Football Serie A

Juventus survive Cagliari scares

Juventus survived a couple of scares to beat Cagliari 3-1 with Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado and a Filip Bradaric own goal.

The Bianconeri needed the win to restore their six-point cushion at the top of the table, as Napoli and Inter had already won by scoring five goals. Mario Mandzukic, Giorgio Chiellini, Federico Bernardeschi and Emre Can missed out, though Sami Khedira was back on the bench after a month out. Douglas Costa got his first start since September 16. The Sardinians had to do without Diego Farias, Charalampos Lykogiannis and Ragnar Klavan.

It took all of 44 seconds to break the deadlock, as Rodrigo Bentancur threaded through for Dybala, who shrugged off two defenders and slipped when taking the right-foot shot from 12 yards, but that ended up helping the ball squirm into the near bottom corner past a surprised Alessio Cragno.

Douglas Costa’s dangerous cross flashed just past the head of Cristiano Ronaldo, but Cagliari had penalty appeals when Medhi Benatia nodded the ball on to his own arm. The referee viewed it on VAR, but when the ball ricochets off another part of the body on to the arm, it is not considered voluntary.

Moments later, an Artur Ionita cross was whipped in for Leonardo Pavoletti to come sliding in from six yards, but Wojciech Szczesny performed a stunning reaction save.

The Cagliari goal was in the air after a series of corners and it came from Joao Pedro. His splendid first touch allowed him to control and cut back around Joao Cancelo, then the low drive went through the full-back’s legs into the near bottom corner.

However, barely 90 seconds later, Juve had restored their advantage. Douglas Costa’s low cross from the left prompted Filip Bradaric to panic and he needlessly came sliding in, accidentally prodding it past his own goalkeeper from close range.

VAR was called into action again for Bradaric, who was having a terrible evening and knocked the ball on with the top of his arm, but the referee ruled it was his shoulder and shrugged off Juve penalty appeals.

Cristiano Ronaldo smashed a powerful effort on to the near upright from a tight angle in first half stoppages.

Dybala ran into a gap that wasn’t there and his timid appeals were waved away, while Szczesny was alert to pluck a dangerous cross off the head of Pavoletti.

Cristiano Ronaldo saw his shot from a tight angle deflected over at the near post and on the resulting corner Bentancur fired off target.

Cagliari had a big chance to draw level with a goalmouth scramble, as several shots were charged down from close range by desperate Juve defensive bodies.

However, Ronaldo went on the counter-attack from the resulting corner and generously rolled it across for Cuadrado to sweep home undisturbed.

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