Italy: Napoli, Roma stay perfect as top five pulls clear

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Rafa Benítez’s hot start to his Serie A return had failed to draw huge trumpets through three rounds, mostly because an easy slate of opening fixtures gave the new Napoli boss little chance to impress. This week, however, that changed drastically, with a Champions League visit from Borussia Dortmund and a trip to AC Milan guaranteed to test one of Italy’s last two perfect sides. If Napoli won both those games, there’d be no denying their place amongst the best clubs in Europe, right?

As it turns out, not all wins are created equal, and while the Neopolitans deserve credit for posting successive 2-1 wins, each require some more context. On Wednesday, a first half red card left visiting Dortmund with 10 for the second half, and while Napoli were already up by the time Roman Weidenfeller handled outside his area, the sending off amounted to a huge what if. What if last year’s Champions League finalists had got to halftime at full strength? Would some of the push we saw at match’s end have been better-rewarded?

Sunday’s caveats were different, but there were still caveats. Napoli went up early on a set piece through Miguel Britos, controlled much of the first half, and saw a Gonzalo Higuaín blast through Christian Abbiati give them a two-goal lead early in the second half. But somewhere along the way, Milan had gained control, with Mario Balotelli becoming game’s focal point. Stressing a defense that was thought to be Napoli’s weak spot before the season, the Milan attacker slowly made the game into a question of whether (and how often) he’d break through.

But a penalty stop by Pepe Reina, the first miss in 22 career tries by Balotelli, hinted there’d be no breakthrough. Another blast off the woodwork midway through the second provided confirmation, as did a penalty appeal denied by Luca Banti. Despite 12 shots on goal and a late consolation tally (a nice finish by the Italian international), Balotelli was unable to dent Napoli’s perfect start, eventually earning a second yellow card for a post-whistle altercation with Valon Behrami.

Milan would end up with big advantages in all the main indicators — shots (22-9), shots on goal (8-3), and possession (56-44) — but most of that was due to Napoli’s early lead. On the road against one of Italy’s most talented (if injury-riddled) sides, the partenopei’s win was a strong one, even if Batoletti seemed determined to take it from them. On another day — if the penalty goes in, if Balotelli’s a little more precise earlier in the match, if Abbiati doesn’t concede a soft one to Higuaín — Napoli’s willingness to give Milan so many cracks many have bitten them. On Sunday, it served as confirmation their defense could hold out.

In that sense, it wasn’t the most resounding of victories, but it was still a good one. And with Rafa Benítez on the sidelines, Napoli fans are going to have to get used to this type of game management. But given the team’s won five in a row and sit near the top of the league, it’s hard to nit-pick too much. If Rafa’s style continues to produce these results, we’ll soon hear those trumpets


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Francesco Totti, who signed a contract extension through 2017 mid-week, assisted on Sunday’s first goal as Roma win this year’s first Rome Derby. (Photo: Getty Images.)


If you do want to nit-pick, Napoli’s not actually at the top of the league. At best they’re joint top, but if one team were to be singled out, that honor would belong to Roma, whose 2-0 victory over rival Lazio moves them first on goal difference. Along with Napoli, Barcelona, and Atlético Madrid, they are one of four perfect teams remaining in Europe’s top five leagues.

Like Napoli, part of their climb has been fueled by a kind fixture list, one that should have become decidedly more difficult with today’s Rome Derby. Yet to a Roma defense that had only allowed one goal all year, the Aquile offense never presented a problem. Morgan De Sanctis went untested in the Giallorossi goal, leaving the match to be decided by Rudi Garcia’s attack.

For one half, Roma were no more effective than their rivals, but when Francisco Totti set up Federico Balzaretti’s left-footed volley just past the hour, the game was all but decided.


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Between their decisive round two loss to Juventus and today’s underwhelming derby performance, Lazio looks like they’ve taken a step back from the team that won last year’s Coppa Italia. It may be too early to write them off, but it’s not too early to note something’s wrong. Through four rounds they’ve collected six points, but they were a combined -5 against Juve and Roma.

The Giallorossi, on the other hand, have claimed 12 and are part of a quintet that look poised to pull away from the league. In a season they were expected to compete for Europe and little more, Rudi Garcia may be slotting his team along side Inter as surprise competition for the league’s three favorites. A controlling win over their fiercest rivals hints Roma may be destined for greater things.


After this weekend’s action, that quintet of Roma, Napoli, Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Juventus have pulled a full game clear of Livorno and Torino (sixth, seventh place). Inter did so with a 7-1 demolition of newly promoted Sassulo, giving them 13 goals through four games (with only one allowed). Fiorentina got another goal from Giuseppe Rossi in their 2-0 win at Atalanta, while Juventus had to come back from one down to take full points from Verona in Turin. Each team is 3-0-1, two points behind Roma and Napoli.


Manolo Gabbiadini scored twice late at Calgiari, both equalizers sandwiched around Daniele Conti’s goal, as Sampdoria got a 2-2 result on the road … Serio Pellissier and Luca Rigoni had turned around a first-minute deficit by halftime as Chievo defeated visiting Udinese, 2-1 … Catania and Parma played to a 0-0 … A late first half red card to Bologna’s Cesare Natali proved decisive as Alessio Cerci’s penalty gave Torino the 2-1 lead they’d keep through full-time.

