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Italy: Napoli gets best of Inter on Mazzarri’s return; Juventus extends win streak to eight

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Perhaps there was no better way for Walter Mazzarri to return to the San Paulo than with a five-goal first half, his new side, Inter Milan, closing their gap to one on Napoli after Yuto Nagatomo scored just before half time. With two of the top three attacks in Serie A meeting in Naples, we should have expected as much, but with the Nerazzuri boss’s time with the Partenopei remembered for its style and approach as much as its results, it was only appropriate that fireworks accompany the return of a man who bossed Napoli for the last four seasons.

Thankfully for the San Paulo faithful, those fireworks went Napoli’s way. In the ninth minute, Gonzalo Higuaín opened the scoring, giving the hosts a lead they’d hold until Esteban Cambiasso’s 35th minute equalizer. Goals by Dries Mertens and Blerim Dzemaili had Rafa Benítez’s side up two by the 41st minute, a lead the Neapolitans would never relinquish. With both defenses finding their footing in the second half, only José Callejón’s insurance would follow Nagatomo’s goal, and that only came after Ricky Alvarez was shown a second yellow card. Goran Pandev had a chance to give Napoli a fifth in stoppage time, but Samir Handanovic’s save on the Macedonian’s penalty try kept Inter within two.

Though Mazzarri applauded the Curva Sud’s support post match, the former Napoli boss was still embittered at the result. Claiming his team mostly dominated (though they were out-shot 13-9, 9-5 in shots on goal), the 52-year-old criticized referee Paolo Tagliavento for his dismissal of Alvarez, noting the official also gave a controversial penalty in Inter’s loss earlier this season to Roma. Had Inter stayed at 11 men, Mazzarri felt, their attacking play would have eventually pulled back Dzemaili’s goal. Instead, Napoli handed the Nerazzurri their second loss of the season.

After their mid-week disappointment — a 2-0 win over Arsenal unable to prevent Napoli’s fall into Europa League — Sunday’s was a welcome pick me up. That it came against Mazzarri will only add a sense of perspective for a fan base that’s seen their team transformed from a group of en vogue swashbucklers to a more conventional yet equally potent side. After Sunday’s win, only Mazzarri’s team has scored more league goals (36, compared to Napoli’s 35), while the partenopei persist near the top of the league. Considering Edinson Cavani, Hugo Campagnaro, and Morgan de Sanctis all left this summer, things could certainly be worse.

Now, with their owner having already scoffed at the importance of Europa League, Napoli can focus on Serie A. After Sunday’s results, they’re eight back of Juventus but only two short of Roma (who play Monday). A few more performances like Sunday’s, and Napoli may yet catch the Giallorossi
and replicate the finish Mazzarri delivered last season.

source:  Three from Tévez temporarily put Juventus six clear

While Italy was still trying to figure out how its champions ended up in Europa League, Juventus were busy taking out their frustrations on Sassuolo, a process that didn’t take long to reap rewards. Fifteen minutes in, Carlos Tévez scored the first of his three goals, with Federico Peluso doubling the Bianconeri  league 13 minutes later. Tévez added his third shortly before halftime before completing this first Serie A hat trick in the 68th minute, helping Juventus to their eighth straight league win, 4-0.

It was also the defending champions’ eight-straight shutout, a clean sheet kept in what’s become typically strangling fashion. Sassuolo, a team that’s averaging over a goal per game despite battling relegation, were held without a shot on goal, though they did have 12 attempts overall. Juventus, on the other hand, forced four saves from Gianluca Pegolo beyond the four tries the Sassuolo keeper couldn’t stop.

Like his team, Tévez had been criticized after Juventus’s Champions League exit, the summer signing for Manchester City going scoreless in six group stage matches. On Sunday, the Argentine hit double-digit league goals, putting him on pace for just under 24 goals on the season.

At the same time, Tévez pushed Juve’s league atop the table to six point, with Roma set to visit Milan on Monday.

Elsewhere

  • Catania 0, Hellas Verona 0 – Out-played throughout, Hellas escaped with a draw despite being outshot 16-8 and putting only one attempt on target. Catania stay at the bottom of the table while Verona miss their chance to pull even with fifth place Inter.
  • Lazio 2, Livorno 0 – A first half brace from Miroslav Klose doubled the German striker’s season goal total, Livorno limited to one shot on goal as Lazio won in league for the first time since Oct. 27.
  • Genoa 1, Atalanta 1 – Guiseppe De Luca’s 94th minute goal stole two points from Genoa, who’d protected Andrea Bertolacci’s opener through the last 18 minutes of regulation time only to see their sixth win of the year snatched just before the final whistle.
  • Udinese 0, Torino 2 – A scoreless game at halftime turned the visitors’ way when Alexander Farnerud broke through in the 48th minute, with Ciro Immobile’s sixth goal of the season giving Torino insurance in the 75th minute.
  • Parma 0, Cagliari 0 –  Antonio Cassano, Nicola Sansone, and Jonathan Biabiany are held to one shot on goal combined as Cagliari slowed down the Gialloblu to take a point from the Ennio Tardini.
  • Chievo 0, Sampdoria 1 – Still undefeated since Sinisa Milhajlovic’s return, Sampdoria snatched three points from the Flying Donkeys after Éder’s 16th minute goal sent the visitors to their fourth win of the season.

Monday: Milan vs. Roma.

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.