Juventus made the perfect start to 2021 with a 4-1 home win over Udinese to stay within touching distance of Serie A's Champions League qualification positions. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice either side of a Federico Chiesa goal that he provided as Andrea Pirlo's men made light work of their visitors in Turin.
It might have been a different story had Rodrigo De Paul's 11th-minute effort not been chalked off because of Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) and the woodwork not come to the Old Lady's rescue at Juventus Stadium.
Ronaldo gave the hosts a 31st-minute lead after being teed up Aaron Ramsey and the Portugal international turned provider for Chiesa five minutes into the second half before the Welshman saw an effort ruled out. The former Real Madrid man scored again 20 minutes from time before Udinese grabbed a late consolation goal through Marvin Zeegelaa,r but Juve had the final say with Pualo Dybala's late strike from a Danilo assist.
Here are some takeaways.
Juve stay in touch
On a weekend when AC Milan, Inter Milan, AS Roma and SSC Napoli all won, the pressure was on Juve to not slip up here and they avoided that banana skin -- despite Udinese's early ruled out goal.
With Milan, Sassuolo and Inter their next three matches, Pirlo's men needed a confidence boost ahead of that run and got it in terms of the result. Juve currently trail Milan by 10 points, Inter by 9 and third-place Roma by three with a game in hand and one more point than Sassuolo.
Between De Paul's ruled out goal and twice hitting the post, Luca Gotti's side were extremely unlucky in Turin and could have taken at least a point on another day.
Their overall performance and preparation was good and they can take heart from Zeegelaar's late strike.
Performances like that against teams of lesser quality than Juventus will not often go unrewarded.
Another milestone for Ronaldo
By opening his account for 2021, Ronaldo has now scored in each of the last 20 years -- a record that dates back to 2001.
The Portuguese took his chances and laid on another goal for Chiesa to start the year in fine form with three very big fixtures approaching.
If Ronaldo can maintain this sort of productivity, then it offers Juve hope that they can claw back some of the ground between them and their title rivals.
Room for Juve to improve
Despite the lopsided score, Udinese were not total pushovers and tested Juve on occasions throughout the encounter.
Zeegelaar's late goal was not undeserved and the visitors could have scored more with the woodwork rattled more than once.
Although they eventually got the victory by a comfortable margin, there is significant room for improvement -- particularly in defense with Leonardo Bonucci looking labored.