MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo finally scored with a free kick in the Italian league to help Juventus beat Torino 4-1 on Saturday in a match which also saw Gianluigi Buffon set the Serie A appearance record.
Ronaldo scored Juve’s third goal to take his tally to 25 league goals this season, four behind Lazio forward Ciro Immobile who leads the Serie A scoring charts.
It was the 46th club goal Ronaldo had scored in his career direct from a free kick but his first in nearly two seasons with Juventus and on his 43rd attempt.
“I needed to score from a free kick to get some confidence back,” the 35-year-old Ronaldo said.
Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri revealed that Ronaldo told him “finally” as he walked off the field at the end of the match.
Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado had scored in the first half before Andrea Belotti's penalty kick reduced the deficit. Torino defender Koffi Djidji netted an own-goal late on.
Juventus continued its march towards a record-extending 10th straight title as it moved seven points clear of second-place Lazio, which lost 3-0 at home to AC Milan.
The Turin derby was Buffon’s 648th appearance in Italy’s top flight, moving the 42-year-old 'keeper one ahead of AC Milan great Paolo Maldini, who set the record in 2009. Buffon matched this record on Dec. 18 against Sampdoria.
Buffon only had a couple of saves to make before being faced with a penalty in first-half stoppage time after Matthijs de Ligt was somewhat harshly judged to have handled the ball.
Buffon got a hand to Belotti’s penalty.
Juventus had taken the lead in the third minute when Cuadrado threaded the ball through for Dybala, who beat two defenders before curling in his fifth goal in as many Serie A matches.
Juve doubled its advantage in the 29th when Ronaldo ran from well inside his own half to the penalty area and rolled the ball across for Cuadrado to fire into the bottom left corner.
And Ronaldo got on the scoresheet himself in the 61st, floating the free kick over the wall and into the top left corner.
He became the first Juventus player since 1961 to score 25 league goals in a season.
Matters went from bad to worse for Torino when Djidji turned Douglas Costa's cross into his own net.
The only sour note for Juventus was that Dybala was booked as well as De Ligt and both will be suspended for Tuesday’s match against Milan.
“They are two players who are doing really well in this period but I think we have solutions,” Sarri said.
“They are important absences but two strong players will play in their place.”
Zlatan Ibrahimović scored a penalty on his first start since lockdown to boost Milan’s chances of qualifying for the Europa League.
Milan moved above Napoli into sixth spot with its third win in four league games since Italian soccer resumed.
Ibrahimović had injured his calf in training before the season, which had been halted because of the coronavirus pandemic, resumed. He was a substitute in the midweek draw at Spal.
Milan took the lead at Lazio after Hakan Çalhanoğlu’s effort took a deflection to loop over Thomas Strakosha and into the top left corner.
Ibrahimović thought he had scored in the 31st but his volley was ruled out for offside.
The 38-year-old Swede did score three minutes later with a penalty after Ștefan Radu charged down a shot with his arm.
Ibrahimović was replaced at halftime by Ante Rebić who scored his ninth goal in his past 11 league matches to effectively seal the match and damage Lazio’s title chances.
Sassuolo was twice pegged back before beating relegation-threatened Lecce 4-2.
Lecce remained a point from safety. The visitors equalized twice against Sassuolo, which had scored three goals in each of its previous three matches.
Jeremie Boga restored Sassuolo's advantage 12 minutes from time and Mert Müldür all but sealed the match five minutes later.