Destro

Serie A roundup: Napoli loses ground as Juventus and Roma both win

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Serie A at the moment has become just a bit more of a two-horse race as Napoli’s draw with Udinese has dropped them eight points off the lead and five back in third place.

AC Milan continued their struggles this year by drawing at relegation-candidates Livorno, and Sampdoria picked up three vital points to escape the relegation zone.

Roma 2-1 Fiorentina

With Juventus winning at Bologna on Friday, 10-man Roma needed a winner from 22-year-old Mattia Destro to keep pace.

Destro, making his season debut after returning from a knee injury, came in as a 57th minute sub and scored 10 minutes later, a tap-in off a cross from Gervinho.

If not for Fiorentina’s goalkeeper Neto making a number of fine second-half saves, it could have been much worse.  The result keeps Fiorentina 10 points back of Roma in 5th place.

Inter 3-3 Parma

A crazy game ended all square, as three goals flew in during a wild 5-minute stretch in the second half.  Rodrigo Palacio had a brace for the home side but it was the second of Nicola Sansone’s double that drew Parma level.

All the goals save for one came between the 44th minute and 59th minute.

The draw means Inter can’t capitalize on Napoli’s misstep, leaving them one above Fiorentina in 4th position and four back of the Azzurri.

Napoli 3-3 Udinese

A disastrous result on Saturday for Napoli, they give up the lead on two separate occasions and drop points at home to a bottom-half side.

Goran Pandev gave the hosts a 2-0 lead with a first-half brace, but Napoli gave that up with an own goal plus a strike from Portugese midfielder Bruno Fernandes.  It took less than a minute for Blerim Dzemaili to restore Napoli’s lead, but Dusan Basta drew level in the 80th minute.

Rafa Benitez’s Napoli only climb to 32 points, five back of Roma and seven off the lead.  They host Arsenal midweek in the Champions League.

Bologna 0-2 Juventus

Back on Friday, the league leaders maintained their advantage with a comprehensive 2-0 road win over 19th-placed Bologna.

Arturo Vidal, filling in at CM for the injured Andrea Pirlo, started things off with a long-distance strike in the 12th minute, and Giorgio Chiellini finished it off late with a header to seal the win.

It was a good win for Juventus, who sat both Carlos Tevez and Kwadwo Asamoah, although both came on as late subs.

source: AP
Mario Balotelli came to AC Milan’s rescue with a brace and a late equalizer, but they continue to drop points.

Livorno 2-2 AC Milan

With things looking up after two road wins at Celtic and Serie A bottomfeeders Catania, AC Milan returned to their old tricks by dropping points to 18th-place Livorno.

It could have been worse had Mario Balotelli not rescued the Rossoneri with a brace, including a thunderous free kick with seven minutes to go.

Balotelli also clattered the crossbar from 35 yards out with time running out, nearly snatching victory. Unfortunately, it was only 1 point for Milan as they jump just two points to ninth place.

Sampdoria 2-0 Catania

Scores by Manolo Gabbiadini and Eder were enough to give Sampdoria their first win in six matches and a boost out of the Serie A relegation zone with three vital points.

The visitors were only level at the break thanks to some off-target shooting by Gabbiadini, but the second half saw Sampdoria get the breakthrough.

They move to 16th, and are just three points off the top half.

Torino 1-0 Lazio

A key victory for Torino gave them a huge boost in the crowded middle of the Serie A table, as Kamil Glik took advantage of a defensive mistake early on and sent the home side through with the prize.

The middle of the table is so clumped that the three points pushed Torino all the way from 12th to 7th.

Lazio are sorely missing striker Miroslav Klose, who has missed the last three matches with a shoulder injury.  They are winless in their last six, with three losses in that time.

Cagliari 2-1 Genoa

Genoa dropped a very tough away day match against mid-table Cagliari thanks to Marco Sau’s second-half brace, the second of which came in injury time.

Alberto Gilardino gave Genoa the lead early on, but plenty of second-half pressure from the home side paid dividends in the 75th when Sau found the equalizer, and he doubled up late on a look-what-I-found moment in the box.

Genoa remains in 8th while Cagliari move up to 10th position.

Sassuolo 0-1 Chievo

Chievo jumped Sassuolo in the table by snatching a 1-0 away win.  Cyril Thereau picked up the game’s only goal early into the second half.

Three takeaways from the Red Bulls CCL draw against the Whitecaps

New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, left, trips over Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston inside the Whitecaps box during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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With 90 more minutes to play up in Vancouver, this tie is far from over. However, Wednesday night’s clash at Red Bull Arena surely presented intriguing storylines ahead of leg two.

The Vancouver Whitecaps picked up a critical away goal in their 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal meeting.

While their CCL clash was the first competitive action for either side since 2016, both clubs showed glimpses of brilliance in the first of their two encounters in the competition.

Here’s a look back at three important takeaways from the Red Bulls’ draw against the Whitecaps.

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Red Bulls still working out kinks up front

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been one of Major League Soccer’s most prolific goalscorers since joining the Red Bulls, but even the star striker struggled to find the ball in dangerous positions on Wednesday. The Red Bulls striker netted the game’s equalizer after 62 minutes, but chances were far and few between on the night for Wright-Phillips.

Despite dominating the possession for long spells of the match (as is the case much of the time), the Red Bulls found difficulty breaking down the Whitecaps when it mattered most.

