Juventus appears to be reducing its dependence on Cristiano Ronaldo.
The nine-time defending champion overcame an unusually sub-par performance from the 35-year-old forward against Italian league leader AC Milan on Wednesday , instead getting goals and assists from youngsters Federico Chiesa, Weston McKennie and Dejan Kulusevski.
Chiesa scored twice in the 3-1 victory at San Siro, ending Milan’s 27-match unbeaten run.
The 23-year-old winger joined Juventus from Fiorentina on transfer deadline day in October for EUR 50 million (USD 60 million). Critics said he was overhyped and overpriced, but he appears to be doing just what Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo wants.
“We signed him to get him into one-on-one situations in the final third and he does that brilliantly,” Pirlo said.
Chiesa left the field immediately after his second goal midway through the second half, leading to some speculation that he may have been injured.
“I’m fine,” said Chiesa, who also scored in Sunday’s match against Udinese. “I had a small hip problem, but no muscle issues. It’s nothing serious.”
The win moved Juventus within seven points of Milan in fourth place. The team’s next match is on Sunday against fifth-place Sassuolo.
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Chiesa was at the heart of most of Juve’s attacks against Milan and he also hit the woodwork early in the game.
“Giving everything for this team takes you to a high level and the goals are a result of that,” Chiesa said. “For the first goal, I just did what the coach asks of me: to release the ball and time my runs into space well.
“When you have players like (Paulo) Dybala and Cristiano who see things that others don’t, everything is easier. The second goal on my left foot, however, is down to training. You have greater responsibility at Juve.”
Wednesday’s victory also demonstrated the team’s envy-inducing strength in depth. Dybala, who set up the two goals, and Chiesa were replaced by Kulusevski and McKennie, who combined for the team’s third.
Chiesa is 23, McKennie is 22 and Kulusevski is 20.
The victory over Milan was the club’s first over one of Serie A’s top teams this season, with matches against second-place Inter Milan and third-place Roma to come in the next month.