Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

Cristiano Ronaldo helps Andrea Pirlo get off to a winning start at Juventus as fans return - in pictures

Portuguese star on target for his new coach as fans return in Italy

Cristiano Ronaldo helped Andrea Pirlo's coaching career launch with a victory as Juventus beat Sampdoria 3-0 in Serie A.

Dejan Kulusevski scored on his debut and second-half goals from Leonardo Bonucci and Ronaldo sealed the result on a day which saw fans return to Serie A stadiums.

“They are great players and I am so confident because I see every day quality players who are working toward the team in order to improve,” Pirlo said.

"Of course, we have just started and we have time to improve, but the commitment of the players to give it all to the team is there and that gives me a lot of comfort.”

It was a positive day for debutants as Weston McKennie — the first American to play for Juventus — had a hand in Bonucci’s goal and also sparked a move which led to Ronaldo hitting the crossbar.

“McKennie arrived having already started preseason training in Germany, so is in better shape than some others," Pirlo said. “He did well. He made a few errors but it was the first game, we can forgive him for that.”

Juventus are bidding for a record-extending 10th straight Serie A title but have an unproven coach in Pirlo.

The former midfield genius was handed his first coaching job last month when he was put in charge of Juventus’ under-23 team, but had not led a game when he was promoted to replace the fired Maurizio Sarri.

Juve played from the start with an intensity which had been lacking for much of last season and took the lead in the 13th minute.

Ronaldo burst into the box and was stopped by a tackle but the ball fell to Kulusevski and the former Parma midfielder curled it into the bottom left corner.

It took Juventus until 12 minutes from time to get their second. Sampdoria goalkeeper Emil Audero did well to keep out McKennie's effort from close range but Bonucci tucked away the rebound.

Ronaldo, who scored 31 league goals last season, managed to get off the mark for this campaign in the final minutes as he ran on to Aaron Ramsey’s through ball and placed a precise drive into the bottom left corner.

“It’s a fantastic night," Kulusevski said. "It wasn’t that easy but we got the three points and I scored a goal. It’s best to have scored in the first game, so I don’t have to think anymore about getting off the mark now.

“Pirlo as a coach is calm. He believes a lot in his players and in me. He lets me play and gives me so much confidence."

Updated: September 21, 2020 10:27 AM

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