Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Cristiano Ronaldo in action during the Serie A match against Parma on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 January 2020

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”


Arsenal, Roma open Europa League with comeback wins

Updated 22 October 2020

Arsenal, Roma open Europa League with comeback wins

Arsenal opened its fourth straight Europa League campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind win at Rapid Vienna on Thursday in an opening round of games affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Star striker Pierre­ Emerick Aubameyang came off the bench to score the winning goal in the 74th for Arsenal, which won its group in its previous three campaigns in the second-tier European competition.
Roma also came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Young Boys, as did Granada to upset PSV Eindhoven away.
Rangers’ Kemar Roofe scored the goal of the night in a 2-0 victory at Standard Liege, dribbling his way through three opponents inside his own half and then launching a shot from the halfway line that caught the goalkeeper off guard and looped into the net.
Dutch team AZ Alkmaar overcame a slew of coronavirus cases to upset Napoli 1-0.
Tottenham, AC Milan were among teams playing later Thursday.
Arsenal went behind when goalkeeper Bernd Leno played a poor pass that fell to Rapid forward Taxiarchis Fountas, who slotted in a low shot from a tough angle in the 51st minute.
Arteta sent on Aubameyang and Héctor Bellerín in the 61st, and the substitutes helped spark the comeback.
After David Luiz headed in a free kick from Nicolas Pépé to level the score, Mohamed Elneny freed Bellerín down the right to cross for Aubameyang to complete the comeback from close range.
In the other Group B game, Molde also came from behind to win 2-1 at Dundalk.
AZ Alkmaar flew into Naples with 13 players sidelined with coronavirus infections. Napoli, meanwhile, was coming off a 4-1 win over high-scoring Atalanta 4-1 this past weekend. But the Dutch staved off the hosts’ pressure before Dani de Wit scored the winner in the 57th. Real Sociedad won 1-0 at Rijeka the other Group F game.
With Roma resting striker Edin Džeko, Bruno Peres and Marash Kumbulla led the rally with the second-half goals for the Italian side.
Jean ­Pierre Nsame had given Young Boys the lead by converting a penalty kick in the 14th.
It was the first home loss for Young Boys to an Italian opponent in European competitions after beating Udinese, Napoli and Juventus.
Also in Group A, Romania’s Cluj won 2-0 at Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia.
In Group C, Bayer Leverkusen produced the biggest win of the early games by beating Nice 6-2. Nadiem Amiri and Lucas Alario scored early first-half goals five minutes apart for Leverkusen, while substitute Karim Bellarabi netted two and 17-year-old forward Florian Wirtz came off the bench to complete the rout.
In a game between teams from two countries whose domestic leagues have been interrupted due to high levels of coronavirus infections, Israel’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva beat Czech Republic’s Slavia Prague 3-1.
James Tavernier gave Celtic the lead from the penalty spot in the 19th before Roofe added his spectacular second goal in injury time. Benfica won 4-2 at Lech Poznan in the other Group D game.
In Group E, German forward Mario Götze put PSV ahead in first-half injury time before Jorge Molina and Darwin Machis scored for Granada in the second half. Omonoia drew with PAOK 1-1.