Cristiano Ronaldo channelled his anger at Juventus’ Champions League exit in midweek into a decisive display in the Bianconeri’s 3-1 win over Cagliari on Sunday, according to head coach Andrea Pirlo.
Juve were eliminated from Europe’s elite club competition by Porto at the last-16 stage on Tuesday, going out on away goals after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate after extra time at the Allianz Stadium.
Sergio Oliveira scored the decisive goal late on from a free-kick that went straight through the Juve wall, with Ronaldo turning his back on the effort.
Former Bianconeri boss Fabio Capello singled out Ronaldo, while ex-president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli suggested Juve should never have spent €100million to sign the forward in 2018.
He responded in superb fashion at the Sardegna Arena, though, scoring a hat-trick inside 32 minutes.
Only once before had Ronaldo scored a quicker hat-trick from kick-off, doing so after 20 minutes against Espanyol for Real Madrid in 2015.
The Portugal international is now four clear of Inter striker Romelu Lukaku at the top of the Serie A scoring charts, with 23 goals from as many appearances.
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In total, Ronaldo has scored 87 times for club and country in March, making it his favourite month of the year in terms of goals, surpassing September (86), while he has now also netted at all 18 stadiums he has played at in Serie A.
Pirlo was pleased with Ronaldo’s display and dismissed suggestions he might have received a red card for a high challenge on Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno.
“I think it was a classic situation during play, both of them were looking at the ball and didn’t realise how close they were,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“He was angry the same way everyone was after the missed qualification, but he did his talking on the pitch with three goals and that’s all that matters.
“It was the right approach, which we needed after failing to qualify the other day, and we started on the right foot.
“All we can do is focus on our own results, getting as many points as possible, winning as many games as possible and then at the end seeing where we are.”
Juve’s win takes them clear of fourth-placed Atalanta and to within one point of Milan, who play in Sunday’s late game.
They remain 10 points behind leaders Inter, having played a game less than Antonio Conte’s side, and defender Giorgio Chiellini insists the reigning champions are not thinking too much about the Serie A pacesetters.
“It was a tough test, as Cagliari are a very good team,” he said. “We’ve got Benevento up next and need to find that consistency we’ve been lacking so far this season.
“With all due respect for Inter, we have to focus only on our own results. Once we reach the end, we’ll see where we are, but the only course we can take is to focus one game at a time and keep going.
“We spoke within the dressing room. This isn’t the moment to be talking too much, our strength has always been giving our response on the pitch. I think if we maintain that unity, we’ll do well.”