Cristiano Ronaldo scored a first-half double as Juventus ended a run of three games without a win by beating bottom side Crotone 3-0 to go third in Serie A.
Ronaldo had failed to find the back of the net in those three winless matches, but normal service was resumed as the prolific forward took his tally for the season to 25 goals at Allianz Stadium on Monday.
The Portugal captain headed home twice in the first half and should have had a hat-trick prior to the interval as Crotone were outclassed by the champions.
Weston McKennie added a third in the second half as Juve moved eight points behind leaders Inter with a game in hand, while Crotone look destined for relegation following a fifth consecutive defeat.
Crotone almost took a stunning early lead when Arkadiusz Reca volleyed wide at the far post after Danilo slipped while attempting to deal with Junior Messias’ cross.
The former Real Madrid man headed home Alex Sandro’s pinpoint cross 38 minutes in, then rose to powerfully nod in Ramsey’s delivery in first-half stoppage time before somehow firing wide of an open goal moments later with Crotone all at sea defensively.
Ronaldo wanted a penalty when he felt Lisandro Magallan had upended him as he shot tamely wide of the near post before Gianluigi Buffon prevented Junior Messias from pulling a goal back.
Cordaz kept out Ronaldo’s drive with his feet, but he had no chance when McKennie rifled home a loose ball as Crotone failed to deal with a 66th-minute corner.
Ramsey should have added a fourth but the busy Cordaz saved with his feet again and Federico Bernardeschi fired just over the bar against his former club as Juve put sorry Crotone to the sword.
What does it mean? Juve repay faith shown by Pirlo
There will be much bigger tests to come for the Turin giants, but seeing Ronaldo back in the goals and Juve move up three places from sixth shows Pirlo has reason to be optimistic.
The former Italy playmaker might wonder how Juve did not further boost their goal difference, though, as they cut fragile Crotone apart time and again.
Ronaldo closing in on 30-goal mark
Ronaldo had not scored since a 2-0 win over Roma on February 6 but demonstrated his aerial prowess to take his Serie A haul to 18 in another incredible season.
Crotone are the 78th different club he has scored against in Europe’s ‘top five leagues’, a figure only Milan talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic (79) has bettered since 2000.
The former Real Madrid forward had as many as 11 shots, four of which were on target, and will no doubt be kicking himself for failing to secure the match ball.
Miserable night for Magallan
Crotone defender Magallan had a torrid evening as Juve launched wave after wave of dangerous attacks.
The on-loan Argentine won only 53.8 per cent of his 13 duels, while his three fouls conceded was more than any of his team-mates, with those situations inviting further unwanted pressure onto the visitors.
Key Opta facts
– Ronaldo has scored against each of the 18 current Serie A sides that he has faced in the competition. He has scored also netted 13 times in his past nine games against newly promoted teams.
– Ronaldo is the player who has scored the most multiple goals in the top five European Leagues this season (seven).
– Ronaldo has scored a headed brace in a league game for the first time since May 2015 when he did so for Real Madrid against Sevilla in LaLiga.
– McKennie (four goals) became Serie A’s top-scoring American here, overtaking Michael Bradley (three).
Juve travel to Hellas Verona on Saturday looking to apply more pressure on Inter and Milan, while Crotone entertain fellow-strugglers Cagliari on Sunday.