Elisabetta Baracchi/ANSA via AP

Serie A: Roma prep for Liverpool by beating SPAL; Benevento win at Milan

Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Premier League preview ]

SPAL 2013 0-3 Roma

A few hours after a reserves-heavy Liverpool side played last-place West Bromwich Albion to a 2-2 draw in the Premier League, Roma, the Reds’ UEFA Champions League semifinal foes beginning Tuesday, hammered 17th-place SPAL on the back of goals scored by Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick.

Roma shocked the world — and Barcelona — to reach the semifinals, but still have a battle on their hands to finish inside Serie A’s top-four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Following Saturday’s victory, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side is three and four points clear of fourth- and fifth-place Lazio and Inter Milan, respectively, though both of the chasing sides play on Sunday.

AC Milan 0-1 Benevento

The 2017-18 season has treated AC Milan, who spent massively last summer, far worse than Roma. Following Sunday’s home defeat to first-year top-flight (and last-place) side Benevento, Gennaro Gattuso’s side sits sixth (final automatic Europa League place) and lead seventh-place Atalanta, who play on Sunday, by just two points.

Pietro Iemmello scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 1-0 Fiorentina

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Cagliari vs. Bologna — 6:30 a.m. ET
Lazio vs. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese vs. Crotone — 9 a.m. ET
Juventus vs. Napoli — 2:45 p.m. ET

Serie A: Juventus hammer Sampdoria to go 6 clear of Napoli

Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) — Juventus took a major step toward a seventh straight Serie A title on Sunday as it beat Sampdoria 3-0 after Napoli was held to a 0-0 draw at AC Milan.

Douglas Costa changed the game when he came on for the injured Miralem Pjanic, providing three assists for Mario Mandzukic, Benedikt Hoewedes and Sami Khedira.

Juventus moved six points clear of Napoli with six matches remaining — including the two sides playing each other.

“We have to thank Pjanic for getting injured because maybe at that moment I wouldn’t have changed things,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri joked. “Douglas and (Gonzalo) Higuain are two players who I wanted to use to change the match. I chose the Brazilian to stretch Samp.”

Roma hit the woodwork twice but drew 0-0 against 10-man Lazio in an intense derby match which was crucial for both teams’ Champions League chances.

The top four from Serie A qualify for Europe’s premier club competition. Roma and Lazio are third and fourth, respectively, on the same number of points. They are one point above fifth-place Inter Milan, which drew 0-0 at Atalanta on Saturday.


Juventus was looking to bounce back from the disappointment of Wednesday’s Champions League exit to Real Madrid, decided by a stoppage-time penalty in the second leg when seconds away from forcing extra time at 3-0.

Allegri had mixed feelings about Sunday’s win.

“Is it a decisive step toward the title? Absolutely not. But it was important to win after Madrid and the guys were good because it wasn’t easy after such a tiring match,” Allegri said.

Juventus struggled to find a way through the Samp defense and the visitors almost took the lead but Gianluigi Buffon, who was sent off midweek, managed to parry a close-range header from Fabio Quagliarella.

Pjanic limped off two minutes before the break and was replaced by Douglas Costa who had an instant impact as he whipped in a cross for Mandzukic to volley in under the bar.

Juventus doubled its lead on the hour. The ball was passed from the right to the left of the penalty area and Douglas Costa set up a diving header from an unmarked Hoewedes on only his second match for the club.

Douglas Costa was again decisive 15 minutes later with another cross for Khedira to fire into the bottom left corner.

The Brazil midfielder almost capped his performance with a goal but fired narrowly wide of the left post late on.


Rossoneri goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made history as the youngest ever player to reach 100 Serie A appearances, at 19 years, 1 month, 21 days, and he proved decisive in denying Napoli a last-gasp winner.

It was a strange match for Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who has agreed a free transfer to Milan at the end of the season.

Reina was immediately called into action against his future teammates, fingertipping an effort from Giacomo Bonaventura around the base of the post.

Lorenzo Insigne went close to giving Napoli the lead 10 minutes before halftime, weaving his way through defenders before curling an effort inches wide of the right post.

Milan thought it had taken the lead four minutes later but Mateo Musacchio was offside when he fired in a rebound after Reina had parried Hakan Calhanoglu’s powerful effort.

The match continued to be open after the break, with both sides seeking the win they needed for their respective ambitions.

Napoli came agonizingly close to snatching a stoppage-time winner as Arkadiusz Milik had time and space to control before shooting from six yards but Donnarumma pulled off a stunning save to send the ball around his left post.

AC Milan extends Gattuso’s contract until 2021

Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso’s contract has been extended until the end of season 2020-21.

While details of the new deal were not released in Thursday’s announcement, according to media reports it is worth 2 million euros ($2.5 million) per season – a huge increase on the annual 120,000 euros that Gattuso was earning.

[ MORE: De Bruyne on UCL comeback bid ]

The former Italy and Milan midfielder was promoted from youth-team coach in November to replace the fired Vincenzo Montella and has guided his team to sixth place in Serie A.

Milan, seven-times European Cup winners, will also meet Juventus in next month’s Italian Cup final.

“I hope to continue … to do things well and bring Milan back where it’s accustomed to being,” Gattuso said.

CEO Marco Fassone said the club wants to begin a “long-term project” with Gattuso.

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

Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

Arsenal overcomes outrageous Milan goal to advance in Europa League (video)

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Leave a comment

Danny Welbeck scored twice as Arsenal advanced to the Europa League quarterfinals with a 3-1 win, 5-1 on aggregate, over AC Milan on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.

Hakan Calhanoglu scored a wonderful goal to give Milan hope, but Welbeck won a very questionable penalty and converted it moments later.

Granit Xhaka also scored for Arsenal, which is hoping to win the tournament for a spot in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

The draw for the quarterfinals will be held at 8 a.m. ET Friday morning.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Arsenal could’ve given one of those goals back in the first minute, as Andre Silva found himself alone with a cutback inside the 18 only to hit his attempt off the outside of the net.

Danny Welbeck couldn’t beat Gianluigi Donnarumma at the other end, and Arsenal grew into control of the match.

Yet Milan went ahead, and did it in style through Calhanoglu’s rip from distance.

Arsenal quickly bid to answer, with Donnarumma making an outstanding save on Aaron Ramsey. And a penalty was given to the Gunners soon via a Welbeck dive.

Welbeck got Donnarumma going the wrong way to level the leg at 1.

Calum Chambers then saw a ball off his elbow inside the Arsenal box, but no penalty was given to Milan.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s diving header of a Welbeck pass almost made it a three-goal difference on aggregate before the break, but the ball headed wide of the post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Donnarumma was again needed to thwart a Mkhitaryan shot in the 49th minute, and Shkrodan Mustafi nodded over the bar on the ensuing corner kick.

Suso dragged a shot wide as Milan endeavored to come back and substitute Nikola Kalinic then headed an inviting cross to a stooped Ospina.

For all the good he did, Donnarumma committed a howler in allowing Xhaka’s effort with 20 minutes to play. That effectively sealed it for the hosts.