Italy roundup: One-sided Derby d’Italia puts Juventus back in the win column

Leave a comment

Walter Mazzarri thought his team looked “sluggish” and “lazy” on Sunday. Juventus has a way of doing that to you. Still, having drawn with Italy’s leaders early this season at the San Siro, Inter Milan’s boss has reason to hope the Nerazzurri would give provide more resistance in the season’s second Derby d’Italia. Perhaps last weekend’s end to Juventus’s 12-match winning streak could be the first part of a steep fall to earth.

Apparently not. After drawing last week at Lazio, Juventus were back to their old, overwhelming selves against their rivals, with goals from Stephane Leichsteiner, Giorgio Chiellini, and Arturo Vidal (11th of the season) leaving the Bianconeri up three in the 57th minutes. Rolando would put home a consolation goal in the 71st minute, but by then Inter hopes of staunching their wounds had faded. Winners of only one of their last 10, Mazzarri’s side was out-classed by Juventus, who claimed a 3-1 victory.

The result pushed Antonio Conte’s team nine clear of second place Roma, who had their match against Parma rained out. Given Juve’s widely considered locks to claim their third title, the more interesting effects concern Inter. Seemingly in a free fall since beating Livorno in early November, the Nerazzurri have given fifth place back to Hellas Verona despite Verona having just snapped their own three-match losing streak (with a 2-1 win a Sassuolo). Tied on points with seventh-place Torino, Inter are now in danger of missing out on European soccer for a second straight season.

They have their excuses, especially given Sunday’s team. Esteban Cambiasso was missing from midfield, out two weeks with an injury. New signing Hernanes wasn’t available. Fredy Guarin looks destined for four months in limbo after failing to move in the transfer window, while Diego Milito and Andrea Ranocchia are no longer starters (Milito hampered by injuries). Talents like Hugo Campagnaro, Yuto Nagatomo, and Samir Handanovic could be key parts of a Champions League-caliber team, but at other places in Mazzarri’s starting XI, the team doesn’t look much better than the side Andrea Stramaccioni allowed to drift to ninth last season.

“This game was very simple tactically,” Mazzarri said after Sunday’s loss. “[T]here were duels all over the pitch. In those situations the players most accustomed to being at the top and to winning will win the duels.”

Inter hasn’t been used to being at the top since the last days of José Mourinho. Now their character maybe more like last year’s mid-table side than a team that won the treble four years ago.

Their winter slide could be a slump, but it could also be Inter’s regression to the mean. Although their first meeting with Juventus hinted Mazzarri was capable of engineering a quick turnaround, the season’s second Derby d’Italia painted a much different picture. Mazzarri is going to have to quickly (and successfully) integrate Hernanes if Inter’s going to return to Europe.

Elsewhere in Italy

  • Cagliari 1, Fiorentina 0 – La Viola had a chance to take advantage of a struggling Napoli, but thanks to Mauricio Pinella’s first half penalty kick (a chance given by Facundo Roncaglia) and an inability to generate more than three shots on goal, Vincenzo Montella’s team stays three points back of Italy’s last Champions League spot.
  • Bologna 0, Udinese 2– Toto Di Natale and Nico López goals help end Udinese’s four-match losing streak, lifting the Coppa semifinalists six points clear of the drop.
  • AC Milan 1, Torino 1 – Clarence Seedorf’s team still can’t convert possession into goals. Despite holding 62 percent of the ball and outshooting their guests 23-6, Milan couldn’t build on Adil Rami’s 49th minute equalizer.
  • Chievo 0, Lazio 2 – Edy Reja keeps his team climbing up the table, with the Aquile successfully responding to Hernanes’ departure with goals from Antonio Candreva and Keita.
  • Catania 3, Livorno 3 – Two Innocent Emeghara goals and three Livorno leads weren’t enough to put away the league’s bottom dwellers, with goals from Gonzalo Bergessio, Pablo Barrientos, and Sergio Almirón giving Catania their 15th point of the season.
  • Atalanta 3, Napoli 0 – The weekend’s surprise result saw a series of partenopei errors give German Denis two goals and Maxi Moralez Atalanta’s third. While it was aberrational, the result was also Napoil’s worst of the year, one that leaves Rafa Benítez’s side 15 points back of league-leading Juventus.
  • Sassuolo 1, Verona 2 – Luca Toni sealed the game in the 86th minute, providing what appeared to be insurance for an opening own goal from Thomas Manfredini. When Antonio Floro Flores scored in stoppage time, Toni’s goal proved the winner, driving Hellas Verona fifth.

