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Football: Ronaldo shines again; Barca win

Last updated on: January 04, 2021 09:00 IST
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Ronaldo shines again as Juventus thump Udinese

Cristiano Ronaldo

IMAGE: Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their third goal. Photograph: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and created another goal as Juventus got back to winning ways in Serie A with a 4-1 victory over Udinese in Turin on Sunday, moving the champions up to fifth in the standings.

Ronaldo opened the scoring with a trademark drive, after latching on to Aaron Ramsey's pass in the 31st minute, before threading a perfect through ball into the path of Federico Chiesa to score Juve's second goal four minutes into the second half.

 

The VAR had a busy evening in Turin. First, the referee was asked to consult the pitch-side monitor before ruling out what Udinese thought was the opener for a handball early on, before Aaron Ramsey suffered the same fate when he was penalised for handball, after a second look.

Ronaldo's second goal put the result beyond any doubt as he took his goal tally to 14 league goals for the season -- two more than anyone else in Serie A -- in the 70th minute, with Marvin Zeegelaar scoring an injury-time consolation for Udinese.

There was still time for Paulo Dybala to score another goal for Juventus as Andrea Pirlo's side moved 10 points behind leaders AC Milan, with a game in hand, while Udinese drop to 13th and are without a win in their last four games.

Pirlo admitted his team had initially struggled to make an impact as the players were still haunted by memories of their shock 3-0 defeat by Fiorentina in their final game before the winter break.

"We started frightened after the match against Fiorentina, we were afraid of the depth of the opponents," Pirlo told Sky Sports.

"Little by little we grew up and in the second half we did better. It wasn't the best Juventus."

Juventus thought they had again fallen behind when Rodrigo de Paul fired home from close range.

Udinese celebrated, but the referee was asked to look again at whether De Paul had handled earlier in the move, before the goal was ruled out.

Ronaldo then took centre stage with his emphatic first-half finish, an even better pass for Juve’s second and a fine third.

Welshman Ramsey thought he had scored his first goal of the season in the second half, but again it was ruled out for handball.

Dybala’s injury-time strike completed a flattering scoreline for Juventus, given Udinese had hit the woodwork twice in the match and missed numerous other chances.

"Dybala ... was explosive," added Pirlo.

"He played one of the best games this year, he was more alive and eager and slowly he will find the best form. We need him and he needs us."

Ten-man Milan back on top with win at Benevento

A goal in each half earned 10-man AC Milan a 2-0 victory at Benevento in Serie A which propelled them back to the top of the standings on Sunday.

City rivals Inter Milan had thrashed Crotone 6-2 to go top earlier on Sunday but Milan soon found themselves in front in Campania thanks to Franck Kessie's 15th-minute penalty.

Milan's task was made more difficult after Sandro Tonali was sent off in the 33rd minute following a VAR review. The referee had initially shown the midfielder a yellow card for a dangerous tackle but changed it to red after consulting the pitch-side monitor.

Rafael Leao made it 2-0 four minutes into the second half, while the hosts missed a penalty.

Milan remain unbeaten and have 37 points from 15 games, one point ahead of Inter, while Benevento stay 10th.

"This was another tough victory considering the numerical inferiority," Milan manager Stefano Pioli told Sky Sport.

"It was a great reaction and a great desire to bring home an excellent result.

"The group is young, they must continue to grow and improve. We are enjoying this victory."

Inter had laid down a marker in the title race with their hammering of Crotone and, with third-placed Roma also winning earlier on Sunday, the pressure was on Milan.

After Ante Rebic had won the spot kick, Kessie converted with aplomb, but Tonali’s moment of madness saw him depart with just under an hour of the match still to play.

Robert Insigne hit the post for the home side and Gianluigi Donnarumma made some fine saves to keep Milan in front before Leao put them 2-0 up.

The hosts' chance to get back into the match came from the spot but Gianluca Caprari dragged his penalty wide, ensuring Milan, who hit the post twice chasing a third goal, could see out another victory in their quest for a first Scudetto in 10 years.

Barca earn narrow win over Huesca

Lionel Messi

IMAGE: Barcelona's Lionel Messi in action with Huesca's Pablo Insua and Pedro Mosquera. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Barcelona edged La Liga's basement club Huesca 1-0 on Sunday courtesy of a Frenkie de Jong goal made by Lionel Messi in the Argentine's 500th league appearance for the club.

Dutch midfielder De Jong arrived at the far post to meet a Messi cross and score on the volley in the 27th minute to give the visitors a deserved lead after a rampant start.

But Ronald Koeman's side failed to take their many other chances and in the end were made to sweat for all three points.

Huesca could have levelled in the second half when the ball trickled across Barca's area and striker Rafa Mir directed a backheel at goal but the shot lacked power and keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen made the save despite seeing the ball late.

The win took Barca above Sevilla and into fifth place in the standings on 28 points, 10 behind leaders Atletico Madrid who beat Alaves 2-1 earlier on and who have a game in hand on the Catalans. Huesca stay bottom with 12 points.

