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.

Spartak and Zenit fined in latest Russia fan racism cases

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MOSCOW (AP) Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg have both been fined for racist chants by their fans, the latest such incident in World Cup host nation Russia.

Spartak’s fans were accused of aiming monkey chants at FC Tosno player Nuno Rocha, who is black, while some Zenit supporters allegedly chanted a Nazi slogan during a league game.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

The clubs must each pay a 100,000-ruble ($1,600) fine, and Spartak has been hit with a partial stadium closure for its next cup game, state news agency RIA Novosti quotes Russian Football Union disciplinary committee head Artur Grigoryants as saying.

The verdict comes after FIFA charged Russia with racist abuse of France players during last month’s friendly.

Zenit has also faced two racism charges from UEFA this season.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.