MILAN (AFP) – Juventus again showed their reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo as, with the superstar attacker absent, they drew 1-1 at promoted Benevento on Saturday night, while Serie A title rivals Inter Milan beat high-flying Sassuolo 3-0 to move second.
The champions’ fifth draw in nine league matches leaves Andrea Pirlo’s side fifth, three points behind leaders AC Milan.
Ronaldo did not play after scoring in Juventus’ 2-1 victory over Ferencvaros on Tuesday which sealed their berth in the Champions League last 16.
“Every team is addicted to Ronaldo, even at Real Madrid he scored a lot,” said Pirlo, describing the Portuguese star as “a catalyst”.
“He is an important player and it’s normal that he makes you win games, but even without Ronaldo we have to be good at winning games.”
Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala started up front in Ronaldo’s absence, which Pirlo put down to “tiredness”.
“(Ronaldo) had a little problem and he wanted to play anyway in the Champions League. He had played many games with the national team, it is normal for him to get tired and rest.”
Morata, who scored the late winner on Tuesday, opened the scoring in the 21st minute after collecting Federico Chiesa’s cross-pitch pass to bring his tally to eight goals in all competitions this season.
Gaetano Letizia’s volley just before the break earned a point for 13th-placed Benevento.
Dybala wasted chances to score his first league goal this season, including one four minutes from time when goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo tipped over the bar. Morata also missed opportunities before being shown a red card for arguing with the referee.
“When we lack players of experience and personality, we struggle,” added Pirlo, also without injured defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
INTER DEFY ‘MUD SLINGERS’
Antonio Conte’s Inter bounced back from the 2-0 loss to Real Madrid, inflicting this season’s first defeat on Sassuolo.
Inter move second ahead of Sassuolo, with both teams on 18 points after nine games, two points behind AC Milan and one ahead of Conte’s old team Juve.
“It’s not easy, especially at Inter, because many people can’t wait to criticise, to throw mud at us,” said Conte.