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Serie A: SPAL shock Juve, Milan hold onto fourth place

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

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SPAL 2-1 Juventus

Juventus will have to wait at least another week to celebrate another Scudetto after a historic SPAL win on Saturday. The club based in the famous region Emilia-Romagna came back to beat Juventus, 2-1. Budding Juventus star Moise Kean scored for the fourth time in five games but two second half goals from Kevin Bonifazi and Sergio Floccari gave SPAL the win.

Juventus, ahead of its second leg match with Ajax in the UEFA Champions League, rested many of its veteran starters including Cristiano Ronaldo and Giorgio Chiellini. 17-year-old Paolo Guzzi made his debut for Juventus with all the changes.

AC Milan 1-0 Lazio

Franck Kessie’s penalty kick goal gave AC Milan its tenth home win of the year and kept the Italian giant in the run for a place in next year’s UEFA Champions League.

Just three points separated Lazio and Milan before the match but despite Lazio reportedly having the advantage, Milan came away with all three points. Ciro Immobile had chances to score for Lazio at either end of the first half, but Pepe Reina came up with big saves to keep the clean sheet. At the other end, Davide Calabria crossed to Krzysztof Piatek but he couldn’t put a strike on target.

In the second half, Riza Durmisi fouled Mateo Musacchio in the box, leading to Kessie scoring to secure the victory.

Elsewhere, Edin Dzeko‘s goal led Roma to a 1-0 victory over Udinese at the Estadio Olimpico.

De Rossi pulls Roma within a point of Champions League play

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It hasn’t been pretty for AS Roma of late, but somehow they’re still right in the thick of things.

Daniele De Rossi grabbed a 75th minute goal to lead Roma past Sampdoria 1-0 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, pulling Roma within just a point of the top four.

Well before the late goal, goalkeeper Antonio Mirante was required in the 24th minute to stop a fabulous strike by Gregoire Defrel destined for the underside of the crossbar. That was one of just two shots on target for the hosts, who held 64% possession and ripped off 18 efforts but couldn’t find the net.

With 15 minutes remaining, De Rossi rose high to meet a corner, meeting it with his head and tucking the effort inside the far post for the lead. The headed ball was just out of reach of Edin Dzeko, but thankfully for Roma it snuck past goalkeeper Emil Audero as well. The goal was not just the winner for Roma, but also a big moment for De Rossi as well, as the 35-year-old bagged his first league goal of his injury-plagued season.

Sampdoria thrust forward in stoppage time looking for a late equalizer, and there was a penalty shout as Fabio Quagliarella went down under heavy pressure from substitute Juan Jesus, but replays showed little actual contact and the referee waved off the shout.

The victory for Roma saw them end a three-match winless run and pull within a single point of AC Milan in the final Champions League place. Roma also sits level with Atalanta on points, and while they still have a game in hand, that takes place Sunday with a visit to 3rd placed Inter.

Euro 2020 qualifiers: Italy, Spain, Switzerland all secure wins

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Sergio Ramos provided the winner from the spot as Spain took home a 2-1 win over Norway in Valencia. Rodrigo bagged the opener 16 minutes in, volleying home Jordi Alba’s floated baseline cross. Alvaro Morata nearly bagged a headed goal just past the half-hour mark as part of a ruthless first-half onslaught by the home side, but Rune Jarstein made a fabulous stop. Alba then nearly had his own, putting it into the back of the net but pulled back for the offside flag.

The hosts would rue not taking their first-half opportunities as Norway would pull level after the break as Inigo Martinez toppled over substitute Bjorn Johnsen in the box on a set-piece. Bournemouth attacker Joshua King slotted it home from the spot and evened the score. That wouldn’t last long though, as Spain moved back in front just six minutes later with Ramos from the spot as Jarstein came off his line on a Spain break and scythed Morata down, delivering a cheeky Panenka down the middle.

Italy went wire-to-wire to top Finland 2-0 in Udine. 22-year-old Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella opened things up in the seventh minute with a deflected volley that found its way past Lukas Hradecky. Finland could only manage a single shot on target the entire way through, with Teemu Pukki badly missing wide in the 65th minute with their best opportunity, and Italy secured the win with a second goal 10 minutes later. 19-year-old Moise Kean made a perfect run through the two center-backs and Ciro Immobile delivered an incredible ball to slice them up, with the teen needing just one touch to slot it home for his first international goal on his first start.

Edin Dzeko earned his 100th cap, but 24-year-old Deni Milosevic was the biggest winner as he provided the eventual winner for Bosnia & Herzegovina who picked up a 2-1 win over Armenia. Rade Krunic put the hosts 1-0 up past the half-hour mark in Sarajevo, and then Milosevic struck with 10 minutes to go, streaking down the middle to meet Edin Visca’s long cross from the right. Henrikh Mkhitaryan slotted home a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time but it was nothing more than a consolation.

