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

New Zealand 0-4 Portugal: Ronaldo, Portugal win Group A

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New Zealand gave the 2017 Confederations Cup all they had, but they go home empty-handed as Portugal won the Group A finale 3-0 to advance to the knockout round.

Portugal held much of the possession as expected, but they found little at the end early on. The first true chance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 24th minute, who latched onto a Ricardo Quaresma cross from wide right and produced a powerful header, but it was poorly directed straight to New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for the easy save.

[ RECAP: Mexico eliminates Russia with 2-1 comeback ]

Ronaldo had another headed chance minutes later, but he rocketed the attempt back off the post. Portugal would eventually find the opener just past the half-hour mark via the penalty spot. Danilo was clearly shoved by a pair of defenders on a set-piece, and Ronaldo easily dispatched the spot-kick for a 1-0 lead.

The favorites would double their lead just a few minutes later as Eliseu on the overlap came down the left flank and cut horizontally into the box. He fed a charging Bernardo Silva, and the in-demand Monaco attacker jumped to meet it and poked home. Silva was unable to celebrate after turning his ankle heavily on the landing, but he would come back onto the field.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Portugal finished things off with 10 minutes to go in the game as Andre Silva burst through the midfielder, shucked his defender, and fired past Marinovic to seal the game for good. Nani added a fourth The win means Portugal finishes level on points with Mexico at the top of Group A, winning the group on goal differential thanks to Silva’s final goal.

Mexico 2-1 Russia: Comeback seals semifinal place

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Mexico again produced a poor first half, but were saved in the final 45 minutes as Juan Carlos Osorio led the CONCACAF squad to the semifinals of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Right off the bat, there was a controversial moment. Just five minutes into the game, Yuri Zhirkov burst into the Mexico box and went to ground under a challenge from Hector Moreno. The referee waved play on, but it appeared on replay that Moreno tripped Zhirkov. Nevertheless, no call was made and no word came from the video assistant referee.

[ RECAP: Portugal eases by New Zealand 4-0 ]

The hosts had another huge penalty shout, but the referee again waved play on as Fedor Smolov was sent flying to ground as Nestor Araujo contacted his leg from behind in the 17th minute. After about a minute of play, the VAR called for a review, but even after a look at the monitor, the referee decided there was not obvious reason to reverse the call.

With Russia applying all the pressure, they would find the breakthrough in the 25th minute. A pair of fantastic saves from Memo Ochoa went for naught as Alexandr Erokhin whiffed, but he was able to find Aleksandr Samedov who struck low past Ochoa for the opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

The lead wouldn’t last long. Mexico didn’t exactly seem sparked by the deficit, but they would draw back level against the run of play just past the half-hour mark. It appeared that Nestor Araujo’s looping header was meant to set up a teammate at the far post, but it ended up chipping Igor Akinfeev and tucking inside the woodwork for the equalizer.

After halftime, Mexico scored completely out of nowhere. A bombed clearance out of the back by Hector Herrera seemed an easy collect for Akinfeev, but as the ball bounced high up into the air, Hirving Lozano charged it down and headed the ball under feeble pressure from the Russian goalkeeper. The ball bounced unchallenged into the net, and Mexico took a shock 2-1 lead.

Mexico appeared to have a third to pad the lead, but VAR took 34 seconds to correctly reverse the call as replay spotted goalscorer Hector Moreno in an offside position on the delivery. Russia was doomed to defeat when Zhirkov was given a second yellow card for a clear elbow to the face of Miguel Layun. Somehow, the hosts still had one big chance in the 72nd minute despite the disadvantage, but Igor Smolinkov somehow missed the net on what should have been a tap-in.

The win for Mexico sees them into the knockout stage, but they fail to win the group, finishing level with Portugal on 7 points but coming up short on goal differential by one. Mexico will be without Andres Guardado in the semifinals, as he was shown his second yellow card of the tournament in the first half.

Report: Arsenal owner calls Bellerin to state intentions

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According to a report by Spanish radio station Cadena SER, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has personally called defender Hector Bellerin to tell the Spaniard he would not be sold.

The 22-year-old experienced a serious regression at the Emirates last season, and with media speculation surrounding his potential departure, Kroenke wanted to make sure his intentions were clear. Reports had linked Bellerin with a return to his home country, most notably to Barcelona.

With Bellerin under contract through 2021 having just signed his extension last summer, it’s clear the club has decided who they believe keeping should be a priority.

The defender lost his place briefly down the stretch run last season, finding himself on the bench in seven of the club’s final 17 Premier League matches. Despite that, Arsenal still clearly values Bellerin’s talent and durability and hope to ward Barcelona’s interest off. Bellerin didn’t help cool speculation when he bought a house in Barcelona just a short time ago.

Reports say that Arsenal would not take any less than $57 million for their right-back.

Watch Live: Mexico vs. Russia, NZ vs. Portugal

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Group A comes to a close on Saturday, with a pair of spots in the semifinals on the line. The group is jam-packed at the top, with nobody confirmed on to the next round and only New Zealand eliminated.

Russia meets group-leaders Mexico at 11:00 a.m. ET in Kazan, with the hosts needing a win to advance, while a draw would complicate things for Stanislav Cherchesov’s squad. Mexico needs just a draw to confirm advancement.

WATCH LIVE: Mexico vs. Russia live online at Telemundo Deportes

Mexico has brought back its first-choice lineup for the final group stage match, with a number of rotations made in the near-disaster against New Zealand. However, Carlos Salcedo is out with a dislocated shoulder, bringing Nestor Araujo into the starting lineup. Hector Moreno starts despite his injury concerns.

On the other side, Portugal takes on New Zealand with a chance to win the group still intact. Portugal sits in second position currently, level with Mexico on both points and goal difference, but behind by one on goals scored. Should Portugal win and earn a greater goal difference or outscore Mexico by more than one, they would win the group.

WATCH LIVE: Portugal vs. New Zealand live online at Telemundo Deportes

Cristiano Ronaldo starts for Portugal yet again, fresh off his match-winning goal against Russia. They see both full-backs rotated from that match, with Raphael Guerreiro and Cedric rotated for Eliseu and Nelson Semedo.

New Zealand has already been eliminated, without a point thus far in the competition despite a pair of spirited performances for the Group A underdogs.

LINEUPS

Mexico: Ochoa, Moreno, Reyes, Layun, Araujo, Herrera, Guardado, J dos Santos, Hernandez, Lozano, Vela.

Russia: Akinfeev, Jikia, Kudryashov, Vasin, Glushakov, Erokhin, Bukharov, Samedov, Smolov, Zhirkov, Golovin.


Portugal: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Eliseu, Semedo, Moutinho, Pereira, B Silva, Quaresma, Ronaldo, A Silva.

New Zealand: Marinovic, Durante, Smith, Boxall, Doyle, Ingham, Rojas, Thomas, McGlinchey, Wood, Lewis.