SPORT

Ronaldo scores 2 as Juventus fights back to beat Empoli 2-1

Serie A leaders Juventus were far from impressive on Saturday but Cristiano Ronaldo came to the rescue with a brace as they rallied to a 2-1 win at strugglers Empoli. The Portuguese ace converted a penalty and found the top-left corner for a seven-goal tally after the Tuscany hosts took a first-half lead from Francesco Caputo's fourth season goal. Juve have 28 points from 10 games, with second-place Napoli on 21 before welcoming Roma on Sunday.

Juventus missed Mario Mandzukic and Giorgio Chiellini. It got by with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo scored twice as Juventus came from behind to win at relegation-threatened Empoli 2-1 on Saturday and maintain its unbeaten start in Serie A.

His first was a perfectly placed penalty, and his second was a magnificent 20-yard strike, which his coach Massimiliano Allegri called "a moment of magic."

"Those types of moves should be shown to kids in football academies rather than boring them with theory and tactics," Allegri said. "Tomorrow, so many of them will go out and try to imitate the feat of a superstar: By doing that they will certainly learn more than with abstract concepts."

Ronaldo has seven goals in 10 league matches, and four in four since being accused of rape in the United States last month.

Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. Ronaldo denies any wrongdoing.

Following a midweek win at Manchester United in the Champions League, Mandzukic was out injured along with Emre Can and Sami Khedira. Juventus was dealt another blow when defender Chiellini limped out of the warmup and was replaced in the starting lineup by Daniele Rugani.

"We knew it would be a difficult match because we were a bit tired. Playing after the Champions League is always very tricky," Ronaldo said. "But we gave a good response in the second half.

"We gave a great response against Manchester United, and today we showed we're a great team."

In Chiellini's absence there were gaps in the defense, and Empoli took advantage, scoring within half an hour. Afriyie Acquah surged and put the ball into the box, where a deflection took it into the path of Caputo, who curled a delightful effort into the far side of the net.

The goal was only Empoli's second in nine matches against Juventus in Serie A.

Juventus appeared renewed after the break and it leveled nine minutes in when Ronaldo converted a penalty after Ismael Bennacer fouled Paulo Dybala.

Ronaldo scored what was to prove the winner in the 70th. He collected the ball from Blaise Matuidi, took a couple of steps and looked up then fired a stunning strike into the top left corner from 20 yards out.

"I don't remember it well, it was a very quick move, and I think it was a really great goal," Ronaldo said.

Juventus moved seven points clear of second-placed Napoli, which hosts Roma on Sunday.

FREE-SCORING ATALANTA
Josip Ilicic continued to impress as he helped Atalanta beat Parma 3-0.

Ilicic netted a Serie A hat trick last week at Chievo Verona, ending a nine-match winless streak in all competitions for Atalanta. The Slovenia midfielder didn't score this time but was at the heart of Atalanta's good play.

Atalanta's first goal was a rebound of an Ilicic strike, and the third came from his corner kick. He then hit the crossbar.

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