Report: Revolution discussing UMass Boston stadium site

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 29:  Bobby Shuttleworth #22 of New England Revolution defends against Tim Cahill #17 of New York Red Bulls in the first half during Leg 2 of the MLS Eastern Conference game at Gillette Stadium on November 29, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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If the New England Revolution’s latest stadium idea comes to fruition, the Revs, Boston, and even UMass Boston could be in for a major soccer boon.

The Revs currently play at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, but would prefer to play in Boston proper in what could be a key component to strengthening its rep in the city.

[ MORE: Conte expects warm Mourinho reception ]

The Kraft family is speaking with City of Boston and UMass Boston in the hopes of putting a stadium on the latter entity’s Boston campus. The discussions are said to be in the very early stages, with several obstacles.

From the Boston Globe:

The Kraft family has been engaged in regular discussions with the city of Boston and UMass, which owns the Bayside site, but the sides do not appear close to an agreement. Any deal would be likely to involve the University of Massachusetts offering a long-term lease for the land, while the Krafts would pay for a $250 million stadium that seats 20,000 to 25,000 fans.

Both Fenway Park and TD Banknorth Garden are 15 minute drives from UMass Boston, while the new site would be a half-hour drive from Foxborough.

UMass Boston has Division III programs in men’s and women’s soccer. The men’s team entered Saturday with a 13-1-1 record and a No. 16 ranking nationally under coach Jake Beverlin.

STREAM: Arsenal-Boro, Swans-Watford, every 10am ET game

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mesut Ozil of Arsenal (C) celebrates scoring his sides third goal with his team mates  during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Six games take center stage at 10 a.m. ET in the Premier League on Saturday, with both north London clubs in action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Red-hot Arsenal host Middlesbrough at the Emirates Stadium, while Swansea City welcome Watford as Bob Bradley manages his first home game in the Premier League. Leicester City and Crystal Palace do battle, while Everton head to Burnley, Stoke go to Hull and West Ham host struggling Sunderland.

You can stream each game live by clicking on the links below or above.

10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Sunderland – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Stoke City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Everton – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Watford – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]

Bournemouth 0-0 Tottenham: Spurs stay unbeaten

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Adam Smith of AFC Bournemouth (L) blocks Erik Lamela of Tottenham Hotspur (R) shot during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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  • Spurs remain unbeaten
  • Bournemouth impress
  • Wilshere plays 90 minutes
  • Surman, Stanislas injured before game

Tottenham Hotspur remain the only unbeaten team in the Premier League as they drew 0-0 at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

Both teams hit the woodwork in the first half with Charlie Daniels going close for Bournemouth and Erik Lamela clipping the post for Spurs.

Bournemouth’s high-energy approach halted Spurs’ usual fluidity as an intense game played out in the autumnal sun on the south coast.

With the point Spurs momentarily moved joint-top of the PL on 19 points, while Bournemouth on 12 points as they’re now four games unbeaten.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Bournemouth started very brightly and after six minutes they hit the woodwork. A short corner found Dan Gosling and his pull back found Daniels but the former Spurs’ player saw his shot deflected onto the bar brilliantly by Hugo Lloris. The Cherries continued to push and Callum Wilson was looking lively on the break.

Then Spurs hit the woodwork as a magnificent double nutmeg from Dele Alli in the middle of the pitch set up Lamela and the Argentine struck the post with an audacious long-range effort.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Spurs grew into the game as the half wore on and Bournemouth’s intense pressure subsided a little, and Christian Eriksen‘s deflected effort was well saved by Artur Boruc at his near post. A flurry of yellow cards then emerged in the first half as a midfield battle ensued.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

At the start of the second half Lamela fired over the bar at the near post as Spurs looked the more dangerous. Vincent Janssen replaced Son on the hour mark as Tottenham tried something different in order to break down a stubborn Bournemouth back line. Moussa Sissoko then came on and was involved in an incident with the superb Harry Arter where the Frenchman appeared to elbow Bournemouth’s midfielder off the ball.

Boruc denied Danny Rose and try as they might Spurs failed to break through the Cherries rearguard, which saw Jack Wilshre (playing his first 90 minutes for over two years) trying to create as much as possible in midfield.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

In the dying stages it was Bournemouth who looked more likely to score but Benik Afobe headed just over as the Cherries’ final flourish didn’t yield a winning goal.


STREAM: Watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10am ET

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At 10 a.m. ET this Saturday you will be able to access NBC Sports Digital’s Premier League Goal Rush.

It will be available on the NBC Sports App, on NBCSports.com and on a dedicated Premier League Extratime channel as goals from all four matches in the 10 a.m. ET window will be shown simultaneously as live look-ins occur around all the grounds in the Premier League.


For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of NFL RedZone-like action from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window.

The feature game this weekend will be Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough and as goals and incidents occur around the league, you will be transported to the action as it happens.

More info is available here, plus the schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below.

10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace
10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Stoke City
10 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Sunderland
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Watford
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Everton