Italy Roundup: The Old Lady rolls again, Fiorentina wastes golden opportunity

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Juventus continues to roll through 2014, this time adding to AC Milan’s misery with 2-0 victory at San Siro. It’s the third time in four years that The Old Lady has won the annual match at Milan, and didn’t lack for entertainment.

Fernando Llorente made sure the score wouldn’t be level at half when he collected a ball from Stephan Lichtsteiner and deposited it in the 44th minute. It ended a half of back-and-forth, setting the stage for the second half.

Some injuries and cards clouded the start of the second half, but Carlos Tevez’s 16th goal of the season doubled Juve’s advantage in the 68th minute and Milan would not recover. They’ve opened up a double-digit lead on the rest of the table.

As for Milan, they’ve allowed the bottom half of the table to become a distinct possibility. Genoa won to pull even on points with Milan, who are now three points behind Lazio. The Eagles took the air out of Fiorentina in a 1-0 match at Artemio Franchi.

Lazio’s Lorik Cana shocked the home side just five minutes in with a shot into the top left off a corner kick, and though Fiorentina did its best to level… it never came. Apart from Abdoulay Konko hitting the bar just before half, Viola controlled the half and attempted shots like they were going out of style.

The second half was more even, but the final 20 minutes were a series of almost for Fiorentina as they drove down the pitch. Former Manchester United midfielder Anderson was quite active, but for whatever reason Fiorentina refused to send simple crosses into the box, preferring to navigate into a cluttered Lazio box.

It didn’t work, and Fiorentina could not take advantage of draws from both Napoli and Roma above them. It’s looking more and more like a battle to stay in fourth rather than rise for Fiorentina… and it’s their own doing. Finish!

Elsewhere

  • Roma 0-0 Inter Milan – Roma’s chances were plenty, but the finishing was lacking in the draw.
  • Cagliari 3-0 Udinese – Breathing room and relief for the hosts, who get goals from three different players to move ahead of Udinese on goal differential and into the 14th spot.
  • Genoa 2-0 Catania – Stefano Sturaro’s first Serie A goal moves Genoa even with Milan as it looks to jump into the top half, as Catania stays in serious relegation danger.
  • Atalanta 2-1 Chievo – A face slap gave Bostjan Cesar a second yellow, but 10-man Chievo rallied to draw level before substitute Luca Cigarini found Atalanta’s winner in the 85th minute. The only thing keeping Chievo from the drop zone is goal differential.
  • Sassuolo 0-1 Parma  – Parma pulls to within one point of fifth-place Inter by holding off the basement dwellers on Marco Parolo’s goal.
  • Verona 0-0 Bologna – The visitors’ earned point worth its weight in gold as they stay out of the drop zone, but they’ll rue not taking all three after Rafael saved Rolando Bianchi’s penalty kick.
  • Torino 0-2 Sampdoria — Road win helps ease safety concerns for Sampdoria, who stuck in the seventh minute (Stefano Okaka) and the 79th (Manolo Gabbiadini).
  • Livorno 1-1 Napoli — A point from this fixture is nice for Livorno, but they still sit in 18th place and have to thank a Pepe Reina own goal for leveling the match.

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 26 22 3 1 62 19 43 13-0-0 9-3-1 69
Roma 25 17 7 1 49 11 38 10-3-0 7-4-1 58
Napoli 26 15 7 4 51 29 22 8-4-1 7-3-3 52
Fiorentina 26 13 6 7 45 29 16 7-3-3 6-3-4 45
Inter Milan 26 10 11 5 43 29 14 6-6-1 4-5-4 41
Parma 25 10 10 5 39 29 10 5-6-2 5-4-3 40
Verona 26 12 4 10 43 42 1 8-2-4 4-2-6 40
Lazio 26 10 8 8 34 34 0 7-3-2 3-5-6 38
Torino 26 9 9 8 39 34 5 5-5-3 4-4-5 36
AC Milan 26 9 8 9 39 37 2 6-4-3 3-4-6 35
Genoa 26 9 8 9 30 32 -2 6-4-3 3-4-6 35
Sampdoria 26 8 7 11 29 37 -8 4-4-5 4-3-6 31
Atalanta 26 9 4 13 27 38 -11 8-2-3 1-2-10 31
Cagliari 26 6 10 10 26 35 -9 6-4-4 0-6-6 28
Udinese 26 8 4 14 29 39 -10 5-2-5 3-2-9 28
Bologna 26 4 10 12 22 41 -19 2-6-5 2-4-7 22
Chievo 26 5 6 15 20 37 -17 3-2-7 2-4-8 21
Livorno 26 5 6 15 27 46 -19 3-4-7 2-2-8 21
Catania 26 4 7 15 19 45 -26 4-5-3 0-2-12 19
Sassuolo 26 4 5 17 25 55 -30 3-1-9 1-4-8 17

Europa League final: Man United too tough for Ajax, qualify for UCL

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Though it may have required a minor detour in the journey to the intended destination, Jose Mourinho’s first season as Manchester United manager ultimately reached the promised land: qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League.

