges dating back to his time with Real Madrid.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner missed numerous chances to score with Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino denying him a 15th league goal this season from the spot after 53 minutes.
But Juventus eased past Chievo with Douglas Costa and Emre Can scoring in the first half and Daniele Rugani heading in a third six minutes from time.
Chievo started their season with a 3-2 defeat to Juventus in Verona but ended 2018 with their first win and would have been in front of Frosinone had they not been deducted three points for false accouting.
They had lost just one of the previous eight games holding Napoli, Lazio and Inter.
Brazilian winger Costa scored the first with an impressive solo run from midfield after 13 minutes for his first league goal of the season.
Paulo Dybala set up Can for the second just before the break.
Juventus were awarded a penalty for a Mattia Bani handball with 39-year-old Sorrentino clearing minutes after also denying Costa a brace.
Ronaldo missed two more chances before Rugani headed in a Federico Bernardeschi free kick as unbeaten Juventus remain on track for an eighth consecutive Scudetto.
Juventus have 56 points from 20 games, nine more than Napoli who beat Lazio 2-1.
– AC Milan back fourth –
Earlier Fabio Borini and Suso scored late as AC Milan bounced back from their defeat to Juventus in Saudi Arabia to reclaim fourth spot.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side have 34 points from 20 games and sit in the final Champions League berth, overtaking Roma who are one point behind in fifth and Lazio, who are a further point behind in sixth after their 2-1 defeat at Napoli on Sunday.
Just four points separate Milan and eighth-placed Sampdoria in a tight race to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition.
Gattuso’s side — unsettled by their defeat to Juventus in Saudi Arabia and mounting speculation surrounding Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain’s loan move to Chelsea — struggled early against Genoa, who are in 14th position following their 10th defeat of the season.
Gattuso left Higuain out of his squad after saying he was not “mentally ready” while Genoa’s Krzysztof Piatek, who is set to replace Higuain at Milan, was suspended.
Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma pulled off key saves and new Brazilian signing Lucas Paqueta also impressing as his long range volley rattled the post just before the break.
Donnarumma again came to the rescue in the second half with a double save on Miguel Veloso and Daniel Bessa.
However Milan got into their stride as the game edged into its final period, with Andrea Conti setting up Borini to tap in his first league goal this season with 18 minutes left.
Donnarumma then got his hand to a powerful Veloso strike before Patrick Cutrone sent Suso free on the counter attack, the Spaniard shaking off Genoa’s defenders to shoot home the decisive goal from an angle 10 minutes later.
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