"It's evident we need to kill off our opponents in games like these; we suffered too much in the end," said Barca keeper Ter Stegen.

"But these are three very important points, we had to suffer for them and games like this are very important when you want to win the title.

"They hacked us a bit in the first and second half and we weren't able to take our chances but we stayed focused throughout."

Barca had been held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Eibar in their last match and had also lost Philippe Coutinho to a serious knee injury but they could at least welcome back Messi, who had missed that match with an ankle problem.

The Argentine looked slightly off the pace in his milestone league match and wildly missed the target with a left-footed volley in the first half when the sensible option would have been to take it with his right.

He made amends with an clever piece of play for the only goal of the game, however, picking out De Jong with a sensational, curling cross.

Messi came close to scoring himself late in the first half with a free kick but Huesca keeper Alvaro Fernandez got across to tip his shot over the crossbar.

Suarez sinks Alaves to take Atletico top in La Liga

Luis Suarez struck late to snatch a 2-1 victory for Atletico Madrid away to Alaves on Sunday and send his side two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Atletico had taken the lead late in the first half when Suarez teed up a deflected goal by Marcos Llorente and the task should have got easier for the visitors when Alaves defender Victor Laguardia was sent off in the second half.

But Alaves had a flurry of late chances and levelled in the 84th minute when Atleti defender Felipe diverted a cross from Joselu into his own net.

Atletico would not be undone, however, and they clinched a vital victory for their title charge when substitute Saul Niguez picked out fellow late addition Joao Felix, who cut the ball across goal and Suarez pounced from less than a metre out to bundle it into the net.

Atletico went into the match trailing Real Madrid by a point but the last-gasp victory took them on to 38 points, two ahead of their city rivals and with two games in hand.

Alaves are 13th on 18.

"We knew it would be a difficult game as Alaves always make things tough and they proved that by drawing level with one player less but it was so important for us to get the win," said goalscorer Llorente.

"Our substitutions worked very well and we got the second goal after a great piece of play and it allows us to keep focusing on our objective."

Atletico had been boosted by the news Kieran Trippier's 10-week suspension from the English Football Association for violating betting rules had been put on hold by world organising body FIFA, although the right back did not travel to the match as the squad had been named before the announcement was made.

Sime Vrsaljko started in Trippier's place while record signing Felix began the game on the bench but was introduced after the hour mark and the Portuguese played a decisive role in the win, with his incisive late pass to the feet of Suarez.

Bayern retain top spot with comeback 5-2 win over Mainz

Bayern Munich

IMAGE: Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring their fifth goal with Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller. Photograph: Andreas Gebert/Reuters

Bayern Munich returned from the two-week Christmas break looking rusty before fighting back from two goals down to beat second-from-bottom Mainz 5-2 in a rip-roaring Bundesliga contest on Sunday.

The result left Bayern on 33 points from 14 games at the top of the league, two more than second-placed RB Leipzig who won 1-0 at VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.

Bayern midfielder Joshua Kimmich, who sparked the home side's comeback with their first goal, conceded that last season's Champions League winners had been below par in the first half when they missed a string of chances.

"We came out in the second half with a completely different attitude but we were still fortunate that Mainz didn't score a third goal," he told Germany's Sky television.

Mainz striker Jonathan Burkardt, who scored the opening goal, said: "We played with newly-found aggression and that's something to build on despite the fact that we ended up conceding five goals."

The German title holders were trailing 2-0 at halftime before they woke up with their run of goals, including a brace by Robert Lewandowski which took his tally to 22 goals in all competitions.

Burkardt had fired Mainz ahead against the run of play in the 32nd minute with a superb finish from 15 metres after shaking off Jerome Boateng. Alexander Hack made it 2-0 12 minutes later with a thumping header from Daniel Brosinski's cross.

Danny Latza missed a gilt-edged chance to add a third for Mainz shortly after the break when his shot was pushed on to the post by Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and the visitors were swiftly punished as the home side hit top gear.

Kimmich pulled one back in the 50th minute with a close-range header after Lewandowski nodded a Serge Gnabry cross into his path, before Leroy Sane equalised five minutes later with a scorcher from 20 metres into the bottom right corner.

The visitors again came agonisingly close to stunning Bayern when Robin Quaison rattled the underside of the bar with a long-range thunderbolt but once again ruthless Bayern took advantage instantly.

Halftime substitute Niklas Suele turned the tide when he volleyed home from inside the area through a forest of bodies before Lewandowski forced Mainz into submission.

The winner of the 2020 FIFA Best Player award converted a penalty after Leandro Barreiro had brought down Gnabry with a late tackle and then bundled in a Thomas Mueller cross as Mainz collapsed in the final 20 minutes.

Earlier on Sunday, Borussia Dortmund broke back into the top four after goals from Manuel Akanji and England forward Jadon Sancho gave them a 2-0 home win over sixth-placed Wolfsburg.

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