Six-time Serie A defending champions Juventus are in trouble. Not a lot, but the heat has been turned up.
A wild 3-2 loss to Sampdoria means the Italian giants are now four points back of Napoli in the Serie A table, and heading into their Champions League matchup with Barcelona, there is plenty of soul-searching to do in Turin.
Juventus nearly mounted what would have been a monumental comeback, down 3-0 heading into stoppage-time but posting goals by Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in the first and fourth minutes of injury time. It was not to be, and the four-point deficit through 13 games not only leaves Juventus looking at Napoli more than a game in front of them, but also over their shoulders at Roma and Inter Milan both a point behind in third and fourth.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was kept out of the lineup as he continues to deal emotionally with the World Cup miss, and it showed. After a scoreless first half at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Duzan Zapata beat Stephan Lichtensteiner in the air and sent a looping header over a flatfooted Wojciech Szczesny for the opening goal.
With 20 minutes to go, Sampdoria struck again as former Premier League creator Gaston Ramirez fed 21-year-old Lucas Torreira at the top of the box, and with nobody closing him down, he fired into the bottom-left corner of the net. They got the eventual winner nine minutes later after an embarrassing defensive breakdown by the visitors. A free-kick saw two attackers in front of net against five defenders, but somehow Gianmarco Ferrari was completely unmarked in front of the net for a tap-in.
Higuain struck from the penalty spot and Dybala hit on the counter to beat Emiliano Vivaldo at his near post, but it wasn’t enough for Juventus. The defensive frailty will need to be corrected moving forward, as they face a vital match at Napoli on December 1st, and a loss there could spell disaster for their title charge.
Ugly scenes surrounded Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League visit from AS Roma, as visiting supporters used the occasion as an excuse for violence.
[ MORE: LFC 2-1 Roma | Klopp reacts ]
Several reports say Roma support — some armed with belts, others with hammers — stormed Liverpool supporters outside a pub near Anfield, with a 53-year-old man requiring treatment after 80 people charged the Albert Pub using a side route.
The Liverpool Echo says Merseyside Police are investigating the incident, and Sunday Times football correspondent Jonathan Northcroft provides some details on the harrowing events.
AS Roma turned around a three-goal first leg deficit against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, and i Lupi feel prepared to do it against Liverpool, too.
Roma fell 5-2 to the Reds on Tuesday, but again struck late to bring away goals back to Italy. This time, it was Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti ruining a host’s clean sheet.
[ MORE: Match recap | Klopp reacts ]
Manager Eusebio Di Francesco was not thrilled with his side on the night. From ASRoma.com/En:
“We weren’t on their level tonight – we were lacking a bit of strength and physical presence,” he said. “We let them swamp us too easily on occasion.”
A better second leg is almost assured, but can Roma complete another comeback?
“I have total belief,” Di Francesco said. “You can’t just give in during a game, especially in this type of competition. Sometimes you take a few hits, but the team wasn’t able to stay in the game and at times we lost a bit of unity.”
Sporting director Monchi admits that he thought his side was cooked before Dzeko opened Roma’s account.
“Up until the final 10 minutes we were out of the competition,” he said. “Now we still have some hopes, and we must take this small chance and do the same thing we did against Barcelona.”
Former Spurs defender Federico Fazio, now with Roma, thinks it can be done.
“We always focus on the positives,” said Fazio. “We are fighters and we will give absolutely everything until the last second. We are not beaten yet, once again with the strength of our fans behind us we will fight to the last moment to try and turn this tie around.”
Liverpool won Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal 5-2 against Roma at Anfield, but it’s show-stopping 80-minute isn’t carrying a ton of momentum in the echoes of the final whistle.
[ RECAP: Liverpool 5-2 Roma ]
That’s because of two factors:
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was stretchered off the field with an ugly injury
- The two in the score line came in the final 10 minutes, as Liverpool almost inexplicably lost focus.
Before we get to Point No. 2, here’s Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on “The Ox”:
“Oxlade-Chamberlain is probably a really bad injury,” Klopp said on BT Sport in England. “That is bad news for us. The squad doesn’t get bigger at the moment so we need to be creative in the next few games.”
As for the Roma goals, Klopp was frustrated but ultimately happy to walk away with a three-goal lead.
Edin Dzeko headed home the Roma opener in the 81st minute before Diego Perotti converted a penalty kick after James Milner handled a ball in the box. Roma collected shot attempts in the final 10 minutes to finish the match 21-14 in Liverpool’s favor.
Klopp did not think it should have been a PK.
“Long term perfect performance for pretty much 80 minutes or so,” he said, via the BBC. “We made defensively one mistake. Penalty is not a penalty but that is the situation and now it is 5-2. Of course we would have been more happy with 5-0 or 5-1 but 5-2 is a fantastic result. We go there and try again.”
Count Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson among those let down by the final 10 minutes of their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg on Tuesday.
The Reds took a 5-0 lead and conceded goals to Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti to give the visitors hope with two away goals heading back to Italy for the May 2 second leg.
[ RECAP: Liverpool 5-2 Roma ]
“It felt as though we were in full control but we basically gave them two goals, you can’t do that in the Champions League,” Henderson said. “At the same time we played well, we will go there with a three goal advantage.”
Reds center back Virgil Van Dijk was visibly frustrated even when discussing the boss-level effort in building a lead which should be very hard to erase in Rome.
“It was a fantastic evening, lot of good goals,” Van Dijk said. “A lot of passion, frustration, but the last minutes stays in my mind right now. … It can’t happen. Obviously we know Roma have a lot of quality but we need to do better. But we have a 5-2 lead to take with us to Rome. It’s going to be very tough, but we’ll be ready.”
So 3-0 or 4-1 would do it for Roma next week in Italy, but that’s far easier said than done. Liverpool fans won’t be booking too many flights for Ukraine yet, but Jurgen Klopp will be scouting Bayern Munich and Real Madrid on Wednesday with an eye toward Kiev.