Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala put Juventus back on top of Serie A as records fell in a 2-1 victory at Sampdoria.
Brazilian defender Alex Sandro had a hand in both goals for Juventus, a thumping header from Ronaldo after a spectacular leap and a brilliant volley by Dybala, with the Turin giants pulling three points clear of Inter.
Inter, who face Genoa on Saturday, can reclaim first place going into the mid-season break, but this was a night to savour for Juventus.
Gianluigi Buffon could not keep a clean sheet, but the veteran goalkeeper matched Paolo Maldini’s all-time record of 647 Serie A appearances, and a 479th outing in the division for Juve meant he broke Alessandro Del Piero’s top-flight mark for the Bianconeri.
In Juve’s final league game before a near three-week interval, Maurizio Sarri secured his 100th Serie A victory as a coach in what was just his 169th match. No coach has reached that mark in as few games in Italy’s top flight.
Sarri selected a front three again, evidently not as reluctant as he had intimated to field Ronaldo, Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together.
The breakthrough arrived in the 19th minute, with Alex Sandro’s out-swinging delivery from the left reaching Dybala on the right side of the penalty area.
Without hesitation, he took the ball on the volley with his left foot and sent a 15-yard shot skidding across goal and into the far corner.
Sampdoria’s leveller came after 35 minutes when Gianluca Caprari drilled home from close to the penalty spot after Alex Sandro gave away the ball to Gaston Ramirez on the hosts’ right.
Ronaldo restored Juventus’ lead in the 45th minute, rising majestically at the far post to power home another Alex Sandro cross, the Brazilian involved in a third goal of the half.
Portugal superstar Ronaldo was denied what looked a certain third Juve goal early in the second half when Blaise Matuidi inexplicably stepped in front of the talisman to meet a Dybala cross, delivering a clumsy finish that was more of a clearance. Ronaldo looked exasperated.
If anyone was a spare part in the Juventus side, it was Higuain, so it made sense for Sarri to replace him with Aaron Ramsey midway through the second half, fortifying the midfield.
Ronaldo was thwarted late on by an offside flag and then shot a whisker wide, while Sampdoria had Caprari sent off at the death for a second infringement.
Watch Ronaldo’s stunning header below:
👑 Lui è il lottatore pic.twitter.com/A8bD95Nt3P
— مُحَمَّدْ モハメッド (@mjdaoudi10) December 18, 2019