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Serie A: Bonucci scores on return to Juve; Napoli drop points

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MILAN (AP) Leonardo Bonucci’s goal on his return to former team Juventus ultimately counted for nothing as the Bianconeri beat AC Milan 3-1 to move four points clear in Serie A on Saturday.

Bonucci cancelled out Paulo Dybala’s opener in the first half and Hakan Calhanoglu rattled the crossbar as Milan surprisingly outplayed the six-time defending champion.

But Juan Cuadrado and Sami Khedira struck late for Juventus.

Second-placed Napoli slipped further behind after drawing at Sassuolo 1-1.

All 10 matches were played on Saturday because of Easter.

Juventus got off to the perfect start when Dybala fired it in front with a powerful shot from outside the area in the eighth minute.

But Milan is much improved under Gennaro Gattuso and the players didn’t let their heads go down.

Andre Silva headed wide from six yards and Milan leveled in the 28th minute when Bonucci got between his former teammates Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini to head in.

It was Bonucci’s first match at Juventus since his surprise exit in July after seven years at the club, and his every touch was met by jeers and insults. The Italy defender celebrated with a wash-your-mouth action.

It was the first league goal Juventus conceded this year.

Milan almost took the lead 10 minutes after the break as Calhanoglu’s effort crashed off the crossbar and Gianluigi Buffon turned Suso’s follow-up round the post.

Cuadrado was brought on for his first appearance of 2018 on the hour and he marked his return from injury with a goal 19 minutes later, heading in Khedira’s cross.

Khedira got on the scoresheet himself three minutes from time following a low cross from Dybala.

Matteo Politano almost joined Napoli in January. He could have just cost the southern-based club the Serie A title.

Napoli was desperate to sign Politano in the January transfer window but failed to get the paperwork completed in time.

He showed Napoli what it missed when he volleyed in a rebound in the 22nd minute after Federico Peluso headed Stefano Sensi’s free kick off the right post.

Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli kept Napoli at bay with a couple of saves from point-blank range but the visitors leveled 10 minutes from time when Jose Callejon turned in Mario Rui’s low cross to the back post.

Napoli threw everyone forward and substitute Arkadiusz Milik hit the crossbar with an overhead kick.

The race to be Serie A top goalscorer is heating up with leading candidates Ciro Immobile and Mauro Icardi both scoring twice.

Icardi’s goals helped Inter Milan reaffirm its return to form with a 3-0 win over Hellas Verona, while Immobile helped Lazio beat 10-man Benevento 6-2.

Immobile leads with 26 goals, two more than Icardi.

Icardi scored four in Inter’s 5-0 win at Sampdoria before the international break and he resumed where he left off, firing his side in front after just 38 seconds and doubling his tally early in the second half.

Ivan Perisic set up both of Icardi’s goals and scored Inter’s second.

Verona goalkeeper Nicolas was sent off in the final minute for bringing down Eder.

Inter, which faces AC Milan in the derby on Wednesday, remained in fourth spot. It leads Lazio by one point after the capital side survived a scare when bottom side Benevento took a 2-1 lead in the second half despite playing from the seventh minute with 10 men after goalkeeper Christian Puggioni was sent off for handling the ball outside his area.

Last year’s top goalscorer, Edin Dzeko, came off the bench to help Roma draw at Bologna 1-1.

Midfielder Radja Nainggolan limped off after just 16 minutes, and is a serious doubt to face Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Genoa missed a penalty but netted another in a controversial 1-1 draw against Spal, which moved two points above the relegation zone after 10-man Crotone lost at Fiorentina 2-0.

Chievo Verona moved four points clear after beating Sampdoria 2-1.

Torino won at Cagliari 4-0, and Atalanta beat Udinese 2-0.

Top Premier League storylines – Week 35

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It’s a short Premier League weekend with the FA Cup taking place, but all eyes will be on the Emirates Stadium after Friday’s stunning news.

Arsene Wenger begins his farewell tour at Arsenal this Sunday as the Gunners host a London derby against West Ham United.

[MORE: Arsene Wenger’s legacy

Arsenal aims to finish season on a high
Arsenal vs. West Ham —  8:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

The decision to step down has taken attention away from Arsenal’s defeat last Sunday when Newcastle came back from a one-goal deficit to defeat the Gunners, 2-1. Perhaps with the manager on his way out, Arsenal’s players will be extra motivated to end the season on a high note. If Arsenal continue to slip up, it could be out of Europe entirely, as the club sits just two points above seventh place.

For West Ham, a win would all but ensure the club’s place in the Premier League next season, but the club currently sit just six points above the relegation zone, and with the team going through a rough past few months, every point gained at home or away counts.

