Italy roundup: Deadly Destro’s Roma won’t blink, Napoli stumbles again

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AS Roma is not going away, as Mattia Destro’s hat trick reminded us that Juventus’ big lead atop the Serie A table remains open for discussion.

I Lupi kept Cagliari‘s Serie A survival in question as well with their 3-1 win at Stadio Is Arenas, though the home squad remains a relatively-safe seven points clear of the drop.

Destro’s hat trick was natural, as the freshly-minted 23-year-old netted in the 32nd, 56th and 73rd minutes. He has seven goals in his last six matches and here you’ll see them coupled with some robotic voiceover work:

Meanwhile, Napoli fell 1-0 at Parma and is now 12 points back of Roma for second place. In fact, it’s more likely Fiorentina will make a charge on Napoli, as the fourth-place Viola built a two-goal lead before holding on to beat visiting Udinese 2-1.

Elsewhere

  • Atalanta 0-2 Sassuolo — Nicola Sansone has his supporters eating out of the palm of his hand after inching his club to within three points of safety after his brace.
  • Chievo 0-1 Verona — Luca Toni is now within seven goals of 200 in Serie A. Could the old man be on his way to Brazil?
  • Inter Milan 2-2 Bologna — Break up Bologna! The Greyhounds add another point to their hopes for safety with Panagiotis Koné’s late equalizer.
  • Catania 1-2 Torino – Ciro Immobile’s breakout season continues with 83rd minute winner as visitors post dramatic comeback.
  • Lazio 2-0 Sampdoria – Goals on either side of halftime keep the hosts in the European discussion.
  • Juventus vs. Livorno – Monday
  • Genoa vs. AC Milan — Monday

 

STANDINGS

Juventus 31 26 3 2 67 22 45 15-0-0 11-3-2 81
Roma 32 23 7 2 65 18 47 13-3-0 10-4-2 76
Napoli 32 19 7 6 59 33 26 10-4-2 9-3-4 64
Fiorentina 32 16 7 9 51 34 17 9-3-4 7-4-5 55
Inter Milan 32 12 14 6 51 35 16 7-8-2 5-6-4 50
Parma 32 13 11 8 52 41 11 7-7-2 6-4-6 50
Lazio 32 13 9 10 42 40 2 9-4-3 4-5-7 48
Atalanta 32 14 4 14 37 41 -4 10-2-4 4-2-10 46
Verona 32 14 4 14 47 52 -5 9-2-5 5-2-9 46
Torino 32 12 9 11 47 41 6 7-5-4 5-4-7 45
AC Milan 31 11 9 11 47 43 4 7-4-4 4-5-7 42
Sampdoria 32 11 8 13 40 45 -5 6-5-5 5-3-8 41
Genoa 31 10 9 12 34 39 -5 7-4-4 3-5-8 39
Udinese 32 11 5 16 35 44 -9 8-2-5 3-3-11 38
Cagliari 32 7 11 14 30 44 -14 7-4-6 0-7-8 32
Chievo 32 7 6 19 26 47 -21 5-2-9 2-4-10 27
Bologna 32 5 12 15 26 50 -24 3-7-6 2-5-9 27
Livorno 31 6 7 18 34 58 -24 4-5-7 2-2-11 25
Sassuolo 32 6 6 20 31 61 -30 4-1-11 2-5-9 24
Catania 32 4 8 20 24 57 -33 4-6-6 0-2-14 20

 

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

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

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.