Cristiano Ronaldo became the fastest player to 50 Serie A goals as Juventus put themselves on the cusp of a ninth successive Scudetto with a 2-1 win over Lazio.
Juve went into Monday’s clash with the chance to go eight points clear at the top with four games to go after both Inter and Atalanta dropped points over the weekend.
They made no mistake against a Lazio side that has seen their title challenge fade badly since the restart, Ronaldo scoring twice in the space of three second-half minutes to secure victory.
A 51st-minute penalty took him to his half-century in 61 matches and he had an easy finish for a second that looked to have ended the game as a contest until Ciro Immobile’s penalty set up a tense finale that Juve survived to all but ensure the title will remain in Turin.
Alex Sandro, who rescued Juve in their 3-3 draw with Sassuolo last time out, headed against the post from Matthijs de Ligt’s cross in the 11th minute.
However, Thomas Strakosha was not legitimately tested until the 35th minute when he turned Adrien Rabiot’s effort over after a surging run from the Frenchman, with Ronaldo heading wide from the resulting corner.
Lazio were also denied by the woodwork shortly before half-time when Immobile sent a rasping strike cannoning off the post.
Ronaldo attempted to prod over the line on the rebound after Strakosha thwarted Dybala following quick feet in the box from the Argentina forward, only for a goalmouth clearance to maintain parity.
But there was no denying Ronaldo his place in Serie A history after VAR overturned the decision that Bastos had handled his shot outside the area.
Strakosha correctly dove to his left but did not get a touch to a typically confident penalty and he was similarly helpless as Dybala won possession in midfield and surged through on goal before laying the ball off for Ronaldo to tap into an empty net.
Ronaldo clattered the crossbar with a header after a cross from Dybala, who again found Strakosha in fine form to keep out another close-range effort.
Leonardo Bonucci paid the price for nonchalant defending as he felled Immobile, who won and emphatically converted an 83rd-minute penalty to fray Juve nerves.
The hosts were grateful to a flying save from Wojciech Szczesny to keep out Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s free-kick, but they held firm and the title now appears a formality for Maurizio Sarri’s men.
Sarri came into this game amid talk of him fighting to save his job but, while Juve can still be caught, it would take an incredible collapse to deny the Bianconeri boss the most significant title of his career.
A Europa League winner with Chelsea last season, a Coppa Italia Serie D triumph with Sansovino marks Sarri’s sole honour in his home country. That is about to change.
While Ronaldo’s record-setting feats will grab the headlines, it was Dybala who was at the heart of everything good going forward for Juve. With seven key passes including one assist, his was a performance that deserved a goal.
Save for Immobile hitting the post, Lazio did not offer enough until they were chasing the game and left themselves too much to do. It was another disappointing display from a team that has endured an alarming slump having been only a point behind Juve when the season restarted.
Key Opta Facts:
– Juventus have scored two-plus goals in 11 Serie A consecutive games for the first time ever.
– Cristiano Ronaldo is the third player in Juventus history to score 30-plus goals in a single Serie A season with the Bianconeri, after Felice Borel (31 in 1933-34) and John Hansen (30 in 1951-52).
– Ciro Immobile is only the fifth Italian player to score 30-plus goals in a single Serie A campaign.
– Both Juventus and Lazio have scored 13 penalty goals in Serie A this term: more than any team in a single season since Opta started to collect this data (2004-05).
– Douglas Costa played today his 100th game for Juventus, in all competitions.
With Atalanta hosting Bologna on Tuesday and Inter welcoming Fiorentina to San Siro on Wednesday, Juve will know whether they can win the title at Udinese on Thursday, when Cagliari are the visitors to Lazio.