Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot in the first-half as the leaders Juventus the Serie A champions restarted their campaign with a 2-0 victory at Bologna on Monday, relaxing some of the pressure off coach Maurizio Sarri.
After missing a spot-kick in the Coppa Italia fixture against AC Milan 10 days back, the Portuguese star made no mistake in the 23rd minute and Paulo Dybala scored a brilliant goal before halftime and gave the Turin side a comfortable victory.
Juventus, with 66 points from 27 games and chasing a ninth successive title, extended their lead to four points over Lazio, who visit Atalanta on Wednesday. Bologna are 10th. Juve's failure to score in two Coppa Italia games following the end of the new coronavirus stoppage, coupled with their defeat on penalties to Napoli in Wednesday's final, raised questions over Sarri, who has struggled to impose his style of play in his first season at the club.
Juventus Register 2-0 Victory
There were no questions about the Juventus defense, however, which kept a fourth straight clean sheet in all competitions. "I think there's been too much talk, we have to square up and respond with facts like tonight," said defender Leonardo Bonucci. "It's normal to talk about what happened after defeat, especially in a final. We had a discussion and traced a plan, which has been seen today."
After fielding Ronaldo in an unfamiliar center-forward role against Napoli, Sarri returned the Portuguese to his more comfortable position wide of the center. Juve got the breakthrough when Stefano Denswil grabbed Matthijs de Ligt's shirt at a corner and Ronaldo drilled home his 22nd league goal of the season from the spot. A clever backheel by Federico Bernardeschi set up the second for Dybala who curled an unstoppable shot beyond goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski.
Bernardeschi crashed a shot against the crossbar and Ronaldo had another goal disallowed for offside in the second half. The only disappointment for Juve was an injury to defender Mattia De Sciglio and a red card for his replacement Danilo after he was booked twice in quick succession near the end. "We knew Juve would be angry," said Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic. "It's almost impossible for them to slip up three games in a row."
(With agency inputs)