Inter let Juventus off the hook as tired Ronaldo stays home

MILAN (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo stayed at home as Juventus battled to a 1-1 stalemate at lowly Lecce last Saturday night, but the defending champions still stay top in Serie A as nearest rivals Inter Milan drew 2-2 with Parma.

Both goals in Lecce came from penalties with Paulo Dybala’s strike from the spot after 50 minutes cancelled out by Marco Mancosu’s six minutes later as the promoted southerners grabbed their first point at home this season.

Unbeaten Juventus have 23 points from nine games, one more than Antonio Conte’s Inter, who let the champions off the hook to stay second.

Ronaldo, 34, did not make the trip to the heel of Italy after last Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League win over Lokomotiv Moscow, and ahead of two Serie A matches in four days next week, and a reverse fixture against the Russians on November 6.

“Ronaldo was tired both physically and mentally, so it would not have helped to make this journey,” said Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri.

“When a player expresses his fatigue, it’s only right to give him a rest.

“Even without him we created 10 chances on goal, but weren’t able to finish them off. We let ourselves be drawn into a dirty game.”

It was a bruising encounter in Puglia.

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala (C) shoots on goal during the game. PHOTO: AFP

Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain suffered a nasty knock to his forehead late in the game after colliding with Lecce’s Brazilian goalkeeper Gabriel.

The 31-year-old sat down on the pitch after the game suffering from dizziness and was stretchered off.

Miralem Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur also suffered knocks.

Dybala, who scored both goals against the Russians last Wednesday, started up front alongside Higuain, with Federico Bernardeschi slotting in just behind the Argentine strike duo.

Sarri rang the changes giving starts to Emre Can and Danilo with Blaise Matuidi and Juan Cuadrado both named on the bench.

Higuain looked as if he had scored the opener after a quarter of an hour, finishing off Alex Sandro’s cross, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Dybala put Juventus ahead five minutes into the second half with his sixth goal in five games. But captain Mancosu pulled his side back level from the spot six minutes later after a Matthijs De Ligt handball.

“We needed to be a bit more determined and clinical after we scored,” said Sarri.

“I didn’t like the way we played after taking the lead – we sat back too much.”

Inter, meanwhile, looked sluggish after their 2-0 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund three days ago.

Antonio Candreva added to his European goal last week with his deflected shot putting the hosts ahead after 23 minutes in front of a crowd of 67,000 in the San Siro.

But Parma were ahead seven minutes later when on-loan forward Yann Karamoh equalised and then set up Gervinho for a second on the half hour mark against his parent club.

Romelu Lukaku grabbed a point for Inter after 51 minutes with the goal, his sixth in nine games, confirmed after long consultation with video assistant referee (VAR).