Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday hit back at his critics with a quick-fire hat-trick, as Juventus brushed aside Cagliari 3-1, five days after their Champions League elimination, while Inter moved nine points clear at the Serie A summit.
Portuguese star Ronaldo bore the brunt of the criticism for Juve’s latest European flop, after failing to score in either leg of the last-16 defeat by Porto, while also being partly at fault for what proved to be the goal which knocked them out.
But the 36-year-old scored a header in the 10th minute at the Sardegna Arena, added a second from the penalty spot 15 minutes later and completed a “perfect” treble on 31 minutes with a fine left-footed strike.
Defending champions Juventus are 10 points behind leaders Inter, who beat Torino 2-1, but with a game in hand.
Andrea Pirlo’s side pulled just one point behind second-placed AC Milan, whose title hopes took a big hit following a 1-0 home defeat to SSC Napoli.
“Our approach was spot on and it was important to get off on the right foot after being knocked out the other night,” Pirlo said.
“Ronaldo was angry, like the rest of the team. He reacted like a true champion,” he added.
Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Serie A with 23 goals this season, ahead of Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, who has 19.
His career tally is now 770 goals, overtaking Brazilian legend Pele’s 767 scored in official matches, which he matched earlier this month.
“Congratulations on breaking my record of goals in official matches,” Pele, 80, wrote on Instagram. “I admire you a lot, I love watching you play and this is no secret to anyone.”
“My only regret is not being able to give you a hug today,” he added.
Pele — the only player in history to win three World Cups — has claimed to have scored 1,283 goals in total, including in unofficial matches.
Before kick-off, Juventus chief football officer Fabio Paratici dismissed talk about Ronaldo’s future with the club.
“It makes me laugh. I would never have imagined discussing the value of Cristiano Ronaldo,” Paratici said.
“It’s a privilege to have him with us, he’s part of our future,” he added.
Lautaro Martinez scored a brilliant 85th-minute winner in a tight game against 18th-placed Torino to keep Inter on track for a first league title since 2010.
Antonio Conte’s Inter once again needed their strike duo of Lukaku and Martinez to find a way to win in Turin.
Christian Eriksen came off the bench on 56 minutes and had an immediate impact, playing a part in the move, which resulted in Torino defender Armando Izzo fouling Martinez in the penalty area.
Lukaku fired home the resulting spot-kick in the 62nd minute.
Inter looked to be wobbling when Antonio Sanabria pulled Torino level eight minutes later, finishing off goalmouth scramble, but Martinez snatched the victory, getting his head to an Alexis Sanchez cross for his 14th league goal this term.
Jorge Fernandez was not going to attend his daughter Leylah’s all-teen US Open final showdown yesterday with Britain’s Emma Raducanu over fears about messing with routines that are working. Jorge Fernandez, a former soccer player from Ecuador who became a tennis coach for his daughter, was to watch from home in Florida — as he has for two weeks — when 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez was to meet 18-year-old qualifier Raducanu for the title. “No, I’m not going to be there,” Jorge Fernandez told US Open reporters on a conference call. “I’m extremely superstitious. My daughter is as well. I’ve been using the
FAIRY-TALE RUN: Emma Raducanu, 18, is trying to become the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977 British 18-year-old Emma Raducanu on Thursday became the first qualifier in history to make a Grand Slam final when she reached a fairy-tale US Open decider against another teenager, 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez. Raducanu, who was virtually unknown even in Britain at the start of the year, is to become the youngest Grand Slam finalist in 17 years after beating Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4 in a nerveless display. “I’m in the final and I can’t actually believe it,” Raducanu said. Fernandez, a 73rd-ranked left-hander, beat second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-4 for her third Open win
POWERFUL FIGURE: Sheikh Ahmad led the OCA from 1991 to Friday, and was also an influential member of the IOC until 2018 and other sports bodies, including FIFA Veteran Indian sports administrator Raja Randhir Singh yesterday took over as head of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) after its Kuwaiti former leader was sentenced to jail in a forgery case. Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad Al Sabah, a member of Kuwait’s ruling family, stepped aside as Asia’s top sports official after the Geneva court on Friday found him guilty over a plot against political rivals in the Gulf state. Singh, 74, said in a statement that he was taking over as interim president as the longest-serving member of the OCA executive. Taiwan’s national Olympic committee is a member of the OCA. “I have every
REVENUE SHARING: The US Soccer Federation said it believes that the best path forward for the men’s and women’s national soccer teams is a single pay structure The US Soccer Federation (USSF) on Tuesday said that it has offered “identical” contracts to its men’s and women’s national teams as part of efforts to end a long-running gender pay dispute. A statement from the USSF said that the proposed contracts had been sent to the players’ associations acting on behalf of the US men’s national team (USMNT) and US women’s national team (USWNT), with the goal being to bring the national squads under a single collective bargaining agreement (CBA). “US Soccer firmly believes that the best path forward for all involved, and for the future of the sport in the