Ronaldo scores as Juve beat Leverkusen, finish top of group

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored as Juventus finished the Champions League group stage with a 2-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen early yesterday.

Juventus were already assured of topping Group D and seemed sluggish at times in Germany, before Ronaldo scored from close range off substitute Paulo Dybala’s cross in the 75th minute. It was the Portuguese star’s second goal in the Champions League this season.

Gonzalo Higuain made it 2-0 in stoppage time after another assist from Dybala as Juventus bounced back from their first loss of the season against Lazio last Saturday.

“We struggled a bit in the first half with the approach but we played much better in the second and deserved to win,” Higuain said. “We wanted a win after losing for the first time at the weekend.” Leverkusen had a slim chance of qualifying but needed to beat Juventus.

Even with little chance of going through, Leverkusen put in one of its better performances of a group stage campaign which begun with three straight defeats.

Only a last-ditch tackle from Merih Demiral stopped Leverkusen taking the lead just before halftime, the Turkish centre-back timing his challenge perfectly to dispossess Kai Havertz in front of goal without conceding a penalty.

Kerem Demirbay shot just wide early on, and Moussa Diaby hit the post with a speculative curling shot from long range.

Despite his goal, it was a mixed night for Ronaldo, who couldn’t quite reach a low cross in front of an open goal in the 11th minute and shot wide 10 minutes after that.

Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo (C) scores the opening goal against Leverkusen’s goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky. PHOTO: AP