Kean steps up in Ronaldo’s absence to rescue Juve against Empoli - GulfToday

Kean steps up in Ronaldo’s absence to rescue Juve against Empoli

Juve

Juventus’ Moise Kean celebrates after scoring a goal against Empoli. Reuters

Milan: Rising teenage star Moise Kean stepped up in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo to rescue a 1-0 win for Juventus against lowly Empoli on Saturday as the champions opened up an 18-point lead at the top of Serie A.

The 19-year-old — who burst into the limelight during Italy’s opening Euro 2020 qualifiers — came on as a substitute in Turin and three minutes later scored his third league goal of the season after his double against Udinese earlier this month.

“I am neither (Lionel) Messi nor Cristiano but one day I hope to become like them,” said Kean after Juventus got back winning after their first league defeat of the season to Genoa before the international break.

Second-placed Napoli travel to Roma on Sunday looking to close the gap to 15 points with nine games remaining.

Ronaldo had been rested by Juventus against Genoa and the Portuguese star is now recovering from a right thigh injury picked up on international duty. Argentina striker Paulo Dybala also pulled up with a thigh problem during the warm-up before Saturday’s game.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri said he had wanted to ease the pressure on Kean by opting for Rodrigo Bentancur to replace the Argentine.

Kean became the second youngest player after Mario Balotelli, aged 18 years and 242 days in 2009, to score eight Serie A goals.

The seven-time defending champions struggled to break down the Tuscans who were targeting a second straight win under new coach Aurelio Andreazzoli. Empoli dug deep, allowing the hosts few opportunities, with Polish goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski denying a Mario Mandzukic header to the frustration of the home crowd.

Kean replaced Blaise Matuidi in the 68th minute and had an immediate impact, latching onto Mandzukic’s knock-down.

Ten minutes later, the teenager was denied a second, with a desperate one-handed save by Dragowski giving Empoli hope. The Tuscany side remain one point above the relegation zone.

Milan had dropped to fourth behind Inter after their derby defeat and remain two points adrift of their rivals who host Lazio on Sunday.

Sampdoria move up to eighth place, equal on points with Lazio, who have a game in hand and occupy the final Europa League berth.

Meanwhile, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma apologised after his early blunder saw AC Milan trail after just 33 seconds in a 1-0 defeat to Sampdoria in Serie A on Saturday which could damage their Champions League push.

Donnarumma picked up an Alessio Romagnoli back pass and put the ball straight into the path of Sampdoria forward Gregoire Defrel as AC Milan fell to a second straight defeat after a 3-2 derby loss to Inter before the international break.

Colombian striker Duvan Zapata scored a late brace in a 3-1 comeback win for Atalanta against Parma on Sunday to revive the Bergamo side’s Champions League ambitions. Atalanta move into Europa League calculation in fifth, three points behind AC Milan, who occupy the final Champions League berth, but who fell 1-0 at Sampdoria on Saturday.

Roma are one point behind Atalanta and can move ahead when they host second-placed Napoli.

Agence France-Presse