Cristiano Ronaldo’s first half hat-trick helped Juventus to a 3-1 win over relegation-threatened Cagliari.
Cagliari made the brighter start and were fearless in sending men forward as they looked to shock a Juventus side wounded from their midweek Champions League exit.
But the Old Lady and Cristiano Ronaldo dealt the suckerpunch against the run of play after just 10 minutes, with the Portuguese leaping highest for a Juan Cuadrado corner to send a trademark bullet header past Alessio Cragno.
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And 15 minutes later Cragno was helpless again as he brought down the onrushing Ronaldo inside the box, handing Juventus a penalty that the Portuguese hammered down the middle.
A hat-trick looked inevitable, and the number seven had his third with just over half an hour played. Federico Chiesa found him on the right flank, and after cutting inside on his left, Ronaldo found the top corner with an unstoppable effort.
Cagliari appeared unfazed by their three-goal deficit and continued to hassle and harry a nervous Juventus backline.
Duncan was the first to sting Wojciech Szczesny’s palms with a vicious free-kick and moments later Nahitan Nandez did the same with a dipping long-distance effort.
And the hosts finally had the goal they deserved when Gabriele Zappa picked out the unmarked Giovanni Simeone inside the box with the striker sending a rifled, acrobatic effort into the net to pull a goal back.
Cagliari continued to press with Juventus forced to replace striker Alvaro Morata with defender Leonardo Bonucci.
But despite a spirited effort, Ronaldo’s first-half masterclass was enough for Andrea Pirlo’s men who go ten points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan with a game in hand still to play.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Without Ronaldo there was little to separate the two sides, but with the Portuguese on this kind of form Juventus were always going to run out as winners. A truly devastating individual display.
TALKING POINT – Ronaldo bounces back
Cristiano Ronaldo has had his critics this week as Juventus exited the Champions League in the last 16 for the second season running. And so, with some suggesting that Ronaldo had failed to deliver for the Old Lady or show his true worth, a hat-trick inside 33 minutes will certainly have silenced some doubters.
Juventus were not at their best today, but Ronaldo was, and that was the difference. If they have any outside chance of retaining their Serie A title this season, he is it.
Cagliari: Cragno 6, Ceppitelli 5, Godin 6, Rugani 6, Nandez 6, Marin 7, Duncan 7, Nainggolan 7, Zappa 6, Joao Pedro 6, Simeone 7. Subs. Klavan 7, Asamoah 6, Cerri n/a, Pereiro n/a, Deiola n/a.
Juventus: Szczesny 7, Cuadrado 7, De Ligt 5, Chiellini 6, Sandro 4, Chiesa 7, Rabiot 6, Danilo 7, Kulusevski 6, Morata 5, Ronaldo 9. Subs. Bernardeschi 7, Bonucci 7, McKennie 6, Arthur n/a, Frabotta n/a
10’ - GOAL! Cagliari 0-1 Juventus (Ronaldo). There he is. It's a Ronaldo special as he rises highest to meet Cuadrado's corner with a bullet header! So easy. 1-0.
24’ - PENALTY TO JUVENTUS! Cragno brings down Ronaldo as the Portuguese bears down on goal. The Portuguese steps up...
25’ - GOAL! Cagliari 0-2 Juventus (Ronaldo). He absolutely leathers the penalty right down the middle. Two for Ronaldo, two for Juventus, a long way back for Cagliari now...
33’ - GOAL! Cagliari 0-3 Juventus (Ronaldo). Wow. What was I saying? Chiesa picks out Ronaldo on the right hand side. A few stepovers later and he is absolutely lashing the ball into the corner. It really is special from the big man who has a hat-trick inside 33 minutes. Really, really good.
61’ - GOAL! Cagliari 1-3 Juventus (Simeone). No less than they deserve! Cagliari have been knocking on the door in this second half and they have a goal back!. Zappa gets in behind the Juve backline and pulls back for Simeone who rifles an acrobatic effort past Szczesny. Could they?
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