Ronaldo brace takes Juventus back top of Serie A

Ronaldo struck twice in the 1st half to make it 5 goals in 4 games. (AP pic)

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Juventus bounced back from their first defeat of the season to beat Udinese 3-1 and move top of Serie A on Sunday.

Ronaldo struck twice in the first half to make it five goals in four games as the champions move one point ahead of leaders Inter Milan ahead of their trip to off-form Fiorentina later on Sunday.

“That’s how we have to play, with confidence. Let’s see what happens now,” said Ronaldo.

Maurizio Sarri’s side had taken just one point from their last two league games, falling 3-1 to Lazio in Rome last weekend after a 2-2 draw against Sassuolo.

But Portuguese star Ronaldo tapped in a Paulo Dybala rebound after nine minutes at the Allianz Stadium, and burst through to finish off a Gonzalo Higuain cross on 36 minutes.

Leonardo Bonucci sealed the three points just before the break when he headed in from close range.

Ignacio Pussetto pulled a goal back for 17th-placed Udinese four minutes into injury time with his close range effort beating Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal.

Juventus play their final Serie A game before the winter break at Sampdoria on Wednesday, with a rematch against Lazio in the Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia next weekend.

“It is the first time after a Champions League match that we managed to attack the game well,” said Sarri.

“We played very well for 60 minutes.”

Roma move up to fourth and into the Champions League places after three second-half goals sealed a 3-1 win over rock bottom SPAL.

Andrea Petagna had put SPAL ahead from the spot just before the break after Aleksandar Kolarov clumsily brought down Thiago Cionek in the box.

But Lorenzo Pellegrini pulled the hosts level eight minutes after the interval with a shot that took a deflection off Nenad Tomovic.

Diego Perotti put Roma ahead with a 66th-minute penalty before substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan sealed victory seven minutes from time.

Roma are one point behind third-placed city rivals Lazio, who play fifth-placed Cagliari on Monday.

Napoli drop to eighth – 11 points off the top four – after last season’s runners-up lost 2-1 to Parma on Saturday.

AC Milan lack party spirit

Atalanta are sixth after falling 2-1 at Bologna just days after the Champions League newcomers sealed their place in the competition’s last 16.

Rodrigo Palacio opened the scoring after 12 minutes for Bologna off a rebound after a Riccardo Orsolini effort came off the post.

Andrea Poli nodded in the second eight minutes after the break, before Ruslan Malinovskyi pulled a goal back on the hour mark.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side are sixth on 28 points, four points off the Champions League places.

“We are a team that often creates a lot, but is wasteful. Today we wasted too many opportunities,” said Gasperini.

AC Milan were held to a goalless draw against Sassuolo at the San Siro as the former European giants marked their 120th anniversary in tepid style.

Theo Hernandez had a goal ruled out after half an hour following a Franck Kessie handball in the buildup, with Rafael Leao hitting the crossbar and the post.

Stefano Pioli’s side failed to make it three wins in a row and sit 10th with Sassuolo three places and five points below.

Hellas Verona battled back from three goals down with all three substitutes scoring in a 15-minute second-half spell to hold Torino 3-3.

Christian Ansaldi scored a brace with Alex Berenguer also on target for the visitors.

But Verona hit back with three goals after 69 minutes when Giampaolo Pazzini scored from the spot.

Valerio Verre then smashed in off a rebound, before Mariusz Stepinski added a third.

Torino are ninth, with Verona two points back in 12th.