MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo responded to criticism of him with a quick hat-trick in Juventus’ 3-1 win over Cagliari, five days after his side were knocked out of the Champions League.
The Portuguese star has been criticized for his bluntness in the last two group-16 games against Porto, as well as being the cause of the goal that eliminated them.
But the 36-year-old headed in the ball in the 10th minute of action at the Sardegna Arena, completed a penalty 15 minutes later and completed a hat-trick in the 31st minute of Serie A action.
Defending champions Juventus are now 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan who beat Torino 2-1, but have played one game less.
Andrea Pirlo’s side are just one point behind second-placed AC Milan, whose title-hunting mission was scratched after a 1-0 defeat to Napoli at home.
“Our approach was right and it was important to get back on track after being knocked out that day.
“Ronaldo is furious like any other teammate. He reacts like a real champion,” Pirlo said.
Ronaldo currently tops the Serie A scorers list with 23 goals this season, surpassing Romelu Lukaku on 19 goals.
His career total is now 770 goals, surpassing Brazilian legend Pele at 767 goals in an official match he won earlier this month.
Pele also congratulated Ronaldo on surpassing his record.
“Congratulations for breaking my scoring record in an official match. I really admire you, I love seeing you play.
“I just regret not being able to hug you today,” Pele, 80, said on his Instagram page.
Pele, the only player in history to win three World Cup titles, claimed he blasted 1,283 goals overall, including in unofficial matches.
Ronaldo’s 668 goals were with the club – five at Sporting Lisbon, 118 for Manchester United, 450 for Real Madrid and 95 for Juventus.
He also scored 120 goals for the Portuguese national team.