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Virus-hit Dybala still dangerous for Juventus

Virus-hit Dybala still dangerous for Juventus

ROME: Paulo Dybala remains as dangerous as ever despite nearly 50 days with the coronavirus.

Cristiano Ronaldo had already given Juventus an early advantage by converting a penalty when Dybala doubled the lead with a splendid, curving effort in a 2-0 win at Bologna in the Serie A restart for both clubs on Monday.

Resuming their chase for a record-extending ninth straight Italian league title, Juve moved four points clear of Lazio, who visit Atalanta on Wednesday. Inter Milan, in third, are nine points adrift of Juve, and next host Sassuolo.

It was a welcome complete performance for Juve after being held scoreless over two Coppa Italia matches and losing the final to Napoli last week when Dybala’s saved kick in the penalty shootout proved key.

“It was essential to win,” Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci said. “It was tough to restart after so long. Those two matches were underwhelming. This is the right path. We need to have the desire to bring home the result at any cost.”

Dybala was isolated for 46 days starting in March when he continued to test positive for the virus week after week — even though he was reportedly without symptoms. Dybala’s girlfriend also tested positive.

“We need confidence and this victory will help us,” said Dybala. It’s not easy to be brilliant right now, we hadn’t been playing for a long time. If we had won the [Coppa] final everyone would have complimented us, because on a tactical level we have had a great game, even if we were not brilliant, but we conceded little.”

Matthijs de Ligt earned the penalty that Ronaldo converted then also started the play that led to Dybala’s goal, which was set up by a backheel pass from Federico Bernardeschi. From just beyond the area, Dybala bent in a left-footed shot inside the left post.

After the break, Bernardeschi hit the post from the edge of the area and Ronaldo was unable to finish on the follow up.

Dybala also had another chance with his right foot but just missed the target.

Juventus finished with 10 men when second-half substitute Danilo picked up his second yellow card.

AC Milan shrugged off the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to sweep past Lecce 4-1 and keep their bid for European football next season alive as 10-man Fiorentina were held 1-1 by basement club Brescia.

Swedish star Ibrahimovic has yet to return from a calf injury but Milan put their exit in the Italian Cup semi-final behind them at relegation-threatened Lecce.

Samuel Castillejo opened the scoring after 26 minutes for the visitors, connecting with a Hakan Calhanoglu cross from the right to slot in his first goal this season.

Marco Mancosu pulled Lecce level from the penalty spot after 54 minutes, sparking an immediate Milan fightback with two goals in three minutes.

Lecce keeper Gabriel denied Calhanoglu with Giacomo Bonaventura on hand to finish off with Ante Rebic racing through the Lecce defence for a third — and his seventh goal this season.

Rafael Leao got his head to an Andrea Conti cross with Calhanoglu again involved in the build-up after 72 minutes.

Milan move up to seventh, equal on points with Napoli, who occupy the final Europa League berth before they play this week.

In Florence, Franck Ribery returned after nearly seven months out following an ankle injury but his side settled for a third consecutive stalemate against Brescia.

Alfredo Donnarumma put Brescia ahead after 17 minutes from the penalty spot but Fiorentina captain German Pezzella responded with a diving header after half an hour.

Fiorentina had two goals disallowed and played the final 20 minutes a man down when Martin Caceres was sent off for a second yellow card.

The Tuscany club are 13th with Brescia ending their three-match losing streak.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2020

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