Does a guard of honor await Manchester City?
Manchester City vs. Swansea City —  11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

By virtue of Manchester United’s defeat last Sunday, Manchester City became officially Premier League champions-elect.

The club will get to raise the trophy officially at the end of the season, but for now, it appears Swansea City will be the first club to show its respect to Man City’s dominance throughout the season with a guard of honor. Man City is still chasing more Premier League records, but Swansea City, just four points above the drop zone, needs this win more.

Relegation scrap on tap
Watford vs. Crystal Palace —  10:00 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

It’s a proverbial six-pointer as Watford, about as far north you can go in the London area, takes on Crystal Palace in south London in a key relegation battle.

Just three points separate the two sides, but a win for Watford would push the club up to 40 points while a win for Palace would put the Eagles even on points with the Hornets at 37 each. Interestingly, via the Premier League, “Watford are winless in their last six home meetings with Crystal Palace in all competitions (D3 L3), since a 2-0 victory in the Championship in February 2009.”

Stats behind Wenger’s time at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger
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When you manage for nearly 22 years, you’re sure to accumulate numerous statistical milestones.

Arsene Wenger holds the record for most Premier League games managed (823), FA Cups won (7) and of course, his incredible run of 49 games without defeat with the 2003/2004 Arsenal invincibles team.

[MORE: ALL COVERAGE OF ARSENE WENGER’S DEPARTURE]

Our friends at Opta have put together some statistics together on Wenger’s achievements over his time at the club that spans three decades.

Arsene Wenger’s Career (as of April 20, 2018)

Titles

Premier League 🏆🏆🏆

FA Cup 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆

Community Shield 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆


Games Managed

Premier League – 823 games, 473 wins, 199 draws, 151 losses, 57.5% winning percentage

UEFA Champions League – 177 games, 83 wins, 41 draws, 53 losses

FA Cup – 109 games, 73 wins, 22 draws, 14 losses

League Cup – 73 games, 42 wins, 9 draws, 22 losses

UEFA Cup/Europa League – 23 games, 14 wins, 5 draws, 4 losses

UEFA Champions League qualifying – 14 games, 13 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses

Community Shield – 9 games, 6 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss

(more…)

Bocanegra, Hucles to chair USSF technical development group

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CHICAGO (AP) Former U.S. men’s captain Carlos Bocanegra and retired women’s midfielder Angela Hucles will chair a new technical development committee established by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The organization also appointed eight chief officers who will report to chief executive officer Dan Flynn, but the final two direct reports remain to be hired: general managers for the men’s and women’s national teams.

Bocanegra currently works as the vice president and technical director for Atlanta United while Hucles is a former CEO and has spoken at sports leadership summits. Both Bocanegra and Hucles are members of the U.S. Soccer board. Bocanegra in particular has been floated for the position of U.S. Men’s National Team general manager, and this appointment could be the first step. And with more than 100 caps for the U.S. Women’s National Team and time spent as an executive, Hucles could also be angling for the USWNT general manager position.

The USSF said its board also established a new commercial committee, raising the board’s committee total to six under new president Carlos Cordeiro, who succeeded Sunil Gulati in February.

Nico Romeijn was promoted to chief sport development officer from head of coaching education, Ryan Mooney to chief soccer officer from director of sport development and Brian Remedi to chief stakeholders officer from chief administrative officer. Tonya Wallach was appointed chief talent and inclusion officer

Department heads continuing senior roles who are direct reports to Flynn include Jay Berhalter (chief commercial and strategy officer), Neil Buethe (chief communications officer), Eric Gleason (chief financial officer) and Lydia Wahlke (chief legal counsel).

Kroenke’s statement on Wenger

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Stan Kroenke has been a mostly hands-off owner for Arsenal over the past 10 years, preferring to put his trust in Arsene Wenger.

But today, with Wenger’s public announcement that he will step away at the end of the season, Kroenke released a poignant statement, calling on the club’s fans around the globe to back the side as it looks to hold on to a place in next season’s Europa League.

[MORE: Reaction to Arsene Wenger’s decision]

“This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport,” Kroenke said. “One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsène has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.

“Arsène has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude. Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record. He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.

“We have high ambitions to build on Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.

“We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game.”

Kroenke has drawn the ire of many Arsenal fans who had been calling for Wenger to be sacked for years, as the Arsenal board year after year continued to offer Wenger a new contract. It appeared that as long as the club was stable financially, with UEFA Champions League television revenues coming in and the team competing for a top-four Premier League position, the board was content.

However, the last two seasons have seen Arsenal slip, with a record amount of defeats during Wenger’s tenure and a second-consecutive season outside of the Champions League, leading to more lost revenue.