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Towering Ronaldo header sees Juventus past Sampdoria

Italy Soccer Serie A

Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, top, scores his side’s second goal during a Serie A soccer match between Sampdoria and Juventus, at Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa, Italy, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)


In a Serie A season bursting with uncertainty, one thing remains constant: Cristiano Ronaldo can head a soccer ball.

The Juventus superstar rode the elevator up and dunked on Nicola Murri with an absolutely booming header to secure a 2-1 road win over Sampdoria, moving The Old Lady three points atop the Serie A table for the time being.

Sampdoria had a penalty shout in the opening minutes as Merih Demrial made a mistake in transition and then bundled over Nicola Murru, but the referee waved it off and VAR did not intervene. They came close again in the 18th minute as Gaston Ramirez headed just inches over the bar, connecting with a fabulous cross from Jaison Murillo.

Despite Juve’s shaky start, they would go in front as Paulo Dybala produced a spectacular volley, meeting Alex Sandro’s switch of play at the top-right corner of the box. His low drive found the inside of the far post and put the visitors one-up at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

Past the half-hour mark, Sampdoria finally cashed in for all its attacking intent. Alex Sandro was dispossessed in his own defensive third, and while he nearly toe-poked the ball clear of danger, it fell right to Gianluca Caprari who delivered a fabulous blast past Gianluigi Buffon. It wouldn’t last long, however, as Cristiano Ronaldo leapt high in the air, hung there for a moment, and met Alex Sandro’s cross to blast Juventus back in front in typical Ronaldo fashion.

Ronaldo’s hangtime for the winning goal was utterly stunning, seemingly frozen in midair before pumping the ball into the back of the net.

After halftime, Juventus appeared unable to produce another moment in front of net, and Sampdoria grew in confidence. Blaise Matuidi had an opportunity to put the game to bed with a half-hour to go, but failed to head a wonderful Paulo Dybala cross on frame. The hosts leveled the shot count but also struggled to produce a big chance in front of net, and time began to run out.

Ronaldo came close to bagging one on the break as added time began, and then Sampdoria’s hopes were dashed as Gianluca Caprari was harshly sent off in the 91st minute. Demeral conned the referee into showing Caprari a second yellow card by making a meal out of an aerial challenge, making it look like Caprari swung an elbow.

All told, Juventus leapt to the top of the Serie A table, three points above Inter who plays Saturday at home against Genoa. Inter holds the goal differential advantage, but Juventus owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with a 2-1 win over Inter back in early October.

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