Cristiano Ronaldo’s double inspired Juventus to a 3-1 victory over Udinese on Sunday afternoon, as a blistering first-half performance earned the hosts all three points at the Allianz Stadium.
Ronaldo put Juventus ahead on just nine minutes with a right-footed shot from the edge of the box, after Maurizio Sarri’s side made an impressive and high-tempo start to the game.
Leonardo Bonucci’s long pass picked out Paulo Dybala’s run behind the Udinese back five and his chested control saw the ball land at Ronaldo’s feet – what followed was an exquisite finish with the outside of the boot.
Cristiano Ronaldo gives Juve the lead with a sweet strike into the bottom corner!
⚽ The Bianconeri are looking to return to winning ways and Udinese’s task now looks a lot more difficult this afternoon pic.twitter.com/HzTfq38qPg
— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) December 15, 2019
The Portuguese helped himself to a second as half time approached, making an excellent run in behind that was picked out by Gonzalo Higuain. As Ronaldo span behind Udinese’s defence, his strike partner slotted a perfectly-weighted ball into the box and I Bianconeri were 2-0 ahead.
Any realistic hopes of a Udinese comeback were quashed in first-half stoppage time, as Bonucci headed home from a corner – flicked on by his centre half partner Merih Demiral.
Udinese were much improved at the start of the second period and Gianluigi Buffon demonstrated he still has the ability and hunger for Serie A football, producing two fine stops from Kevin Lasagna before the 55th minute.
3 – Juventus have scored three goals in a Serie A first half for the first time since February 2018. Tris. #JuveUdinese
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 15, 2019
Juve, on the other hand, were a far less attractive proposition and had to rely on the 41-year-old to deny both Lasagna and Seko Fofana as the game progressed. Ignacio Pussetto’s stoppage time consolation to make it 3-1 summed up Juve’s casual second-half defending, as they switched off for a simple cross into box.
The win puts Juve back on top in Serie A, though Inter can reclaim that first place spot with victory against Fiorentina on Sunday evening.
Key Talking Point
Maurizio Sarri has been reluctant to deploy the attacking trident of Dybala, Ronaldo and Higuain together this season, but his hand was forced by Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen. Following his 66th-minute introduction, Dybala assisted goals for each of his attacking teammates in the final 15 minutes.
The trio picked up where they left off on Sunday afternoon. With Dybala – arguably the most creative of the three – playing behind Ronaldo and Higuain, Juve’s movement in the final third was a joy to watch. When their number ten drifted into other areas or carried the ball towards goal, Sarri’s strike duo exploited the space to perfection.
Dybala, Higuain, Ronaldo seems to be working quite well so far for Juve. They’re doing their jobs without the ball too. Also, Matuidi is a machine so that helps. #JuveUdinese
— Rhysh Roshan Rai (@RhyshRai) December 15, 2019
These counters with Dybala, Ronaldo and Higuain……if wew were a little more clinical and incisive, we’d be out of sight already. Loving this trident
— Juventus News – Juvefc.com (@juvefcdotcom) December 15, 2019
The proof was in the first-half pudding. Dybala’s smart run created the space for Ronaldo to score his first from the edge of the box, while his second was a result of Higuain drifting into a central area to pick him out.
The former Napoli striker was unlucky not to score himself, with one shot rounding off a move that saw Dybala sliding a ball through to Ronaldo who teed Higuain up for a near-post shot.
Cristiano, Dybala & Higuain have played 150 minutes together this season scoring 7️⃣ goals 勞
Earlier in the season Sarri said it sounds better when you’re talking about it in a bar but in real life that trio lacks balance
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) December 15, 2019
The second half was a different story, a poor team performance and lack of pressure on the opposition that largely nullified I Bianconeri’s attacking talent. Accusations of being a ‘one-half team’ have been justified at times this season, perhaps a reason for Sarri’s preference for more functional lineups as opposed to this attacking trio.
Starting XI: Buffon (7); Danilo (6), Bonucci (7), Demiral (7), De Sciglio (6); Rabiot (6), Bentancur (6), Matuidi (7); Dybala (8), Higuain (8), Ronaldo (8*).
Substitutes: Bernardeschi (6), De Ligt (6), Costa (5).
STAR PLAYER – Cristiano Ronaldo’s early season form has drawn criticism, but the Portuguese seems to have got back to his best in recent weeks.
Those two first-half goals screamed vintage Ronaldo and even those who view him as a pantomime villain will have shared a small fraction of his joy as he celebrated the first.
The opening goal was struck sublimely with the outside of the boot, but was ultimately a product of Ronaldo timing his run just inside the box to perfection. His second was all about movement, spinning Udinese’s centre halves with such speed that they were rendered useless by Higuain’s through ball.
Ronaldo twice went close to sealing a hat-trick in the final ten minutes and was denied by a fine Juan Musso save, before hitting the post minutes later.
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored nine goals in all competitions for club and country in his last seven games.
Two shots taken, two goals for CR7. pic.twitter.com/Dl0ENPRQFz
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 15, 2019
Starting XI: Musso (7); De Maio (6), Troost-Ekong (5), Nuytinck (6); Ter Avest (7), De Paul (5), Mandragora (6), Fofana (7), Larsen (6); Okaka (6), Lasagna (7*).
Substitutes: Pussetto (6), Souza Silva (5), Nestorovski (5).
Ahead of the winter break, Juventus travel to Sampdoria in midweek Serie A action before next Sunday’s Supercoppa Italiana final against Lazio.
Udinese, meanwhile, have only Cagliari left to play in 2019 and welcome the high-flying Sardinians to Stadio Friuli on Saturday.