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Juventus hands Roma season’s first loss, moves eight clear in Serie A

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Serie A’s match of the year was anything but, even if it did leave little doubt as to the state of Juventus’s reign. With goals from Arturo Vidal, Leonardo Bonucci, and Mirko Vucinic, the two-time defending champions handed Roma their first loss of the season, eliminating what little hope onlookers had for a title race with a 3-0 result in Turin. Now on a nine-game winning streak that’s carried them eight points clear of the second place Giallorossi, Juventus seems fated to claim a third straight scudetto.

The win, however, came in a somewhat uncharacteristic way, with Antonio Conte setting up his normally ball-controlling team (57.4 percent for the year) to descend into its own half, giving Roma most of the game’s possession. Rudi Garcia’s team would end up with 59 percent of the ball, yet almost none of their four shots on goal gave Juve keeper Gianluigi Buffon any problems. Maintaining a well-organized back five in their defensive phase, Juventus were able to keep Roma at arm’s length, with only two of Roma’s eight shots coming from inside the 18-yard box.

Juventus, on the other hand, made the most of their chances, the first coming in the 17th minute through Carlos Tévez. The Argentine was able to get Daniele de Rossi on his heals in the right of the penalty area, holding the ball at 10 yards out before playing behind the line for an oncoming Vidal. The Chilean international beat Morgan de Sanctis to give the home side first blood.

Following intermission, after blunting Roma for the first period’s final half hour, Juve doubled their lead, a pristine restart from Andrea Pirlo allowing Bonucci to make it 2-0. Sixteen yards from the line along the left flank, Pirlo curved a perfectly driven restart just inside the six-yard box at the far post. Unable to get out quick enough, de Sanctis was helpless on Bonucci’s shot, a goal that seemed to eliminate any question Juventus would take full points.

source: AP
Juventus’s Antonio Conte (right) is congratulated by Roma’s Rudi Garcia after Juve’s 3-0 win. (Photo: AP.)

If that status was in doubt, it was settled over a three-minute stretch beginning with de Rossi’s 75th minute red card. After a reckless challenge that saw the Italian international slide through Giorgio Chiellini’s legs, referee Nicola Rizzoli produced a red card, momentarily leaving Roma with 10 men. When, one minute later, Leandro Castán intentionally handled a ball on the Roma line, the visitors were reduced to nine, with Mirko Vucinic’s ensuing penalty kick giving Juventus their 3-0 victory.

That the game ended with a three-goal margin may have exaggerated the teams’ gap in quality, but there was no doubt which was the superior side. Juventus gave Roma the ball and dared Garcia’s side to beat them, yet from the moment Pirlo took the ball off Fernando Totti in the opening minutes to the Roma captain’s solemn descent from the stands at the final whistle, the Giallorossi proved impotent. Silenced, the likes of Totti, Gervinho, Adem Ljajic and Miralem Pjanic were unable to reproduce Roman’s potent attack in Turin, a failure that leaves the team closer to fourth than first.

Over the course of 90 minutes, the difference between Juventus and the rest of Italy was made crystal clear. An undefeated team that came into the game averaging over two goals per game was handed a 3-0 loss, pushing them eight points back of first in the process. They’d only allowed seven goals on the season, but on Sunday, Roma’s previous exploits were rendered irrelevant. All that mattered was their inability to match up with Juve.

Barring some unpredictable change of course, Serie A’s title race is over – assuming there was ever one to being with.

Joe Hart, Torino down Roma 3-1 in early Serie A game

BERGAMO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 11:  Goalkeeper of FC Torino Joe Hart gestures during the Serie a match between Atalanta BC and FC Torino at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on September 11, 2016 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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In today’s early Serie A game, Joe Hart and Torino held down Roma to win 3-1 at Stadio Olimpico to move into the top half of the table.

Roma dominated the stat sheets, holding 69% possession and out-passing Torino 466-174, but were wasteful in front of net, only able to put just five of their 21 their shots on target.

Andrea Belotti scored just eight minutes in to put Torino ahead, and Iago Falque bagged a brace with goals 13 minutes apart in the second half to seal it. For all its possession and movement in the attacking half, Roma could only manage a goal on a penalty, scored by Francesco Totti, his 250th career goal, all coming for one club.

