Ronaldo responds to critics with hat-trick for Juventus

It took Ronaldo's tally to 770 career goals, surpassing Brazilian great Pele's official total. Both wrote messages marking the occasion on social media.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a hat-trick against Cagliari.   -  GETTY IMAGES

A fast hat-trick for Cristiano Ronaldo still wasn't enough for third-place Juventus to close in on Inter Milan, which managed to extend its lead at the top of Serie A.

Inter snatched a 2-1 win at relegation-threatened Torino and moved nine points clear of second-place AC Milan after the Rossoneri lost 1-0 at home to Napoli.

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Nine-time defending champion Juventus beat Cagliari 3-1 but remained 10 points behind Inter, although it has played a match less.

Ronaldo's first-half hat-trick set it on the way at Cagliari. It was the perfect response to criticism the Juventus forward and his teammates had come in for after the Bianconeri were knocked out of the Champions League by Porto in the round of 16 earlier in the week.

“The criticism didn't bother me — what bothered me was being knocked out of the Champions League, having not played well,” Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said.

“Then, you have to respond on the field. Cristiano did exactly that, with a perfect hat-trick.”

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However, Ronaldo was somewhat fortunate not to get sent off a few minutes after heading in a corner for his first goal in the ninth minute.

The Juventus forward went in high to meet Federico Chiesa's cross and caught Alessio Cragno in the face, leaving the Cagliari goalkeeper with a cut to the chin. But Ronaldo was shown just a yellow card.

The two clashed again in the 25th minute when Cragno tripped Ronaldo, who doubled his tally with a powerful penalty.

And Ronaldo completed his hat-trick seven minutes later, controlling Chiesa's cross and doing a little shimmy before curling into the far side of the net.

It was a so-called perfect hat-trick, as the Portugal forward scored with his head, right foot and left.

It took Ronaldo's tally to 770 career goals, surpassing Brazilian great Pele's official total. Both wrote messages marking the occasion on social media.

Giovanni Simeone netted a consolation for Cagliari in the second half.

-Last-gasp Win-

Lautaro Martínez headed in a late winner to help Inter take a potentially crucial step towards a first league title since 2010.

Martinez netted five minutes from time after Antonio Sanabria had cancelled out Romelu Lukaku's opener from the penalty spot.

The penalty was awarded in the 62nd minute when Torino defender Armando Izzo clattered into Martinez.

Inter had dominated possession before then but struggled to carve out opportunities and didn't have a shot on target in the first half.

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It was Torino that came closest to scoring first when Lyanco headed a free-kick onto the right post and Lukaku had to clear off the line.

Torino remained two points from safety, although it has played fewer matches than the teams around it.

-Winless Streak Ended-

Relegation-threatened Parma ended its 17-match winless streak with a surprise 2-0 win over high-flying Roma.

Valentin Mihaila scored in the ninth minute and Hernani converted a second-half penalty to secure Parma's first win since November.

American teenager Bryan Reynolds made his debut for Roma when he was introduced on the hour mark.

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Roma remained two points below fourth-place Atalanta in the race for the Champions League qualifying spots. Napoli is above Roma on goal difference after Matteo Politano scored the only goal at San Siro early in the second half.

Milan forward Ante Rebic was sent off in stoppage time for dissent, compounding the Rossoneri's misery. Parma moved to within three points of safety. Also, Bologna beat Sampdoria 3-1.

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