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 22 19 2 1 54 16 38 11-0-0 8-2-1 59
Roma 21 15 5 1 45 11 34 9-2-0 6-3-1 50
Napoli 22 13 5 4 44 26 18 7-3-1 6-2-3 44
Fiorentina 22 12 5 5 40 24 16 6-3-1 6-2-4 41
Verona 22 11 2 9 37 35 2 8-0-3 3-2-6 35
Inter Milan 22 8 9 5 39 27 12 5-5-1 3-4-4 33
Torino 22 8 9 5 35 28 7 5-5-1 3-4-4 33
Parma 21 8 8 5 32 27 5 5-4-2 3-4-3 32
Lazio 22 8 7 7 29 29 0 6-2-2 2-5-5 31
AC Milan 22 7 8 7 35 32 3 5-4-2 2-4-5 29
Genoa 21 7 6 8 23 27 -4 5-3-2 2-3-6 27
Atalanta 22 8 3 11 24 30 -6 7-2-2 1-1-9 27
Cagliari 22 5 9 8 21 31 -10 5-4-3 0-5-5 24
Udinese 22 7 2 13 22 32 -10 4-1-5 3-1-8 23
Sampdoria 21 5 7 9 25 32 -7 3-4-4 2-3-5 22
Chievo 22 4 6 12 16 29 -13 2-2-7 2-4-5 18
Bologna 22 3 9 10 20 38 -18 2-6-4 1-3-6 18
Livorno 22 4 5 13 22 40 -18 3-3-5 1-2-8 17
Sassuolo 22 4 5 13 23 48 -25 3-1-7 1-4-6 17
Catania 22 3 6 13 16 40 -24 3-5-3 0-1-10 15

Statement released on Niasse’s ban for “deception”

Leave a comment

The reasons behind Oumar Niasse‘s ban for “deception of a match official” (diving, or simulation, to you and I) have been explained.

[ MORE: Toffees hammered by Atalanta ]

Niasse, 27, became the first player in Premier League history to be banned retrospectively for simulation with new rules which came into place in May being used.

Everton forward Niasse went down easily in the penalty box after slight contact from Scott Dann in the first half of their 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace on Saturday and referee Anthony Taylor awarded a penalty kick. However, Niasse was then retrospectively handed a two-game ban for simulation.

Niasse and Everton appealed the ban but the FA upheld the decision from an Independent Commission made up of a former professional player, referee and official, who revealed they were “unanimous” in charging him with diving.

Below is a look at how they came to make the decision.

“The Commission were unanimous that the video footage gave clear and overwhelming evidence that the player had exaggerated the effect of a normal contact in order to deceive the referee.

“The Commission noted that there was contact between Scott Dann and Mr Niasse but the Commission considered the contact to be normal, fair and expected contact in the situation that arose with Mr Niasse ‘taking on’ Mr Dann. The Commission unanimously agree that the nature of the contact made by Scott Dan was minimal in nature and would not have thrown Mr Niasse off balance and knock him down in the way that Mr Niasse portrayed it to have done.

“To the minds of the Commission members the movements of Mr Niasse’s body, in particular the arching of the back and the collapsing of both legs, were simply not consistent with the amount of force exerted upon him by Mr Dann and in exaggerating the effect of the contact made between himself and Mr Dann, Mr Niasse deceived the referee and this led to a penalty being awarded by the referee.”

This decision is truly groundbreaking in the PL.

Last season 22 players were booked for simulation in Premier League games, so this new ruling could see plenty of two-game bans dished out until players finally stop taking a tumble to try and win a penalty kick or free kick.

Of course, there is still a certain amount of subjectivity to all of this but the FA and PL have shown they will take a tough stance against simulation. Good on them. Now, can they keep it up and be consistent in dishing out these bans? That’s the big challenge.

Mourinho slams critics, reveals team news; Fellaini update

Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are almost back to full strength but he has a few concerns.

The Red Devils host Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Mourinho now having just a handful of injury concerns.

Long-term absentees Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo have all returned to action over the past week, while Mourinho has a small defensive problem with Eric Bailly and Phil Jones out for the visit of the newly-promoted Seagulls.

“They are out. But we are okay because we have [Chris] Smalling, [Marcos] Rojo and [Victor] Lindelof,” Mourinho said.

He also said that Pogba isn’t yet able to play a full 90 minutes as he continue his recovery from a hamstring injury, while Zlatan is improving all the time after jumping off the bench in the victory over Newcastle United last weekend and the midweek defeat at Basel in the UEFA Champions League.

