Borussia Dortmund's Bender and Weidenfeller challenge Napoli's Higuain during their Champions League Group F soccer match in Naples

Napoli 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Early goal, red card decide day’s big match (Video)

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An even battle in the day’s marque match descended into an unbalanced one near the half-hour mark, with an opening goal from Gonzalo Higuaín followed by a red card to Roman Weidenfeller tipping the scales in Napoli’s favor. After Lorenzo Insigne’s picturesque free kick in the 67th minute doubled the hosts’ lead, Rafa Benítez’s side had eased to a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund, last year’s European finalists scoring through a late Juan Camilo Zuñiga own goal.

It was easier than it should have been thanks to the red card, a decision that sparked a sequence that also saw Dortmund head coach sent to the stands. Already down 1-0 just before halftime, Weidenfeller charged off his line to challenge a ball being chased down by Higuaín. Elevating to try and block a chip Weidenfeller was judged to have handed the ball outside his area and was shown a straight red card. Klopp’s protests to the fourth official about the call and how the ensuing chaos (which saw Matts Hummels stretched from the pitch) has handled saw him dismissed, also.

Seventeen minutes earlier, Higuain had given Napoli the opener. As Zuñiga set up to cross from deep on the left, the Argentine striker pulled away from Hummels and found space in front of goal. Marcel Schmelzer’s attempts to mark the Napoli number nine came too late, with Zuñiga’s cross redirected to Weidenfeller’s lower-left corner for the game’s opening goal.

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Gonzalo Higuain’s 29th minute goal opened the scoring for Napoli in a 2-1 win over visiting Borussia Dortmund. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Up a man in the second half, Napoli began monopolizing the ball, eventually drawing a direct kick from 23 yards out. Even with the right post, Insigne put a textbook bend on a ball that went outside the woodwork, around the wall, and into the upper-right hand corner, giving Napoli a 2-1, 67th minute lead.

By full-time, Napoli had held 59 percent of the ball, but the game’s other stats tell what the match was like before the sides were unbalanced. Dortmund ended up outshooting the partenopei, 17-15 while coming close to their hosts in shots on goal (6-7).

With those occasional threats, Dortmund were able to force late consolation – a tally that may matter in a highly competitive Champions League group. Zuñiga, with a bit of late generosity that cancelled out his early assist, added an own goal to make it 2-1.
Ultimately, however, Napoli were able to hold on for a win that leave them tied with Arsenal on top of Group F. The Gunners’ 2-1 win at Marseille leaves the two victors on three points with a +1 goal difference, having scored an identical number of goals. (Arsenal would technically win a tiebreaker wit their higher UEFA coefficient.)

Still, with a valuable win over the group favorites, Italy’s leaders have gotten their Champions League off to a flying start.

Goals

Napoli: 29′ Higuain, 67′ Insigne

Borussia Dortmund 87′ Zuniga (o.g.)

Lineups

Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Zuñiga; Behrami, Inler; Callejón, Hamsik (90′ Mesto), Insigne (73′ Mertens); Higuain (78′ Pandev). Unused subs: Dzemaili, Armero, Cabral, Cannavaro

Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Schmelzer, Hummels (46′ Aubameyang), Subotic, Grosßkreutz; Sahin, Bender; Reus, Mkhitaryan (76′ Hofmann), Blaszczkowski (46′ Langerak); Lewandowski. Unused subs: Kirch, Günter, Durm, Schleber

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

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Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.

Afobe says he scored 15 goals a game with Harry Kane at the Arsenal academy

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on February 2, 2016 in London, England.
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Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.

Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]

While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.

Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.

I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.

He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.

But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.

I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…

[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]

Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.

Gary Neville under pressure as Valencia without a win in nine

EIBAR, SPAIN - DECEMBER 13:  Head coach Gary Neville of Valencia CF reacts during the La Liga match between SD Eibar and Valencia CF at Ipurua Municipal Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Eibar, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
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Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.

After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.

However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.

I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.

There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.

Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.

Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.

Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.

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Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.

PSG down Marseille 2-1 for ninth-straight Le Classique win

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 21:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic #10 of Paris Saint-Germain is congratulated by teamamte Maxwell #17 after Ibrahimovic scored a goal in the second half against AFC Fiorentina during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 21, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.Paris Saint-Germain defeated ACF Fiorentina 4-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.

Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.

[ MORE: Juve win 14th straight ]

PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.

On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

[ RELATED: Lewandowski’s agent confirms contract talks with Bayern Munich ]

However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.

Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.