Italy roundup: With Champions League upon it, Milan’s run out of time to turn things around

Leave a comment

While their UEFA Champions League opponents were rediscovering their form, Milan were persisting with theirs, but whereas that meant Atlético Madrid were back to their dogged, convincing ways, it also meant the Rossoneri were putting up another unconvincing result. Still languishing in the middle of the Serie A table, Milan needed a long distance shot from Mario Balotelli to claim a 1-0 win over Bologna. Though they claimed three points for the third time in five games, a middling result against one of the league’s bottom feeders showed little progress from the form that got Max Allegri fired.

Now, they’re out of time. By replacing Allegri with Clarence Seedorf earlier this winter, the club implicitly conceded their hopes of making into next year’s Champions League, but having drawn an Atlético team still short on respect throughout Europe, there were hopes the Rossoneri could survive another round in this year’s tournament. For a team that’s always defined itself in terms of its European achievements, a win would serve as silver lining to an otherwise depressing season. Under Seedorf, Milan might have a chance.

While the soccer’s been different and the results have improved, Seedorf hasn’t dramatically changed Milan’s fortunes. The team is now top of the charts in possession, but that control hasn’t translated into goals, however. Thought the skill of Balotelli, Kaká, and Keisuke Honda is capable of picking teams apart, Milan’s scored more than one goal only once in their last six games. They claimed full points on Friday against Bologna, but they didn’t solve any of their problems.

As a result, Milan will go into Wednesday’s game little different from the team that squeaked through the group stage. Yes, there’s a new man in charge, some new players, and the play is different, but within the context of UEFA Champions League, Milan are essentially the same. They’re a talented side with a lot of history, but they’re one of the weakest teams alive in the competition. While the Rossoneri felt fortunate to draw Atlético, Atleti were the lucky ones.

Elsewhere

  • Fiorentina 1, Inter Milan 2 – A huge win for an Inter team that had started to lose their way – one that dealt a significant blow to La Viola’s Champions League hopes. With goals from Rodrigo Palacio and Mauro Icardi, Inter put three points between themselves and sixth place Hellas Verona. At the same time, they left Fiorentina six points behind Napoli for the league’s final Champions League spot.
  • Catania 3, Lazio 1 – The boost the Aquile got after Edy Reja’s return may have finally worn off. A first minute goal from Mariano Izco followed by second half scores from Nicolás Spolli and Gino Peruzzi helped Catania climb out of last place, with Lazio losing for the first time in league since Dec. 22.
  • Cagliari 1, Livorno 2 – Three red cards left Livorno playing nine-on-10, but with Federico Ceccherini and Marco Benassi’s dismissals coming late, the Labronici had plenty of time to claim the one-goal result that pulled them out of the bottom three.
  • Sassuolo 0, Napoli 2 – Taking advantage of Fiorentina’s Saturday slip, Napoli got goals from Blerim Dzemaili and Lorenzo Insigne on each side of half time to tighten their grip on third.
  • Atlalanta 0, Parma 4 – Now 12 rounds unbeaten, Parma got goals from Cristian Molinaro, Antonio Cassano, Ezequiel Schelotto, and an own goal from Yohan Benalouane to hand their hosts their third loss in four.
  • Genoa 3, Udinese 3 – A late brace from Alberto Gilardino brought Genoa back from two down to snap Udinese’s two-match winning streak.
  • Juventus 3, Chievo 1 – A Martín Cáceres own goal brought the visitors within one early in the second half, but after Fernando Llorente’s 10th goal of the season, Juventus restored the two-goal margin they’d carry to full-time.
  • Roma 3, Sampdoria 0 – Two goals from Mattia Destro bookended a 54th minute score from Miralem Pjanic, keeping Roma from being pulled into a battle for second with Napoli.

Monday

Hellas Verona vs. Torino

Others

Roma 1, Bologna 0

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 24 20 3 1 59 19 40 12-0-0 8-3-1 63
Roma 23 16 6 1 48 11 37 10-2-0 6-4-1 54
Napoli 24 15 5 4 49 27 22 8-3-1 7-2-3 50
Fiorentina 24 13 5 6 43 26 17 7-3-2 6-2-4 44
Inter Milan 24 10 9 5 42 28 14 6-5-1 4-4-4 39
Parma 23 9 9 5 36 27 9 5-5-2 4-4-3 36
Verona 23 11 3 9 39 37 2 8-1-3 3-2-6 36
Torino 23 8 9 6 36 30 6 5-5-2 3-4-4 33
AC Milan 24 8 8 8 37 35 2 6-4-2 2-4-6 32
Lazio 24 8 8 8 30 32 -2 6-3-2 2-5-6 32
Genoa 24 8 7 9 27 31 -4 5-4-3 3-3-6 31
Sampdoria 24 7 7 10 27 35 -8 4-4-4 3-3-6 28
Udinese 24 8 3 13 28 35 -7 5-1-5 3-2-8 27
Atalanta 24 8 3 13 24 36 -12 7-2-3 1-1-10 27
Cagliari 24 5 9 10 22 34 -12 5-4-4 0-5-6 24
Bologna 24 4 9 11 22 40 -18 2-6-4 2-3-7 21
Livorno 24 5 5 14 24 42 -18 3-3-6 2-2-8 20
Catania 24 4 7 13 19 41 -22 4-5-3 0-2-10 19
Chievo 24 4 6 14 17 35 -18 2-2-7 2-4-7 18
Sassuolo 24 4 5 15 23 51 -28 3-1-8 1-4-7 17

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

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

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia