Cagliari 1-3 Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo struck a first-half hat-trick on Sunday evening as Juventus beat Cagliari in Sardinia to maintain their hopes of retaining the Italian Serie A title.

Ronaldo scored all three goals in just over half an hour at the Sardegna Arena and afterwards spoke of finally surpassing the all-time goalscoring record of Brazilian legend Pele, who congratulated the Portugal captain.

Ronaldo put Juventus ahead after ten minutes when he headed in Juan Cuadrado’s cross, before drawing a penalty from Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragnio which he converted halfway through the first period. Ronaldo’s treble was sealed with a fierce left-footed shot in the 32nd minute, during an opening half which also saw him collide with Cragnio, leading Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini to state post-match that the Seleção man should have earned a red card.

The third goal was followed by a celebration which appeared to show Ronaldo hitting back at recent criticism following Juve’s Champions League elimination to FC Porto in midweek, but taking to social media after the match the 36-year-old was quick to focus on his goalscoring achievement having increased his career tally to 770.

Ronaldo’s statement via Instagram:

"The last few weeks were filled with news and stats considering me the World’s Top Scorer in football history, overcoming Pelé’s 757 official goals. Although I’m thankful for that recognition, now it’s time for me to explain why I didn’t acknowledge that record until this moment,” he wrote.

“My everlasting and unconditional admiration for mister Edson Arantes do Nascimento, such as the respect that I have for mid-20th century football, led me to take into account his 767 score, assuming his 9 goals for São Paulo State Team, as well as his single goal for the Brazilian Military Team, as official goals.

“The World has changed since then and football as changed as well, but this doesn’t mean that we can just erase history according to our interests.

“Today, as I reach the 770th official goal in my professional career, my first words go straight to Pelé. There’s no player in the World who hasn’t been raised listening to stories about his games, his goals and his achievements, and I’m no exception.

“And for that reason, I’m filled with joy and pride as I acknowledge the goal that put’s me on top of the World’s goalscoring list, overcoming Pelé’s record, something that I could never have dreamed of while growing up as a child from Madeira.

“Thanks to all of those who took part of this amazing journey with me. To my teammates, to my opponents, to the fans of the beautiful game all over the World and, above all, to my family and close friends: trust me when I say that I couldn’t have done it without you.

“Now I can’t wait for the next games and challenges! The next records and trophies! Believe me, this story is still far from being over. The future is tomorrow and there’s still a lot to win for Juventus and Portugal!

“Join me in this journey! Let’s go!”

Pele evidently agrees that his record has been surpassed, with the Brazil legend issuing a statement of his own congratulating Ronaldo. “Cristiano, life is a solo flight. Each makes his own journey. And what a beautiful journey you are having!” Pele began, also on Instagram.

“I admire you a lot, I love watching you play and this is no secret to anyone. Congratulations on breaking my record of goals in official matches. My only regret is not being able to give you a hug today.”

Ronaldo’s hat-trick, which put him on 23 league goals for the season, means Juve remain ten points behind leaders Inter with one game in-hand. Although Juve have much work to do in order to chase down the Nerazurri during the remaining eleven matches, the clash between the sides on the penultimate matchday of the season offers hope for the Bianconeri in securing a 10th straight Scudetto.

By Sean Gillen

@SeanGillen9