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.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.