Italy back to penalties, take third place in the Confederations Cup

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Another 120 minutes for the Italians, and again no result.

This time however, the penalty kicks went their way.

After a 2-2 final score following the conclusion of extra time, Gianluigi Buffon saved 3 of the 5 Uruguayan penalties to lead his side to the third place spot at the 2013 Confederations Cup.

The Uruguayans will be looking to take penalty practice ahead of the 2014 World Cup, as they offered Buffon little trouble in the shootout.

The match was an exciting one, with back-and-forth action for just about the entire first 90 minutes.

Italy took the lead early in the 24th minute when a gorgeous free kick by Alessandro Diamanti from way out banged off the corner of the crossbar, then off the shoulder of Uruguay keeper Fernando Musalera, and Davide Astori tapped it in for the finish. FIFA originally awarded the goal to Diamanti, but the most high-profile usage yet of goal-line technology confirmed the ball had not gone over the line before Astori tapped it in, giving Calgari defender his first international goal for the Azzurri.

(MORE: Our first major look at goal-line technology on TV, and it was glorious)

Edinson Cavani drew level for Uruguay after halftime when Luis Suarez cut back a pass to the Napoli striker and he nudged the ball to the far post past Buffon.

Alessandro Diamanti was back at it again for the Azzurri on set piece play, as his free kick in the 73rd minute went past Musalera and into the top corner to regain the lead for Italy.

Free kicks continued to play an important role, as just five minutes later Cavani doubled his goal tally with a blistering set piece into the top left, although Buffon will wish he had done better off the ball.

The Italians were forced to play the final ten minutes of extra time down a man, when Riccardo Montolivo was sent off with a second yellow, forcing him to miss Italy’s next FIFA-sanctioned match.

Italy impressed many in this tournament, taking Spain to the brink as well in the semifinals, and their prospects ahead of the World Cup are quite promising. They didn’t have their full squad in either the semis or the third place match, missing a combination of Montolivo, Andrea Pirlo, and Daniele De Rossi over the course of the two games.

For Uruguay, it’s their second straight fourth-place finish in a senior FIFA tournament after their same finish in South Africa 2010. They also finished fourth in their only other Confederations Cup appearance in 1997.

Uruguayan manager Oscar Tabarez will be looking to tweak a few things for sure before Brazil next year. His three-headed striker monster up front of Suarez, Cavani, and Diego Forlan is nice on paper, but in order to have the trio up front it requires two of them to play out of position on the wing, and inconsistency follows. At times Forlan’s crosses are dangerous and so are Cavani’s runs, but the consistency wasn’t there over the course of this tournament, and it will be something Tabarez may want to address.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.