A superb Cristiano Ronaldo header sent Juventus three points clear at the top of Serie A with a 2-1 victory at Sampdoria on Wednesday as Gianluigi Buffon matched the league appearance record.
Paulo Dybala’s exquisite volley put the champions in front before Gianluca Caprari levelled, but a remarkable leap and towering header from Ronaldo on the brink of halftime proved decisive.
Ronaldo was denied his second goal by the offside flag late on, before Samp scorer Caprari was sent off in stoppage time when he was shown a second yellow card.
“The whole team showed the right attitude,” Ronaldo told Sky Italia. “It was a good goal and I am glad to help the team with another three points."
“I had problems with my knee for a month, but that has gone now and I feel good physically.”
It was a special night for Buffon as the veteran goalkeeper equalled Paolo Maldini’s record of 647 Serie A appearances and set a new Juventus Serie A appearance record of 479 games, one more than Alessandro Del Piero.
Juventus top the table with 42 points, although second-placed Inter (39) have a game in hand, while Sampdoria are 17th on 15 points.
Sarri fielded the attacking trident of Ronaldo, Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain for the second game in a row, and his side needed 19 minutes to find the opener as Dybala struck a sublime volley into the bottom corner.
Sampdoria drew level 10 minutes before the break when Caprari swept a finish past Buffon after a defensive mix-up.
Juve, however, went back in front through an extraordinary Ronaldo header. The Portuguese was calculated to have jumped 71 centimetres off the ground to meet Sandro’s cross at a height of 2.56 metres, before powering home.
“Ronaldo did something that you see in the NBA (National Basketball Association), he was up in the air for an hour and a half,” said Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri.
“There’s nothing you can say about it, you can only congratulate him and move on.”
Ronaldo, who has six goals in his last five Juventus appearances, thought he had his second when he rounded goalkeeper Emil Audero to roll the ball into an empty net, but the effort was disallowed for offside.
The game ended on a sour note for Ranieri’s side as Caprari caught Merih Demiral in the face with a flailing arm to earn a second yellow card.
Juventus head to Saudi Arabia this week, where they will face Coppa Italia holders Lazio in the Supercoppa Italiana in Riyadh on Sunday ahead of the winter break, which runs until the first weekend of January.
Later on Wednesday, goals from Hamed Traore and Francesco Caputo either side of halftime gave Sassuolo a 2-0 win away to Brescia.
The win lifts Roberto De Zerbi’s side into 11th place on 19 points, while Brescia remain in the relegation zone, in 18th with 13 points.
Stoppage-time goals secure Bayern win at Freiburg
Bayern Munich’s Joshua Zirkzee and Serge Gnabry scored stoppage-time goals to give the Bundesliga champions a 3-1 win at Freiburg on Wednesday, while Borussia Moenchengladbach joined RB Leipzig at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Paderborn.
Bayern looked set to drop points until Zirkzee scored his first Bundesliga goal a minute after coming on as a substitute, with Gnabry making sure of the victory.
The win, however, could not mask Bayern’s defensive weaknesses, with the team having now conceded at least one goal in their last four league games.
Bayern got off to a strong start, hitting the post through Thomas Mueller before Robert Lewandowski’s 19th league goal of the season gave them the lead in the 16th minute.
Freiburg, however, gradually gained control of the midfield, attacking with greater ease as the Bavarians were punished once more for their complacency.
Vincenzo Grifo volleyed in to level on the hour, completing a superb attacking move from the hosts, who missed several more scoring chances as the Bayern defence looked shaky.
Late substitute Zirkzee, the 18-year-old Dutch youth international, then slipped into the box and slotted in from close range before Gnabry added another.
Bayern are third on 30 points, ahead of fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund on goal difference. The Bundesliga will break after this weekend’s action and will resume in mid-January following its traditional winter pause.
“It was a game with many ups and downs. Fortunately, with a happy finish in the end,” Bayern interim coach Hans Flick told reporters. “At the end we had a bit of luck. Freiburg played well, they put us under pressure.”
On his decision to bring on Zirkzee in stoppage time, Flick said he wanted the Dutchman to be in the mix should a cross be floated into the box.
“I thought if a cross comes in then he could put it in. He has been with us (from the reserves) for the past three weeks and his development is very noticeable.”
Second-half goals from Alassane Plea and Lars Stindl gave Glabdach a comfortable 2-0 win over visiting Paderborn and lifted them to 34 points, second on goal difference behind RB Leipzig.