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Serie A: Icardi, Perisic keep Inter Milan perfect; AC Milan trounced

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ROME (AP) The dynamic duo of Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic are proving unstoppable in Serie A and Inter Milan is quickly moving on from last season’s failures and upheaval.

Icardi scored his fifth goal in three matches and Perisic added another as Inter beat Serie B champion Spal 2-0 Sunday to extend its perfect start in the Italian league.

Each of Inter’s eight goals this season have involved either Icardi or Perisic, with goals or assists.

Video replays were used to set up Icardi’s first-half penalty and Perisic sealed the result three minutes from time.

Inter drew level on points with six-time defending champion Juventus, which defeated Chievo Verona 3-0 on Saturday.

Later, Napoli also had a chance to extend its perfect start at Bologna.

Big-spending AC Milan dropped its first points in a 4-1 loss at Lazio, which got a hat trick from Ciro Immobile.

Including Roberto Mancini’s surprise resignation two weeks before the season began, Inter struggled through four managerial changes in the 2016-17 campaign and finished seventh to miss out on European competition.

But order appears to have been restored with the appointment of former Roma coach Luciano Spalletti in June.

“There are three big points, especially since Inter struggled against the smaller clubs last season,” said assistant coach Marco Domenichini, who handled the post-match interviews because Spalletti lost his voice during the game.

“It’s great to have nine points but we’ve still got to improve, especially in terms of ball control,” Domenichini added.

Leonardo Semplici, the coach of Ferrara-based Spal, believes Inter will challenge Juventus and Napoli.

“They’ve got a really good and experienced manager. They’re going to battle until the end for the title,” Semplici said.

At the San Siro, Inter was in control from the start and Icardi used a quick touch to set up Joao Mario at the edge of the area when the Portuguese international was tripped by a defender.

The referee immediately pulled out a yellow card for the defender, Francesco Vicari, and then a five-minute delay ensued as the referee sought video assistance to determine if the foul occurred inside or outside the area.

Eventually, the penalty was awarded and Icardi calmly slotted his spot kick in the left side of the goal as the `keeper went the other way.

It was Icardi’s 77th goal in Serie A for Inter, placing him joint 10th on the club’s all-time list with Attilio Demaria.

After Inter’s Milan Skriniar hit the crossbar, Perisic volleyed in a cross from Danilo D’Ambrosio for his second score of the season to go along with his four assists.

Fresh off his goal for Italy in a 1-0 win over Israel in World Cup qualifying, Lazio striker Immobile was in full control at the Stadio Olimpico against remodeled Milan, which spent more than 200 million euros (nearly $250 million) in the transfer market.

Late in the first half, Immobile converted a penalty and then scored again with an acrobatic volley.

After the break, Immobile slotted inside the near post following an expert setup from Marco Parolo then provided the assist when Luis Alberto finished off a swift counterattack.

Riccardo Montolivo pulled one back for Milan in a match in which kickoff was delayed for an hour due to severe rain.

After scoring only one goal in its opening two matches – both losses – Fiorentina routed promoted Hellas Verona 5-0.

Giovanni Simeone, Cyril Thereau, Davide Astori, Jordan Veretout and Gil Dias scored for the Tuscan club, which has had to overcome the sale of nearly all of its most prized players.

Fiorentina sold Nikola Kalinic to Milan, Borja Valero and Matias Vecino to Inter Milan and Federico Bernardeschi to Juventus.

Verona had never lost by four or more goals at home in Serie A.

Also, Atalanta beat Sassuolo 2-1; Cagliari celebrated the opening of its new stadium, the Sardegna Arena, with a 1-0 victory over Crotone; and Udinese defeated Genoa 1-0 as both teams finished with 10 men.

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

USWNT equal pay
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A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
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Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
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Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

Handball rule
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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.