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Once it became clear that Man United’s season was unlikely to result in a top-four finish in the Premier League (they eventually wound up sixth), Mourinho put every Mancunian egg into the Europa League basket, and it paid off on Wednesday, as United topped Ajax, 2-0, in the Europa League final inside the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

Paul Pogba put United 1-0 ahead after just 18 minutes (WATCH HERE), benefitting from a wicked deflection off a defender’s shin, and Mourinho’s famously rigid, organized midfield and defensive structure frustrated a young Ajax side (a starting lineup with an average age of just under 23 years old) that reached the final on the back of a free-flowing, attacking tidal wave.

[ WATCH: Pogba gives United an early lead ]

Down just a goal, Ajax needed little more than a moment of brilliance from any number of rising stars sure to fetch massive transfer fees and land big-money contracts elsewhere in Europe, in the not-so-distant future.

That hope lasted less than 180 seconds into the second half, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan doubled the lead, thanks to some unbelievably quick reflexes and a tidy overhead kick from three yards out. Ajax would manage just two shots on goal all night (four for United).

Not only did Mourinho deliver Champions League qualification, alongside a European trophy, United also claimed the EFL Cup back in February. With the allure of UCL football next season, expect another busy (and expensive) summer of spending at Old Trafford.

AT THE HALF: Man Utd lead Ajax in UEL final, thanks to Pogba (video)

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After 45 minutes of Wednesday’s Europa League final, between Manchester United and Ajax, in Stockholm, Sweden, Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils have one foot in next season’s UEFA Champions League.

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After a cagey opening 15 minutes that saw neither side create anything of consequence, Man United pulled ahead on a fair bit of luck in the 18th minute. Paul Pogba received the ball 25 yards from goal, took a touch toward goal and fired a low shot toward goal. Davinson Sanchez did everything he could to get his body in front of the strike, but the ball glanced off his shin, sending it one direction and goalkeeper Andre Onana the other.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League final ] 

Having conceded just eight goals in 14.5 Europa League games thus far this season, would you bet on United conceding an equalizer in the final 45 minutes? Hit the link above to follow along, live.

Valverde dismisses deal to coach Barcelona

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MADRID (AP) Departing Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde has been avoiding talk about a possible move to Barcelona, saying he has not entered into negotiations with any club.

Valverde did not confirm reports that he has already reached a deal to coach Barcelona next season, and did not dismiss taking a year off after four seasons at Athletic.

“I haven’t committed to any club, I haven’t talked to anybody,” Valverde said. “I have an agent and there are teams that have shown interest in me. Now I have to decide whether I will take on a new adventure, and it would have to be a challenging one.”

The 53-year-old Valverde has been widely touted to replace Luis Enrique, who announced earlier this year that he was tired and would not continue as Barcelona’s coach.

The Catalan club ends its season after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday.

The Mundo Deportivo newspaper reported this week that Valverde has already reached a two-year deal with Barcelona, with an option for a third season. The newspaper said the announcement would be made next week.

“I don’t know what’s been published,” Valverde said. “I never talk about negotiations with clubs and that won’t change. This wouldn’t be the first time that I have offers from important clubs.”

He said there was still the possibility of taking some time off and not immediately taking over another club.

“Why not?” he said. “In the end I can do whatever I want, no?”

A former forward, Valverde played two seasons with Barcelona in the late 1980s. He spent six years with Athletic from 1990-96.

Valverde didn’t hide that he will be hoping Barcelona wins the Copa del Rey title this weekend, which would guarantee Athletic a spot in the Europa League next season. Athletic finished seventh in the Spanish league, but will play in the second-tier European competition with a Barcelona victory because the Catalan club will play in the Champions League. Only the teams in fifth and sixth places automatically qualify for the Europa League.

Valverde led Athletic to victory over Barcelona in the final of the Spanish Super Cup in 2015, which marked the team’s first title in more than three decades. He also coached the club from 2003-05.

Valverde has also coached Espanyol, Olympiakos, Villarreal and Valencia.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

LIVE: Man United face Ajax in Europa League final

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Manchester United and Ajax square off in Stockholm, Sweden on Wednesday for the UEFA Europa League trophy and a place in the Champions League next season.

[ LIVE: Europa League final ] 

This a huge game for Jose Mourinho and United bad coming less than 48 hours after a suicide bomber killed 22 people in Manchester, this game has taken an entirely different complexion.

The mood around the Friends Arena is a somber one as Manchester United’s fans mourn those lost in the terror attack and people around the world send their love and prayers to Manchester.

Black armbands will be worn by both teams and there will be a minute’s silence before the game to honor the victims.

United have never won this trophy and they will have their work cut out against a young, talented Ajax side.

Click no the link above to follow the action live from Stockholm, while here at ProSoccerTalk we will have all the analysis, reaction and more from the final.