Italy roundup: Buffon dismissal sees Juventus’ win streak end at 12

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Three months later, Juventus has finally dropped points again in Serie A, with the method of their Saturday draw underscoring the remarkable nature of the 12-match run. After Gianluigi Buffon’s 24th minute dismissal at Lazio, however, the Bianconeri finally had a scenario they couldn’t overcome. The two-time defending champions, eight points up on second place going into the weekend, would be held to a 1-1 draw.

As mud as any of the win they’ve collected since losing at Fiorentina on Oct. 20, the disappointing result did the holders’ credit. Down a man for over an hour, Juventus faced circumstances that make most teams fold. They were on the road, down goal, and facing a team that had gathered momentum since head coach Edy Reja’s return. Lazio may not be a title contender, but with those advantages, Reja’s team should have been closed out the game.

Juventus, however, refused to play along. Controlling the ball while keeping the Aquile without an open play shot on goal for 76th minutes, the  Old Lady’s disadvantages disappeared for much of the match. Once Fernando Llorente equalized in the 60th minute, Juventus seemed destined to their streak, 10-men or no. If the final 30 minutes played out like the match’s middle third, Buffon’s dismissal would become a footnote on Juve’s quest to tie Inter’s all-time record (17 straight wins).

By match’s end, however, Lazio had woken up. After wasting their advantages for most of the day, the home side finally pushed, hoping to build on Candreva’s opener. Ultimately, and thanks to Marco Storari (Buffon’s replacement), there wasn’t enough time. Be it through Juve’s skill or Lazio’s desire to preserve their one-goal lead, the favorites salvaged a result, albeit one that ended their three-month run.

When Roma beat Verona on Sunday, reducing Juve’s lead to six, faint chatter about a possible title race began. Unfortunately for hopefuls, Buffon isn’t going to get sent off every weekend. And the one time he did, Juventus was still able to salvage a result.

Even when not winning, Juventus looks like a champion.

Elsewhere in Italy

  • Napoli 1, Chievo 1 – Head coach Rafa Benítez claimed Napoli were unlucky to be drawn in one of his team’s least convincing performances of the season. Were it not for defender Raul Albiol, they wouldn’t have gotten that much. The Spaniard converted a rebound from close range in the 88th minute to salvage a result at the San Paolo.
  • Verona 1, Roma 3 – Goals from Adem Ljajic, Gervinho, and Francesco Totti helped the Giallorossi post their third straight victory, allowing Rudi Garcia’s team to gain two points on the seemingly title-bound Bianconeri.
  • Livorno 3, Sassuolo 1 – A battle of two relegation-entangled squads saw Leandro Greco, Paulinho, and Marco Benassi put the home side up three by the 26th minute. With the loss, Sassuolo, drops to 18th.
  • Parma 1, Udinese 0 – The match featured only one goal, Amauri’s 35th minute winner, but the post-game was defined by the number four. Parma’s fourth straight victory pushes the club to seventh place, while Udinese’s only three points off the drop after their fourth straight loss.
  • Cagliari 1, AC Milan 2 – Approaching full-time, the process Milan had shown in Clarence Seedorf’s coaching debut had been fully blunted, near misses seeing the Rossoneri down 1-0 after losing mid-week to Udinese. In the last three minutes, though, goals by Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini gave Seedorf his second victory in as many league games.
  • Torino 1, Atalanta 0 – After having a third minute goal waved off, Alessio Cerci converted from the spot on the hour, leaving Torino one point back of fifth place.
  • Sampdoria 1, Bologna 1 – A late penalty drawn by Lazaros Christodolopoulos was converted by Alessandro Diamanti, pulling back Manolo Gibbiadini’s 61st minute opener.
  • Inter Milan 0, Catania 0 – A listless match sees the Nerazzurri’s winless streak reach four, with an eight-point gab still separating Walter Mazzarri’s team from fourth place Fiorentina.
  • Fiorentina 3, Genoa 3 – Alberto Aquilani’s hat trick had la Viola up going into the match’s final quarter-hour, but Sebastian De Maio’s 77th minute equalizer salvaged a point for Gian Piero Gasperini’s men.

Others

Lazio 1, Juventus 1

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 21 18 2 1 51 15 36 10-0-0 8-2-1 56
Roma 21 15 5 1 45 11 34 9-2-0 6-3-1 50
Napoli 21 13 5 3 44 23 21 7-3-1 6-2-2 44
Fiorentina 21 12 5 4 40 23 17 6-3-1 6-2-3 41
Inter Milan 21 8 9 4 38 24 14 5-5-1 3-4-3 33
Torino 21 8 8 5 34 27 7 5-5-1 3-3-4 32
Parma 21 8 8 5 32 27 5 5-4-2 3-4-3 32
Verona 21 10 2 9 35 34 1 8-0-3 2-2-6 32
AC Milan 21 7 7 7 34 31 3 5-3-2 2-4-5 28
Lazio 21 7 7 7 27 29 -2 6-2-2 1-5-5 28
Genoa 21 7 6 8 23 27 -4 5-3-2 2-3-6 27
Atalanta 21 7 3 11 21 30 -9 6-2-2 1-1-9 24
Sampdoria 21 5 7 9 25 32 -7 3-4-4 2-3-5 22
Cagliari 21 4 9 8 20 31 -11 4-4-3 0-5-5 21
Udinese 21 6 2 13 20 32 -12 4-1-5 2-1-8 20
Chievo 21 4 6 11 16 27 -11 2-2-6 2-4-5 18
Bologna 21 3 9 9 20 36 -16 2-6-3 1-3-6 18
Sassuolo 21 4 5 12 22 46 -24 3-1-6 1-4-6 17
Livorno 21 4 4 13 19 37 -18 3-3-5 1-1-8 16
Catania 21 3 5 13 13 37 -24 3-4-3 0-1-10 14

