Gervinho goal gives Roma redemption, sees Juventus out of Coppa Italia

Leave a comment

Clearly deprioritizing Coppa Italia, Juventus head coach Antonio Conte made six changes to his starting XI for today’s quarterfinal at the Stadio Olimpico, leaving the likes of Carlos Tévez, Fernando Llorente, Paul Pogba and Gianluigi Buffon out of the lineup for the Old Lady’s second meeting of the month with high-powered Roma. Unfortunately for Conte, Rudi Garcia did not take the competition as lightly, an approach that paid off when Gervinho’s 79th minute goal gave Roma a 1-0 win, launching the Giallorossi into the tournament’s semifinals.

There, last year’s finalists will face the winner of next week’s match between Napoli and Lazio, potentially setting up a rematch of May’s final between the two Rome rivals. Until then, however, Roma can enjoy their small piece of redemption. Having lost to Juventus 4-0 earlier this month, Roma get the pleasure of seeing Italy’s leaders out of the country’s cup competition, even if the victory does nothing for the eight point gap that separates the clubs at the top of Serie A.

In Coppa, however, Roma become favorites to lift the trophy, being the highest-placed team remaining in the competition. Third place Napoli are also alive, as are Fiorentina (hosting Siena, Thursday) and Milan (hosting Udinese, Wednesday).

On Tuesday, the match was largely Roma’s, the home side out-shooting their opposition 8-1 in the first half while having more of the ball. Given how Juventus beat the Giallorossi two weeks ago, however, there was still an underlying tension to the game. When would Juventus pounce at Garcia’s side, potentially using Roma’s control to their advantage?

That moment appeared to come just after halftime when Mauricio Isla’s cross from the right found Federico Peluso at the far post, with the Juventus wing back apparently heading the visitors in front. The cross, however, was judged to have curved across the end line before coming back into play, with the officials awarding a goal kick.

It was the closest Juventus came to a shot on target all night, with Roma’s edge in play persisting into the second half. In the 79th minute, that advantage finally translated onto the scoresheet, thanks in part to Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian international drew the defense toward him at the edge of the penalty area before playing the ball left toward the byline. Kevin Strootman tracked it down before the ball went out of play, cutting a cross back for Gervinho at the near post. The Ivory Coast international’s stab at the drilled pass punched the ball past Marco Storari, giving Roma the game’s only goal.

Come full-time, Roma’s players embraced each other, clearly cognizant of the redemption they’d earned. It was only the fourth time in 28 games Juventus has lost this season, with two of those defeats coming in Champions League. It was the first time the Bianconeri had lost to an Italian team since their Oct. 20 trip to Fiorentina.

Conte’s selection played a large part, but those are the realities of balancing league and cup competition. On Tuesday, Garcia’s management of his squad helped push Roma into Coppa’s final four. Juventus’s reserves, unable to force a save from Morgan de Sanctis, helped see their club out.

MLS Snapshot: FCD lose 2nd in a row; Fire win 4th straight

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): After starting the 2017 season nine games without a loss, FC Dallas, the longest-lasting unbeaten team in MLS, has lost two straight. Saturday saw their unbeaten start come to an end, against the San Jose Earthquakes, just as Wednesday’s trip to Toyota Stadium saw Oscar Pareja’s side drop all three points to the Chicago Fire. All three of the game’s goals were scored during the opening nine minutes, as FCD fought back from 1-0, but couldn’t find a second equalizer on the night. Nemanja Nikolic bagged the opener, his 11th goal in 13 games to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race to two, in the 3rd minute. Roland Lamah brought FCD back to level terms three minutes later, but David Accam restored the home side’s advantage after three more minutes. Nikolic had every opportunity in the world to take his goals tally to a dozen during second-half stoppage time, but Chris Seitz denied the Hungarian international from the penalty spot. For the first time since Sept. 2012, Chicago have won four straight league games, and sit just two points back of Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC (26 points).

[ WATCH: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to $10M contract demands ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Nikolic redirects past Seitz for 1-0 — Nikolic ran 15 yards straight ahead without a single FCD player picking him up or impeding his path to the near post, and they paid for it.

6′ — Lamah taps it in to make it 1-1 right away — Lamah has been quite the disappointment since arriving in Dallas this winter, but he happened to eb in the right place at the right time in this one, as a failed clearance fell to the five-times-capped Belgian international for an easy tap-in, and his first MLS goal.

