Milan, Italy, Jan 6 – Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first Serie A hat-trick to lift Juventus top of the table with a 4-0 win over Cagliari on Monday as Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not enough for AC Milan as he made his debut in a goalless draw against Sampdoria.
Portugal forward Ronaldo struck for the fifth consecutive league game to move the champions back above Inter Milan in their first match since the Italian SuperCup defeat to Lazio in Saudi Arabia last month.
“I’m happy with this first hat-trick. But the important thing is the team, which played very well,” said Ronaldo.
“We had to win to go ahead and put Inter under pressure.”
Maurizio Sarri’s side had been pegged back in the first half by the sixth-placed Sardinians who have been pushing for a spot in the Champions League places this season but fell to their third consecutive defeat.
The second-half was all one-way traffic with 34-year-old Ronaldo breaking the deadlock just after the interval.
He added a second from the penalty spot on 67 minutes then set up Gonzalo Higuain who came off the bench to strike a third on 81 minutes, before Ronaldo completed his hat-trick a minute later.
Juve are three points ahead of Inter in the table with Antonio Conte’s side travelling to Napoli later on Monday, looking to keep pace with the eight-time reigning champions.
– ‘Disastrous’ –
Ronaldo’s heroics overshadowed Swedish star Ibrahimovic’s debut for Milan as he came off the bench after 55 minutes against Sampdoria.
The 38-year-old came on for Poland striker Krzysztof Piatek to deafening applause from the 58,000 crowd in his first appearance after rejoining the club last week.
But there was little else to cheer for the hosts who extended their winless run to three games and remain 12th in the table.
“The disastrous defeat in Bergamo has remained within us,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli after the 5-0 loss to Atalanta last time out.
“It is a shame not to have won. Ibra’s impact was absolutely positive.
“He immediately gave support, but the team is not yet used to his presence, we could look to him more.
“His physical prowess gives us some more solutions, but we lacked quality from everyone.”
Atalanta continued their fine form, closing to within a point of fourth-placed Roma, who lost 2-0 to Torino on Sunday, with another 5-0 rout, this time of seventh-placed Parma.
The side from Bergamo were already three goals up before the break thanks to Alejandro Gomez, Remo Freuler and Robin Gosens, with Josip Ilicic adding a double in a nine minute second-half spell.
New Fiorentina coach Giuseppe Iachini had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Bologna in his first game after taking over from Vincenzo Montella.
The Tuscany side had lead for most of the game after Marco Benassi volleyed in on 27 minutes but Riccardo Orsolini grabbed a point for Bologna deep into injury time.