Jesse Marsch’s side managed just two shots on target throughout the 90 minutes, while Sacha Kljestan’s penalty kick miss voided the host side from leveling up the first leg just after the halftime break.

The Red Bulls have wanted to toy with a two-striker set since early 2016, and Marsch finally got his wish with Argentine DP Gonzalo Veron match fit for the start of the campaign. Veron looked solid at times with his quality first touches and quick pace, but it was the final ball that was often lacking.

Sacha Kljestan and Daniel Royer interlinked well with one another behind the two strikers, and with Mike Grella and Alex Muyl also tabbed as rotational players in the midfield, Marsch will have a solid group to pick from to help his attack develop moving forward.

Manneh is coming into his own

He scored, facilitated and just looked all around dangerous against the Red Bulls. Kekuta Manneh has become one of the most intriguing MLS players over the past 12 months in large part because of his success in the league as well as the opportunity to represent the U.S. Men’s National Team.

While his goal wasn’t the prettiest six minutes before halftime, the Whitecaps attacker was in the right spot, just as he was for much of the night. His three shots on target led all players involved, but it was Manneh’s confidence under pressure that was most impressive.

The Whitecaps didn’t throw too many numbers forward on the night — with the second leg being north of the border — but Manneh and the Whitecaps attack thrived on the counterattack on several occasions.

With a number of players unavailable for Carl Robinson’s side, including Yordy Reyna, Christian Bolanos and Fredy Montero, the visitors played a strong opening leg, particularly after playing the final 20 minutes down a man when Cristian Techera was dismissed for a high tackle on Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo.

Youngsters show out for both sides

Experience is still the name of the game for both the Red Bulls and Whitecaps, but Wednesday night also provided a glimpse into the future with several stellar performances from the youngsters on the pitch.

Sean Davis was tasked with filling the hole in the central midfield after Dax McCarty was treaded away from the Red Bulls this offseason, and although the youngster has had experience in the past, he certainly didn’t disappoint for Marsch’s group. The 24-year-old looked confident in his distribution and defended well when called upon alongside Felipe.

Meanwhile, Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies continues to turn heads for a player that is only 16 years old. Davies only appeared in eight MLS matches last season for the Western Conference side, but looked like a seasoned veteran against the Red Bulls at times with his blazing strides and pinpoint passes.

The young attacker surely has room to grow, particularly in front of net, but hey, he’s 16.

New York Red Bulls 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps: BWP saves a draw

New York Red Bulls' Aaron Long, top, climbs over Vancouver Whitecaps forward Erik Hurtado while competing for the ball during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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  • ‘Caps nap road goal
  • Techera sent off in 71′
  • Return leg March 2

Kekuta Manneh and Bradley Wright-Phillips traded goals as the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls drew 1-1 in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

Cristian Techera sent the ‘Caps down to 10 men in the 71st minute when he connected with a kick between Sal Zizzo’s legs.

A deft touch by Wright-Phillips set up Sacha Kljestan for a fifth minute chance, but two sliding Whitecaps helped pressure the captain’s shot wide of the near post.

Vancouver had a chance two minutes later when Alphonso Davies played Russell Teibert down the right wing, and the Whitecaps wide man curled a shot wide of the far post.

[ MORE: Amazing beach soccer bicycle kick goal ]

The Whitecaps beat Luis Robles before halftime. Kendall Waston flicked a ball toward the net, and Kekuta used his head to turn the ball off Justin Bilyeu and behind Robles. 1-0, 39′.

A foul outside the 18 nearly saw Kljestan level it up with a 45th minute free kick.

Kljestan should’ve tied it up with a PK just after the break. He didn’t, barely chipping his Panenka attempt above shin level. Woof.

Wright-Phillips made it 1-1 in the 62nd minute, when Zizzo’s cross dropped at his feet. A quick reaction had the ball in the back of the net.

Sacha Kljestan stars in “When Panenkas Fail” (video)

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls heads the ball in front of Steve Birnbaum #15 of D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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When Panenkas don’t go well, players look foolish.

Sacha Kljestan looks foolish.

The New York Red Bulls captain strode to the penalty spot to level the score in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

Only he didn’t. Kljestan chipped his attempt barely a foot off the ground, allowing David Ousted to kick the chance away. Bradley Wright-Phillips blazed the rebound over the frame, and it remained 1-0 for the ‘Caps.

WATCH: Liverpool loanee nets hat trick for U.S. U-20 side

STEVENAGE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brooks Lennon of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the Premier League 2 match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at The Lamex Stadium on September 19, 2016 in Stevenage, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
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If Brooks Lennon brings this sort of scoring prowess to Real Salt Lake, he may just walk away Rookie of the Year.

On loan from Liverpool, Lennon is first on duty with the United States U-20 men’s national team in Costa Rica.

The U.S. opened U-20 World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 loss to Panama, and was under the gun when it allowed an early goal to Haiti late Tuesday evening.

[ MORE: Rooney’s agent in China ]

But Lennon scored a trio of goals and sent in the corner that Luca de la Torre eventually finished as the Yanks won 4-1. The U.S. has St. Kitts and Nevis in the final group match on Friday.

The top two teams from each group of four advance to the next round, in which four teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup. That tournament is set for May in South Korea.