9′ — Accam cuts inside to make it 2-1 just as quickly — At some point, Accam will be properly rated by the wider MLS audience, as he’s been Chicago’s best player for two full seasons, and has only hit a new high with capable attackers all around him.

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

Man of the match: Dax McCarty

Goalscorers: Nikolic (3′), Lamah (6′), Accam (9′)

Report: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to contract demands

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

While Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has the feel of the player most clearly destined to play in MLS since Thierry Henry, we might have to wait a little while longer before the 28-year-old Mexican international ditches Europe in favor of a return to North America.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to a report from ESPN FC on Thursday, Hernandez is seeking an annual salary “way north of $10 million,” which would shatter the current record contract for an MLS player (Kaka — $7.2 million per year).

Hernandez has one more season left on his contract with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. During the summer of 2018 he’ll be available for any club in the world to sign on a free transfer. With Los Angeles FC, the team Hernandez has reportedly been negotiating with for months now, set to debut in MLS in March 2018, chances are they’d like the centerpiece of their squad (and the largest annual investment in MLS history) to be involved on opening day, thus a fee will be required, very likely pushing the club’s total investment (salary plus fee) into the neighborhood of $50 million.

[ WATCH: Giovani dos Santos’ jaw-dropping volley vs. MIN ]

You can see pretty quickly why LAFC might balk at such demands.

With that said, 1) LAFC shouldn’t be surprised by this recent development, given Hernandez’s otherworldly allure within the LA market; 2) to piggyback on no. 1, a player should be paid every cent he’s worth to the club, on and off the field, and there might not be a player in the entire world (this side Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) who’d make LAFC a bigger hit in LA from day one.

Enrique “more than satisfied” with Barca tenure, eyes one more trophy

Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique is finally saying goodbye to Barcelona, with one last chance at a trophy.

The Luis Enrique era in Barcelona ends after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday, when the coach could cap his three-year stint with a ninth trophy out of a possible 13.

It would be a fitting farewell for him nearly three months after his surprise announcement that he was leaving.

“It would be a special title,” Luis Enrique said.

The former Barcelona midfielder has won nearly everything as the coach, since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014.

He led the team to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, and Champions League in 2015. He achieved the league-Copa double in 2016, and began this season with the Spanish Super Cup title, their only trophy so far.

It hasn’t been Luis Enrique’s best season with Barcelona, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and lost the Spanish league to Real Madrid last weekend.

“I’m happy and more than satisfied for all the years that I’ve enjoyed with this club,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said.

He announced in March he was leaving so he could get some rest.

“I came here to be a leader and I’ve been one. I’m leaving when I think it’s the best time to do it.”

His other titles included the 2015 European Super Cup and the 2015 Club World Cup.

Barcelona has yet to lose a Copa del Rey home-and-away series since he took over, a run of 12 straight triumphs.

“We are all thankful for these three years (with Luis Enrique),” captain Andres Iniesta said. “We have to win one last title to finish the best possible way.”

Barcelona has been in the Copa final in seven of the last nine seasons, including the last four. It has won it a record 28 times, including the last two.

Alaves will be playing in the final of a major tournament for only the second time in its 96-year history. The other was the UEFA Cup 16 years ago, when it lost to Liverpool 5-4 in extra time.

Alaves’ only winner’s trophy is for Spain’s second division. It was a promoted club in Spain’s top division this season after 10 years in the lower divisions, including four in the third tier. It finished ninth in the Liga.

Alaves enters the Copa final boosted from having beaten Barcelona 2-1 at Camp Nou at the beginning of the season.

The coach touted to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona is Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao this week. An official announcement is expected next week.

Marco Silva leaves Hull; Premier League clubs lining up

Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marco Silva came to the Premier League, he saw the PL, but he didn’t conquer the PL — at least, not yet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

It was announced on Thursday that the 39-year-old Portuguese manager, who took over last-place Hull City in January, has left the club after succumbing to relegation from the PL. Silva, whose stock rose quickly during his brief stay in England, signed a contract that ran only through the end of the season should they be relegated, thus he’s not sure on options these days. Hull would have undoubtedly welcomed him back for a run at promotion from the Championship next season.

As recently as Wednesday, Silva was expected to be named the new boss at Porto, though various reports stated that talks between the manager and club had broken down.

[ MORE: Terry “couldn’t care less” about criticism of his farewell ]

Watford and Crystal Palace, both of whom are manager-less after Walter Mazzarri was fired and Sam Allardyce resigned, respectively, are said to be extremely interested in Silva’s services.