Greece flew to a 2-0 win over Lichtenstein in Vaduz as Konstantinos Fortounis and Anastasios Donis delivered the strikes. The first came at the stroke of halftime, brilliantly volleying a laser beam delivery from Dimitrios Kourbelis. The second came with 10 minutes to go with Donis firing home sealing the victory. It was elementary for the visitors, holding 73% possession and holding Liechtenstein without a single shot on target on just three total efforts.

Ireland topped Gibraltar 1-0 in Mick McCarthy’s first game back as manager. On a windy day at Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar, Ireland held 63% possession but could only manage three shots on target, picking up a 49th minute winner off the foot of Jeff Hendrick who came streaking down the middle to meet David McGoldrick’s cross from the left.

Sweden held off a late comeback from Romania to win 2-1 in Stockholm. Mainz striker Robin Quaison bagged the opener just past the half-hour mark with a wonderful touch on the outside of his foot at the near post. They doubled the lead through Victor Claesson just seven minutes later as Quaison’s cross was deflected right to his feet near the top of the box and he fired past Ciprian Tatarusanu. Romania scored just before the hour mark but it proved just a consolation as they couldn’t find an equalizer.

It was an elementary day for Switzerland who topped Georgia 2-0 behind second-half goals from Steven Zuber and Denis Zakaria. Switzerland was dominant from start to finish, pumping off 25 shots with eight on target and holding the hosts to just a single shot on target among six total efforts.

RESULTS

Spain 2-1 Norway
Italy 2-0 Finland
Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-1 Armenia
Lichtenstein 0-2 Greece
Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland
Sweden 2-1 Romania
Georgia 0-2 Switzerland
Malta 2-1 Faroe Islands

Ranieri victorious in his first game back in charge of Roma

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ROME (AP) Claudio Ranieri won his first game back in charge at Roma but it was far from comfortable.

Stephan El Shaarawy and Patrik Schick scored in the first half, and relegation-threatened Empoli’s late equalizer was disallowed on video review as Roma held on to win 2-1 on Monday.

Captain Alessandro Florenzi was sent off 10 minutes from time – on his 28th birthday – following a second booking, and Empoli’s Rade Krunic almost made the advantage count before the video assistant referee determined the ball hit Dimitri Oberlin in the arm just before the goal.

“The first match is over, and the best thing is the result,” Ranieri said. “We have to work a lot, but we will always score sooner or later. We have to work instead on staying focused in order not to concede. It’s not possible that we’re letting in all these goals.

“These 90 minutes hasn’t made me feel calmer, but I’m focused and positive.”

Roma moved three points behind fourth-place Inter Milan, with the top four from Serie A qualifying for the Champions League. Empoli remained a point above the relegation zone.

Ranieri was appointed as interim coach on Friday, a day after Roma fired Eusebio Di Francesco following elimination from the Champions League and a derby defeat to Lazio. In charge of Roma from 2009-11, Ranieri was fired by Fulham of the Premier League on Feb. 28.

His second spell got off to a good start. El Shaarawy fired Roma in front in the ninth minute when he curled a stunning effort into the top right corner, but Empoli leveled in somewhat comical fashion three minutes later as Juan Jesus headed the ball into his own net under very little pressure.

Empoli almost immediately scored a second, but Manuel Pasqual’s free kick bounced off the top left corner of the goal.

Roma took the lead again in the 33rd minute as Florenzi floated in a free kick from outside the right side of the penalty area and Schick headed it into the bottom left corner.

Empoli dominated as Roma’s task was made harder by the list of players missing: Daniele De Rossi, Kostas Manolas, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Cengiz Under were all injured, and Edin Dzeko, Federico Fazio and Aleksandar Kolarov were suspended.

“It was a difficult match without many men seeing that the leaders were out – those who play 90 minutes, players who give a sense of direction to the play and the team,” Ranieri said.

“I knew it would be difficult and I have to congratulate the team, which always remained compact even when we went down to 10 men.”

Porto beats Roma in extra time thanks to VAR

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  • Porto secures 2-1 result to send it to extra time
  • VAR penalizes Alessandro Florenzi for foul in the box
  • Alex Telles scores game-winning PK

Video Assistant Referee provided the drama in Oporto as FC Porto defeated AS Roma, 4-3, on aggregate Wednesday evening. WIth the win, Porto advances to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

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VAR came into action in the 113th minute, after Florenzi pulled the shirt of Fernando in the box to slow him down. The foul was not originally called but after reviewing the tape, referee Cuneyt Cakir motioned for a penalty kick. Alex Telles stepped up and put Roma goalkeeper Robin Olsen the wrong way to set up the victory.

Porto initially took the lead in the 26th minute through a Tiquinho goal from close range, but Roma took advantage back for the tie with a Daniele De Rossi penalty kick goal in the 37th minute.

Moussa Marenga tied the score on aggregate in the 52nd minute with a finish past Olsen but neither side could find another goal to win the game in regulation. Edin Dzeko had two chances go begging.

It all led to the drama of extra time, where Porto completed an impressive comeback in the tie overall. Meanwhile, it’s another tough defeat for Roma in the past week, after a 3-0 loss to Lazio.