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

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday