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Ronaldo hat trick of assists as perfect Juve beats Napoli

September 29, 2018
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Juventus' Mario Mandzukic, left, celebrates with teammates Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring during the Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Juventus at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Andrea Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

MILAN (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo was hired by Juventus for his scoring fame. In the absence of goals, though, his influence knows no bounds.

On Saturday, Ronaldo set up all three of his side’s goals — two for Mario Mandzukic and one for Leonardo Bonucci — as Juventus beat 10-man Napoli 3-1 in Serie A.

In seven league matches so far, he has five assists, compared to three goals.

It’s not quite what Juventus or Ronaldo ordered, but he and the team remain perfect on the domestic front going into his enforced rest in Tuesday’s Champions League match against Young Boys following his red card at Valencia.

“Ronaldo is having fun and doing well,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “Tonight, he played his best match with us ... we have to be better in picking him out.”

Juventus’ bid for an eighth successive Serie A title looks even more unstoppable.

Napoli pushed Juventus all the way last season in the most exciting title race in recent history but the Bianconeri clinched the title despite being beaten at home by Napoli late in the campaign.

It already has a six-point lead over Carlo Ancelotti’s team, which again looks set to be its closest challenger.

Napoli took only 10 minutes to take a deserved lead. Allan picked out Jose Callejon, who found Dries Mertens with a delightful volleyed pass and the Belgium international slotted home.

Juventus leveled after a great bit of skill from Ronaldo on the left saw him befuddle Elseid Hysaj and put in a cross for a Mandzukic header.

Juventus completed the turnaround four minutes after the break. Ronaldo’s effort came off the left post and Mandzukic turned in the rebound.

Napoli’s night went from bad to worse in the 58th when defender Mario Rui was sent off for a second yellow card.

Juventus capped the match 14 minutes from time. Ronaldo’s glancing header from a corner came to the far post where Bonucci was sliding in to score his first goal since his return from AC Milan in the offseason.

Napoli hosts Liverpool on Wednesday in the Champions League.

ROMA STOP THE ROT

Roma turned in its most convincing performance yet to beat rival Lazio 3-1 in the Rome derby.

Roma’s second victory in four days — after a 4-0 win over promoted Frosinone on Wednesday — gave the team some much-needed confidence ahead of a Champions League match against Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday.

A surprise Champions League semifinalist last season, Roma was thoroughly outclassed by Real Madrid 3-0 in its group opener.

“This performance means the team hasn’t lost its identity or idea of football,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. “I saw the difference in their faces and their eyes today, and it showed on the pitch.”

Roma is back in the Serie A fight for the Champions League places, sitting sixth, one point behind Lazio, which had won four straight.

Aleksandar Kolarov scored the winner from a free kick midway through the second half. Kolarov played for Lazio from 2007-10 and scored the side’s fourth goal in a 4-2 derby win in 2009. Arne Selmonson, who played for Lazio and then Roma in the 1950s, is the only other player to score for both sides in the “Derby della Capitale.”

TURNAROUND

After a stuttering start to the season, things seem to be clicking for Inter Milan, which has four successive wins in all competition.

Inter moved into fourth spot after beating Cagliari 2-0. Lautaro Martinez and Matteo Politano scored their first goals for the club.

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf contributed to this story from Rome.

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This story has been corrected to show that Ronaldo has five assists not six.

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