“I prefer him [Ibrahimovic] on the pitch than off the pitch,” Mourinho said. “On the pitch, he’s another option for us and he’s an option of quality. His physicality and his intelligence, the way he moves, the way he plays. But he needs time. We managed to give him 15/20 minutes in both matches, he needs more of that, so hopefully, tomorrow, we play him again.”

Mourinho also took exception to a question about the criticism his team receives about their defensive style of play, with the Portuguese coach pointing towards United’s superb home record this season.

“I don’t know who is more ambitious than us,” Mourinho said. “We played against Newcastle with Pogba, Rashford, Martial, Mata, Lukaku, the full backs are not full backs, everybody knows they are wingers, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. So, I don’t know what you want.”

United have won all six PL home games this season and have scored 19 goals, conceding just once. So, yeah, he has a point but the only real test they’ve had so far at home was against Tottenham Hotspur.

Aside from an injury update and hitting back at critics, Mourinho also gave an update on Fellaini’s contract situation and revealed he is concerned the Belgian midfielder may leave.

Fellaini, 30, is out of contract at the end of the season and Mourinho has praised the lanky midfielder on numerous occasions over the past few months. Is he worried Fellaini will leave for nothing?

“Yeah,” Mourinho said. “This is a discussion between the player and the board. I’m not involved in contracts, in deals, and I respect both – I respect the player because he has the right to decide his future. So I just wait wishing they will have an understanding, but it’s out of my control.”

Bayern fans unhappy with Champions League ticket prices

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich fans were unhappy with the price of tickets for their team’s match at Anderlecht in the Champions League.

[ MORE: Study to show long-term affects of playing soccer ]

The fans held banners during Wednesday’s game saying, “Are your necks not full? Is your greed now finally satisfied?”

A Bayern fan group, Club Nr. 12, issued a statement saying Anderlecht had made 85 percent of the tickets available to the German club’s fans priced at 100 euros ($118).

“Even by the standards of the generally high-priced Champions League, this represents a new dimension for a first-round game,” said the statement, which thanked Bayern for supplementing the tickets so fans had could pay 70 euros ($82.50).

Many Bayern fans avoided the trip to Brussels altogether, while 91 percent of more than 2,500 Club Nr. 12 members said in a survey that ticket prices were “completely unacceptable.”

[ MORE: Premier League player power rankings ]

Anderlecht spokesman David Steegen told The Associated Press that Bayern fans were charged “exactly the same price” as home fans who bought single tickets to the game. He said fans who bought a three-game Champions League bundle were offered a reduction.

UEL roundup: AC Milan advances after big win; Arsenal, Everton fall

Twitter/@acmilan
1 Comment

Both Premier League sides fell in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League play, but for one side the result didn’t effect their progression into the next round.

[ MORE: Ex-Brazil forward Robinho handed nine-year prison sentence ]

Arsenal dropped a 1-0 result to Cologne, however, the Gunners still moved into the Round of 32 after their Group H counterparts, Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov settled for a scoreless draw.

Meanwhile, Everton’s 2017/18 woes continued on the day as the Toffees suffered a brutal 5-1 defeat at home against Serie A side Atalanta. The win secures Atalanta’s place in the knockout phase, along with fellow Group E club Lyon — who also won on Thursday.

AC Milan put up five goals of its own in a convincing win against Austria Wien, while Lazio, Nice and Red Bull Salzburg were among the other sides to move into the next round after picking up the necessary results.

Below are all of the scores from Thursday’s Europa League action.

Astana 2-3 Villareal
Konyaspor 1-1 Marseille
Rosenborg 0-1 Real Sociedad
Lazio 1-1 Vitesse
Viktoria Plzen 2-0 Steaua Bucuresti
Lokomotiv 2-1 Copenhagen
Zenit 2-1 Vardar
Red Bull Salzburg 3-0 Vitoria
Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Hertha Berlin
BATE 0-0 Red Star Belgrade
Ostersunds 2-0 Zorya
Koln 1-0 Arsenal
Nice 3-1 Zulte Waregem
Lugano 1-0 Beer-Sheva
Ludogorets 1-2 Istanbul
Braga 3-1 Hoffenheim
AEK 2-2 Rijeka
AC Milan 5-1 Austria Vienna
Lyon 4-0 Apollon
Maccabi Tel Aviv 0-2 Slavia Praha
Sheriff 1-0 Zlin
Partizan 2-1 Young Boys
Skenderbeu 3-2 Dynamo Kyiv
Everton 1-5 Atalanta