Manchester City loanee Joe Hart commanded a solid performance by Torino’s back line, with the home side managing a whopping 22 tackles and 33 clearances. Roma actually out-performed Torino on the expected goals front, proving Hart’s influence.

The win, the club’s first since late August, pushes Torino up to eight in the Serie A table on eight points. They have conceded just a single goal – the Totti penalty – in their last three matches. It’s a far cry from the 2-1 loss to Atalanta in Hart’s debut, in which a mistake by the England international allowed Atalanta to score the winning goal.

On the other side, Arsenal loanee Wojciech Szczesny made a mistake to gift Torino their early goal. The result for Roma is a big blow to their hopes at challenging for the title, dropping them five points back of leaders Juventus and four behind Napoli.

Championship match features nightmarish halftime shenanigans

DERBY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Nigel Pearson, manager of Derby County looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Blackburn Rovers at iPro Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Derby, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
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On Saturday, Derby County fell at home to Blackburn 2-1, with all three goals scored in a furious four-minute span midway through the second half.

It’s been a nightmare start to the season for both clubs, with the clubs in 20th and 22nd on a combined three wins.

That, however, was not the most disturbing thing on display at Pride Park Stadium. The halftime show featured a show with a character from a child’s bad dream. A man in a fish suit swallowed a person whole then spit him back out sans clothing. But don’t take our word for it:

Have fun sleeping tonight.

After a pair of La Liga draws, all is not well at Real Madrid

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 21: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF grimaces in pain during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Villarreal CF at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on September 21, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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It’s amazing how results go hand-in-hand with off the field mood for the top teams in the world.

There is no club where that seems to be more true than Real Madrid. The team has drawn two in a row, first a 1-1 finish against Villareal at the Bernabeu that saw Los Blancos pump out 23 shots, but put only six on target. Then, they drew 2-2 Saturday with this year’s darlings Las Palmas out on the Canary Islands, crumbling at the back by blowing a pair of leads.

All this still leaves them atop the La Liga table, a point above Barcelona, and yet the wheels appear to be coming loose.

Things always start with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, and that was the case on Saturday, when the superstar was withdrawn by head coach Zinedine Zidane in the 74th minute, and appeared to be visibly upset with the decision. Zidane told media after the game he was looking ahead to Tuesday’s Champions League matchup with Borussia Dortmund, saying, “He [Ronaldo] always wants to play and be out there on the pitch, but I’ve also got to think about the player and he needed to rest and think about Tuesday.”

Ronaldo did not speak to the media following the match.

Always in his teammate’s shadow is Gareth Bale, but things aren’t going well for him either. According to a report by The Sun, Bale has increased security after his fiance’s family has reportedly been targeted for arson attacks by a drug gang. In addition, Bale is reportedly unhappy after being substituted himself in the 70th minute of the draw with Villareal, according to reports in Spain. There have been reports for a while that his agent is shopping the Welshman to top clubs like Manchester United.

“We’re relaxed,” Zidane said after the Las Palmas draw. “We are working hard and focused on what we’re doing. We have to realize that you can’t always win, but we’re on the right track.”

MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Sporting KC (video)

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The game in 100 words (or less): Too many teams qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. There, I said it. Because MLS rules are written as such, two of Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders will likely make it this year, and that’s two too many. On Saturday, the former most narrowly outplayed an even worse San Jose Earhthquakes side, to the tune of 2-1, to go fifth in the Western Conference and move eight points clear of the 7th-place Sounders. The worst part about the current playoff structure: one of the above mentioned sides will almost certainly get hot in the postseason, after doing very little over the course of 34 games to establish themselves as one of the league’s elite. You know, just like the Timbers did last year. Anyway, Dom Dwyer, Simon Dawkins and Kevin Ellis scored the goals on the night. Neither side is any good, nor should they be in the playoffs. That’s MLS.

[ MORE: Playoff Picture — 4 teams can clinch playoff berth this weekend ]

Three moments that mattered

7′ — Dwyer heads home for the early opener — The ball from Paulo Nagamura was inch-perfect, and the header by Dwyer was unstoppable.

42′ — Coelho whiffs, Dawkins makes it 1-1 — That’s just unlucky, if you’re Nuno Coelho.

81′ — Ellis bundles the corner kick home for 2-1 — A fitting winner to this game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: Dwyer (7′), Dawkins (42′), Ellis (81′)