A fast hat trick for Cristiano Ronaldo still wasn’t enough for third-place Juventus to close in on Inter Milan, which managed to extend its lead at the top of Serie A on Sunday.
Inter snatched a 2-1 win at relegation-threatened Torino and moved nine points clear of second-place AC Milan after the Rossoneri lost 1-0 at home to Napoli.
Nine-time defending champion Juventus beat Cagliari 3-1 but remained 10 points behind Inter, although it has played a match less.
Ronaldo’s first-half hat trick set it on the way at Cagliari. It was the perfect response to criticism the Juventus forward and his teammates had come in for after the Bianconeri were knocked out of the Champions League by Porto in the round of 16 earlier in the week.
“The criticism didn’t bother me — what bothered me was being knocked out of the Champions League, having not played well,” Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny said.
“Then, you have to respond on the field. Cristiano did exactly that, with a perfect hat trick.”
However, Ronaldo was somewhat fortunate not to get sent off a few minutes after heading in a corner for his first goal in the ninth minute.
The Juventus forward went in high to meet Federico Chiesa’s cross and caught Alessio Cragno in the face, leaving the Cagliari goalkeeper with a cut to the chin. But Ronaldo was shown just a yellow card.
The two clashed again in the 25th minute when Cragno tripped Ronaldo, who doubled his tally with a powerful penalty.
And Ronaldo completed his hat trick seven minutes later, controlling Chiesa’s cross and doing a little shimmy before curling into the far side of the net.
The concentration now is fully on Serie A with no European football for the rest of the season. And not just Serie A, but making sure that there’s Champions League football once again next season since a top 4 finish isn’t exactly a certainty with how the team has been playing for the last few weeks. Or the entire season seeing as Juve’s still closer to the first couple of teams that sit outside a European spot than they are closer to league leaders Inter Milan.