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Serie A: Napoli win to stay top of the table ahead of winter break

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Napoli will go into the delayed winter break top of Serie A after beating relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 2-0 on Saturday.

Kalidou Koulibaly and Jose Callejon scored as Napoli stayed one point clear of second-place Juventus, which won 1-0 at Cagliari in the late game.

Juventus has won the title in each of the last six seasons, while Napoli is bidding for its first since 1990.

“We know that Juve has years of experience,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We know they can easily surpass the 90-point mark, while we can’t say the same thing about us.

“But we also have players who can make the difference in matches, such as Callejon and (Lorenzo) Insigne … our job is only to put them in the best conditions to express themselves.”

Roma could have moved level with third-place Inter Milan, which is nine points below Napoli, but lost 2-1 at home to Atalanta and is fifth.

After playing over the festive period for the first time, Serie A will resume on Jan. 21.

Napoli had ended 2017 and the first half of the season as winter champions, but was eliminated from the Italian Cup on Tuesday following a surprise quarterfinal defeat to Atalanta.

Sarri’s team dominated from the start against Verona and had several chances, with Dries Mertens and Insigne hitting the woodwork.

Mertens also had a goal ruled out for offside before Napoli finally broke the deadlock in the 65th minute, when Koulibaly headed in Mario Rui’s cross.

The goal was awarded after checking with the video assistant referee but Verona coach – and former Napoli player and assistant – Fabio Pecchia was dismissed for his protests.

Napoli all but sealed the match 12 minutes from time when Callejon rushed in at the far post to volley in Insigne’s cross from the left.

Verona remained two points from safety.

Ciro Immobile netted four goals and moved top of the scoring charts as Lazio won 5-2 at struggling Spal to move fourth.

Mirco Antenucci had converted a penalty for Spal to cancel out Luis Alberto‘s opener before Immobile’s first-half hat trick.

Immobile got his first in the 19th, running onto Luis Alberto’s flicked pass over the defense and lifting the ball over Alfred Gomis.

The Italy forward doubled his tally seven minutes later, firing home Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s through-ball, but Spal reduced the deficit almost immediately, with Antenucci grabbing his second of the match.

However, Immobile headed in Dusan Basta’s cross four minutes before the break to complete his hat trick.

The Spal defense left Immobile completely unmarked six minutes after halftime and he drilled in a corner for his 20th league goal of the season, two more than Inter Milan forward Mauro Icardi.

Spal hit the post, had the follow-up cleared off the line and also had a goal ruled out.

AC Milan defender Leonardo Bonucci scored his first goal for the club in a 1-0 win over Crotone – although the Italy international knew little about it.

Milan broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half when Crotone goalkeeper Alex Cordaz flapped at a corner, sending it onto Bonucci’s back and the ball rebounded into the back of the net.

“2018 couldn’t have started better,” Bonucci said. “People had been asking me for a while when I would score and the goal finally arrived.

“But what matters is the spirit we showed in the first half and the willingness to all suffer together at the end.”

Bonucci joined Milan from Juventus in the offseason for a fee of more than 40 million euros ($45 million).

Franck Kessie thought he had doubled Milan’s lead but it was ruled out on video review as he had fouled Rolando Mandragora.

Milan had also hit the woodwork in the first half as Cordaz fingertipped Suso’s effort onto the post.

Ten-man Atalanta beat Roma 2-1 after first-half goals from Andreas Cornelius and Marten De Roon, who was sent off in the 45th for a second yellow card.

Edin Dzeko grabbed one back for the hosts 10 minutes after the break.

Juventus kept the pressure on leader Napoli after finally breaking through Cagliari’s defense with a 74th-minute goal from Federico Bernardeschi. Juve dominated the game with 14 shots to Cagliari’s five attempts.

After waiting 19 rounds for a first Serie A victory, Benevento made it two in two matches as it came from behind to beat Sampdoria 3-2.

It remained bottom of Serie A, eight points from safety.

Elsewhere, Walter Mazzarri got off to a winning start in charge of Torino as he steered his new side to a 3-0 win over Bologna.

Genoa beat Sassuolo 1-0.

MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

Surging Galaxy ride Ibrahimovic magic to 3-1 win (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man on fire, and the LA Galaxy are rounding into form.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit in Chester to clobber the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from their world-class striker.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

Romain Alessandrini had two assists, while Michael Ciani and Ola Kamara also scored for LA. CJ Sapong scored for Philly, assisted by Borek Dockal.

Unbeaten-in-seven LA moves into fourth in the West with the win, while Philadelphia remains three points back of sixth in the East.

Ibrahimovic has now scored in six of his last seven matches, and has 12 goals an two assists in 21 matches overall.

Let’s start with the assist, which we must’ve seen two dozen times when the big Swede was with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic takes a difficult pass out of the air with absurd touch, then waits for the right time to send an impeccable through ball into the path of Kamara.

As for the goal, you almost feel for Mark McKenzie.

The Union’s Homegrown defender has to choose between Alessandrini darting into his box and allowing Ibrahimovic a lick of space.

He gives it, understandably, then rushes to close down Ibrahimovic.

It wasn’t fast enough. Boom.

Americans on both sides, Weah scores as PSG fall to Bayern (video)

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Two hopes of the USMNT’s future — one more immediate than the other — squared off in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.

Paris Saint-Germain teenager Timothy Weah, 18, went 90 minutes and scored his side’s only goal in the 3-1 loss in Austria.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

On the other side of the field was 62nd minute substitute Chris Richards, far less known to the American supporter.

Richards is on loan from FC Dallas, where he’s a Homegrown Player. The 18-year-old center back is going to play for Bayern’s U-19 side following a successful trial in April.

Both Bayern and PSG were without key pieces, as Weah went up against a decent Bayern back line of Juan Bernat, Javi Martinez, Josip Stanisic, and Rafinha.

Arjen Robben, Sandro Wagner, and Franck Ribery were the biggest names in Bayern’s XI, while David Alaba, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry came off the bench.

For PSG, Gianluigi Buffon started as did Adrien Rabiot.

Weah’s goal is below, and here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s an amazing feeling and getting a well-done job. Me scoring goals, I was really happy to get my first goal for PSG and first goal in this competition. We’re going to Singapore with our head on our shoulders. We’re going to be really humble and keep playing.”

Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending

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Jurgen Klopp admits he’d love to work with Christian Pulisic again, but isn’t going to butt his nose into Borussia Dortmund’s business.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s International Champions Cup match against BVB, Klopp was asked about his interest in the American teenager.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Klopp was quick to point out that Pulisic is under contract to Dortmund and not for sale, as much as he’s aware.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He had not his best season last year but he was still a decisive player but it’s important in that age group that there’s no rush. He still has 14 or 15 years to play in his career and that’s good and he wants to be the best Pulisic he can be. For this, there is still space for development.

“If – at one point – he will join us, I don’t know. I like him, it’s not that that could be the problem, but we respect contracts still and there’s no market I know about at the moment. We did our business and Dortmund are doing theirs. All good.”

Also all good? Klopp’s evolution on spending after blasting other Premier League clubs for big money buys in the past.

Klopp said he would quit football if transfer fees like Paul Pogba‘s became the norm. Well, they have, and no club has spent as much money as the Reds this summer.

“That’s the problem these days, hey? Whatever b.s. you say, nobody will forget it. On the other side, it’s still kind of true. I couldn’t have imagined since then that the world would change like it has. Two years ago £100million was a crazy number. Since then the world has changed completely.”

He said he’s going to do whatever it takes to make Liverpool successful, and Klopp now has the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and most expensive defender in his squad.