Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Serie A: Milan derby entertains again; Juventus go 8 points clear

Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) Cristian Zapata’s stoppage-time equalizer prevented the new era at AC Milan from getting off to a losing start on Saturday as the Rossoneri fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at city rival Inter Milan.

Antonio Candreva and Mauro Icardi scored in the first half but Alessio Romagnoli reduced the deficit in the 83rd minute before Zapata’s leveler in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

Milan remained sixth in Serie A, two points above Inter in the race for the final qualifying position for the Europa League.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs apply pressure to Chelsea (again) ]

This was the first match since the $800 million takeover of Milan was completed on Thursday by Chinese-led Rossoneri Sport Luxembourg, ending Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year reign.

Inter, which is also owned by a Chinese group, was taken over last year by Suning.

“It was an advert for the East, it was a hard-fought match, which gave the fans emotions – both positive and negative,” Milan coach Vincenzo Montella said. “I think Milan and Inter offered up a great spectacle.

“This team gave the last victory to Berlusconi, against Palermo, and also the last trophy and that’s a privilege. A win would have been better today but a draw which arrived in this way and for how the team played is a good start.”

New Milan President Yonghong Li was in the stands for the match, which kicked off at 12:30 p.m. local time – perfect for prime time Chinese television audiences seven hours ahead.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL preview — Chelsea visit Mourinho at Old Trafford ]

Milan fans unveiled a banner at halftime, mocking that decision as it depicted a man eating cash with chopsticks and the words, “All you can eat … have a nice meal Italian league.”

The Rossoneri supporters also displayed another banner at the start of the first half, with the words: “We hope to see seriousness, commitment and presence. We give our welcome to the new management.”

Milan attacked from the start and almost took the lead in the second minute but Carlos Bacca fired over from close range after Samir Handanovic denied Gerard Deulofeu and a series of shots was charged down.

Deulofeu went close again in the 14th but his effort went off the base of the right post from a tight angle.

Milan looked to be the more dangerous side but Inter broke the deadlock in the 36th on its first real chance. Roberto Gagliardini sent a long ball over the top to Candreva, who shrugged off Mattia De Sciglio to chip it over the onrushing Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Inter doubled its lead a minute from halftime as Ivan Perisic won the ball in midfield, played a one-two with Icardi and then raced down the left flank before pulling back from the byline for the Argentine to tap in at the near post.

It was Icardi’s first goal against Milan in nine matches.

Milan got back in the match in the 66th minute when Romagnoli volleyed in Suso’s cross from close range, giving Milan new belief.

Everyone, including Donnarumma, went up for a corner, which Bacca headed on and Zapata managed to turn into the net off the underside of the bar. Goal-line technology proved the ball had gone over.

It was revenge after the first meeting between the two sides this season had also ended 2-2, following Perisic’s last-minute equalizer.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 32 26 2 4 64 20 44 16-0-0 10-2-4 80
 Roma 32 23 3 6 70 27 43 14-1-1 9-2-5 72
 Napoli 32 21 7 4 75 33 42 11-4-2 10-3-2 70
 Lazio 32 18 7 7 54 36 18 10-2-4 8-5-3 61
 Atalanta 32 18 6 8 53 35 18 10-2-3 8-4-5 60
 AC Milan 32 17 7 8 49 35 14 11-2-3 6-5-5 58
 Inter Milan 32 17 5 10 59 37 22 10-3-3 7-2-7 56
 Fiorentina 32 14 10 8 50 41 9 8-7-1 6-3-7 52

Roma’s faint hopes of beating Juventus to the Serie A title are all but over, while it is at risk of losing out on second spot to Napoli.

Roma slipped eight points behind Juventus with just six matches remaining. Third-placed Napoli closed the gap on Roma to just two points after a 3-0 victory over Udinese, thanks to goals from Dries Mertens, Allan and Jose Callejon.

Atalanta remained fifth, two points ahead of AC Milan.

Jasmin Kurtic fired Atalanta in front in the 22nd after good work from Andrea Conti, who went past Antonio Rudiger on the left.

Roma leveled five minutes after the break, when Mohamed Salah knocked down Mario Rui’s cross for Edin Dzeko to tap in and score his 25th league goal of the season, keeping him level with Torino’s Andrea Belotti at the top of the goalscoring charts.

Daniele De Rossi almost scored a spectacular goal but his overhead kick from the edge of the area crashed off the post. Roma hit the woodwork again when Radja Nainggolan’s effort came off the underside of the crossbar.

Gonzalo Higuain scored two first-half goals as Juventus won 2-0 at relegation-threatened Pescara.

[ MORE: La Liga roundup — Madrid, Barca win final games before El Clasico ]

However, Juventus forward Paulo Dybala limped off in the 54th with an ankle injury, which will be a worry for the Bianconeri ahead of the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday, where they lead Barcelona 3-0.

Lazio’s hopes of sneaking into the Champions League were also dented as it was held 2-2 at Genoa, while Fiorentina lost 2-1 against Empoli after conceding a stoppage-time penalty.

Elsewhere, Sassuolo beat Sampdoria 2-1, Cagliari thrashed Chievo Verona 4-0, Torino drew 1-1 against Crotone and Bologna’s match at Palermo ended 0-0.

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

Leave a comment

Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

[ STREAM: Swansea v. Man United ]

Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

Getty Images
1 Comment

Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.