Prosecutors question Beckenbauer in World Cup fraud case

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) Swiss authorities say prosecutors have questioned Germany soccer great Franz Beckenbauer in their ongoing World Cup fraud case.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT looks to build momentum vs. Honduras ]

Criminal proceedings against Beckenbauer and three other German members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee were opened in 2015. The four are suspected of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement, and misappropriation relating to a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) to FIFA in 2005.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras WCQ ]

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that federal prosecutors questioned Beckenbauer earlier in the day in Bern, adding that “Beckenbauer was cooperative.”

Beckenbauer’s home in Austria was raided last year for evidence on behalf of Swiss federal prosecutors investigating corruption linked to FIFA.

Report: Man City launching massive bid for AC Milan’s Donnarumma

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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly established himself as the best young goalkeeper in European soccer, and AC Milan won’t be letting the 18-year-old go without a pretty penny in return.

[ MORE: Schedule, preview for UEFA World Cup qualifying ]

According to Sky Sport Italia, Manchester City is preparing a massive bid in the range of $130 to $160 million to acquire the AC Milan shot-stopper as the English side’s goalkeeping situation is still unsettled.

The Citizens have failed to hunker down at the goalkeeper position this season despite spending big to bring in Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo, who has underperformed. Willy Caballero has also been shaky at times for the English giants, while on-loan keeper Joe Hart will almost certainly move on from the club over the summer.

Donnarumma is currently second in Serie A in saves (110), trailing only Crotone’s Alex Cordaz, who has stopped two more shots.

Since turning professional in 2015, Donnarumma has quickly enjoyed his rise through Italian football for both AC Milan and with the national team. After previously featuring for the Under-15, U-17 and U-21 sides, Donnarumma has established himself as the surefire replacement for Gianluigi Buffon once he retires from the international game.

Honduran federation suggests U.S. Soccer gamesmanship ahead of WCQ

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Three critical points are on the line for the U.S. Men’s National Team and Honduras on Friday night when CONCACAF World Cup qualifying returns to action, but the Central American side may have some added motivation.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT looks to build momentum vs. Honduras ]

In the lead up to their Hexagonal meeting in San Jose, California, Honduran federation president Jorge Salomon has suggested that his national team has had difficulty finding training facilities because of U.S. Soccer’s gamesmanship.

[ MORE: Five USMNT questions ahead of WCQs ]

Salomon told Honduran outlet Diez that Los Catrachos were forced to train in Fort Myers, Florida ahead of the match because of U.S. Soccer’s attempt to sabotage Honduras’ comfortability ahead of Friday.

“That’s why we went to (Fort Myers),” Salomon told Diez. “We found two (fields) but they weren’t up to the standard for a national team.

“They have blocked us from some fields to train, but that is part of the sporting psychological battle you face when you are the visiting team,” Salomon added. “It’s no problem, we have done a good job.”

Meanwhile, Goal USA is reporting that U.S. Soccer claims to have provided Honduras with the same resources that it does for every visiting opponent and that it was Honduras’ choice to train in Florida as “a cost-saving measure.”

Rapinoe named to USWNT roster ahead of April friendlies

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The U.S. Women’s National Team wasn’t at its best the last time they stepped out for the SheBelieves Cup, but Jill Ellis’ group will have a chance to find their feet again next month as they prepare to face Russia in a pair of friendlies.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras WCQ ]

Ellis announced her 24-player roster on Thursday, which was headlined by the inclusion of Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe.

“This is our last chance to get together before the NWSL starts and we’ll take full advantage of the training time as well as the two matches against a team in preparation for the European championships,” said Ellis. “Following these matches, my staff and I will begin a heavy investment in attending and evaluating the NWSL games as well as tracking our players overseas before we get back together for our European trip in the summer. I’m very much looking forward to our domestic league starting.”

Back-to-back losses to England and France in the SheBelieves Cup gave the USWNT an unwanted start to 2017, however, the Russians will give the U.S. another strong test in April.

The USWNT will play the first of the two friendlies on April 6 in Dallas at Toyota Stadium before meeting the Russians three days later in Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Here’s the entire 24-player roster for the USWNT ahead of their Russia friendlies.

Goalkeepers (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders (6): Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Megan Oyster (Boston Breakers), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars)

Midfielders (8): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash/Manchester City), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign)

Forwards (7): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride/Olympique Lyonnais, FRA), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (UCLA), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)