Roma 1-2 Juventus: Debutant’s strike, Ronaldo penalty sends Bianconeri top

Two goals inside the opening 10 minutes helped reigning champions Juventus leapfrog Inter at the top of Serie A with a 2-1 victory at Roma on Sunday. Defender Merih Demiral scored his first goal for the Bianconeri by turning home the influential Paulo Dybala’s deep free-kick.

The Argentine international then won a penalty having dispossessed Jordan Veretout, with Cristiano Ronaldo duly converting for a two-goal cushion with 10 minutes on the clock at the Stadio Olimpico. A second-half spot-kick from Diego Perotti proved to be a mere consolation for Roma, who also lost Italy international Nicolo Zaniolo to a serious-looking leg injury, as Juve capitalised on Inter’s Saturday draw against Atalanta, opening up a two-point gap at the top of the standings.

The Old Lady were ahead after just three minutes when Dybala swung a free-kick in from the left with Chris Smalling was unable to clear before Demiral stuck out his right leg to see the ball settle into the back of the net. Roma had themselves to blame for Juves’ second as Dybala robbed Veretout on the edge of the box and won a penalty from the same man that Ronaldo dispatched.

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The hosts thought they should have had a spot-kick themselves when Lorenzo Pellegrini’s goal-bound effort appeared to hit Adrien Rabiot on the arm, which was tucked into his body. An injured Demiral was replaced shortly after by Matthijs de Ligt, who cynically impeded Zaniolo’s progress after a brilliant run to also put a premature end to the Roma midfielder’s evening.

A VAR review helped Roma find a route back into the match with 22 minutes remaining. Edin Dzeko was unfortunate not to score when his effort struck the post, and the former Manchester City striker kept the attack alive by crossing for substitute Cengiz Under, whose header was blocked on the line by Alex Sandro before hitting the left-back’s left arm.

Referee Marco Guida initially saw nothing wrong with the intervention but pointed to the spot after checking a pitchside monitor, with Perotti making no mistake from 12 yards. Roma were unable to conjure up a leveller, though, and only a narrow offside decision prevented substitute Gonzalo Higuain from adding a third for the visitors, who next entertain Udinese in the Coppa Italia last 16 on Wednesday before welcoming Parma on Sunday for a league date at the Allianz.