Ronaldo helps Juve cruise past Crotone to go third
February 23 2021 11:55 PM
Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo (right) scores against Crotone in Serie A. (Reuters)

AFP/Turin, Italy

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Juventus strolled to a 3-0 home win over bottom side Crotone in Serie A on Monday night, with the victory taking the champions up to third in the standings.
Juve were slow to get going, but their ever-reliable talisman arrived to meet an Alex Sandro cross in the 38th minute to give Andrea Pirlo’s side the lead. The Portugal forward looked hungry for more and another bullet header in first-half stoppage time doubled the lead, taking him back to the top of the league’s scoring charts on 18 goals, one ahead of Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku.
The 36-year-old Ronaldo had chances to complete a hat-trick but it was Weston McKennie who added the third, hammering home his fourth Serie A goal of the season in the 66th minute. A first win in four matches in all competitions ensured Juve climbed from sixth to third in the table and onto 45 points, eight behind leaders Inter with a game in hand.
“The desire we have to return to the top makes me feel comfortable,” Pirlo said. “The attitude of the players also pleases me. When we have more players free from injury I will have more choice and this also makes me feel comfortable. We know that Inter are a great team and we know we have to fight (to win the title).”
“We made a nervous start, possibly because of recent matches, but our two goals calmed us down and we were then able to manage the game well. It certainly wasn’t our best start: our passing was sloppy, partly due to rushing and partly due to our desire to score an early goal. In any case, it was important to get the three points this evening,” Pirlo added.  
Crotone remain rooted to the foot of the table with 12 points from 23 games, eight points from the safety zone. Aaron Ramsey thought he had given Juve the lead with a looping header only to see the ball hit the bar before Ronaldo showed him how it is done with two expertly-taken headers.
Ronaldo’s goals mean Crotone are the 78th different team he has scored against in Europe’s top five leagues — only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored against more sides since 2000. A glaring miss at the end of the half showed Ronaldo is only human, before two fine saves by Alex Cordaz after the break denied the Portuguese another hat-trick. McKennie’s close-range finish put the game beyond doubt, but league-leading scorer Ronaldo tried everything he could until the last minute to add more to his tally. 
Ramsey said: “We knew it would be a tough game because they weren’t under pressure, but we managed to create plenty of opportunities, score three goals and keep a clean sheet, so all in all, it was a good night for us. It was important to get back to winning ways after the Champions League game in midweek and the results this weekend.”

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