Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated turning 36 in style as his early goal helped Juventus to see off Roma 2-0 in Saturday’s Serie A contest.
A day after his 36th birthday, Ronaldo continued his stellar form in an exceptional performance at Allianz Stadium with a fantastic strike to open the scoring.
It was a match of few clear-cut chances – Roma failing to register an attempt on target until the 61st minute – though Ronaldo, who had all of Juve’s three efforts, went close to a second when he rattled the crossbar.
A flurry of Roma pressure midway through the second half proved fruitless and, on the counter-attack, Juve had a decisive second when Ibanez turned into his own net.
84 – Cristiano #Ronaldo has been directly involved in 84 goals since his Serie A debut (2018/19), thanks to 68 goals and 16 assists, more than any other player in the competition.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 6, 2021
Ronaldo avoided any risk of going four league games without a goal for the first time since 2017 as he thumped Juve ahead in the 13th minute, dispatching a left-footed snapshot into the right-hand corner.
Bryan Cristante was inches away from restoring parity in spectacular fashion seven minutes later – his wicked volley arrowing just wide.
The woodwork came to Roma’s rescue in the 22nd minute, Ronaldo’s deflected strike clattering down off the underside of the bar.
Ronaldo almost turned provider with an exquisite cross to Alex Sandro but the full-back was just unable to take it under control, before Pau Lopez denied Juve’s rampant number seven.
With the onus on a toothless Roma attack, Juve frustrated their visitors after the restart, retaining 63 per cent possession in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Wojciech Szczesny was finally called into action just after the hour, easily dealing with Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s dipping effort before making a routine stop from Carles Perez’s volley.
Yet Roma’s comeback hopes were swiftly ended – Ibanez only able to divert Dejan Kulusevski’s cutback into Roma’s net to seal a Juve win which moved them within five points of leaders Inter.
What does it mean? Juve back in the running
Inter beat Fiorentina 2-0 on Friday to move top of Serie A, though Milan will retake pole position if they overcome bottom side Crotone on Sunday.
Juve have a game in hand on both Milan clubs and, with the Bianconeri having kept three successive league clean sheets for the first time under Andrea Pirlo, who also has Ronaldo on top form, you would not bet against them going on to clinch a 10th straight Scudetto.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) February 6, 2021
Age is just a number
In an Instagram post to mark his 36th birthday on Friday, Ronaldo said: “I’m sorry that I can’t promise you 20 more years of this.”
While two more decades is beyond the reach of even the superhuman Ronaldo, the Portugal captain displayed his remarkable quality in another inspired showing. He has now scored 16 times across 17 Serie A appearances this season, while he has been directly involved in more goals than any other player (84) since making his debut in the competition.
With Edin Dzeko starting on the bench after failing to secure a move away in the transfer window, Roma lacked a focal point until the forward’s introduction just after the hour.
Paulo Fonseca’s side had scored seven times in their previous two league outings yet had to wait over an hour for their first attempt on target and never truly came close to testing Szczesny, despite ending with 14 efforts on goal.
Key Opta Facts
– Juve had only three shots tonight, the lowest total they have managed under Pirlo. However, the Bianconeri also kept their sixth clean sheet of the current league campaign
– Roma have lost four of their last six Serie A games played away from home (conceding at least two goals in each of these defeats).
– Ronaldo has been directly involved in 84 goals since his Serie A debut in 2018, scoring 68 goals and providing 16 assists, more than any other player in the competition.
– Alvaro Morata has provided the most assists (seven) among the Serie A 2020/21 strikers. Four of these have been to Ronaldo.
– Ronaldo’s opener was only his fourth goal from outside the box in Serie A. He has netted four times in his last three league appearances against Roma.
Juve have a Coppa Italia semi-final second leg coming up on Tuesday, with Pirlo’s team holding a 2-1 advantage over Inter. Roma, meanwhile, host Udinese a week on Sunday in their next league game.
Read More: Transfer News