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Serie A: Inter hangs on, Koulibaly bags Napoli brace

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Inter struck twice in the opening half and hung on from there as they top Frosinone 2-1 for a critical boost in the Champions League race. Radja Nainggolan opened the scoring inside the opening 20 minutes, heading home a Danilo D’Ambrosio cross to put Inter one-up. They went 2-0 in front as Ivan Perisic finished from the spot after Raman Chibsah wrestled Milan Skriniar to the ground in the box.

Frosinone grabbed one back just past the hour mark as Francesco Cassata rifled a low shot from the top of the box that went off the hand of a diving Samir Handanovic, but Inter clung to its lead, finishing with 72% possession and an 18-12 shot advantage. The win pushes third-placed Inter to 60 points, five points above fourth-placed AC Milan in the last Champions League place.

Center-back Kalidou Koulibaly picked up a brace as Napoli moved seven points adrift in second place with six matches to go by beating Chievo Verona 3-1. The Senegalese international shook off a defender on his back to head home a corner in the 14th minute to open the scoring. Arkadiusz Milik doubled the lead just past the hour mark with a looper from outside the top of the box, and Koulibaly put the game away with nine minutes to go, again off a corner that was only partially cleared, blasting a left-footer into the back of the net. Chievo picked up a late consolation from Bostjan Cesar but that was all they could muster out of their four shots on target.

Simone Zaza scored on the doorstep and then was sent off as Torino drew nine-man Cagliari 1-1. Three total players were sent to the showers, including Zaza who put Torino in front in the 52nd minute before earning a key red 20 minutes later. His goal, the third league strike of his campaign, came off a rocketed baseline cross from Armando Izzo, and thanks to the power on the cross, Zaza just had to make contact from five yards out to redirect it into the back of the net.

The 27-year-old was then sent off for what appeared to be dissent after an innocuous foul. The moment was key, as Leonardo Pavoletti used the man advantage to bring Cagliari back level just two minutes later with a header. While the goal was initially ruled out for offside, VAR confirmed it as a legal score. While Cagliari saw two men sent off from there, both for second yellow cards, the match ended level, a big blow for Torino in the chase for a European position as the point pushed them two back of sixth-placed Atalanta who still has yet to play.

36-year-old Fabio Quagliarella played provider and finisher as Sampdoria topped Genoa at home 2-0 to slide into ninth place, four points back of a European place. Gregoire Defrel put the hosts up for good in just the third minute, sliding in to poke home a baseline cross from Quagliarella. The captain then scored himself in the 53rd minute, striking from the penalty spot after Davide Biraschi was sent off for a handball in the box as the ball bounced up and hit his outstretched arm.

Fiorentina whipped off 15 shots to Bologna’s four, but neither side could find the back of the net as it finished 0-0 at Artemio Franchi Stadium. The disappointing season for Fiorentina continued, remaining in 10th on 40 points, eight back of ninth-placed Sampdoria.

Sassuolo and Parma also drew 0-0 as both sides stayed put in the bottom half of the table. Sassuolo dominated the match, holding 72% possession and ripping off 20 shots to just three for the visitors.

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.

Serie A: Atalanta keep winning, making UCL race highly interesting

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ROME (AP) Atalanta produced four goals in the opening 15 minutes of a 4-1 win over visiting Bologna in Serie A on Thursday to move within one point of the Champions League places.

Josip Ilicic scored twice and also set up Atalanta’s third from Hans Hateboer.

Duvan Zapata also scored, giving the Colombia striker 20 goals in 30 matches to move within one goal of the league lead held by Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria.

Riccardo Orsolini pulled one back for Bologna, which remained one point from safety.

Atalanta is fifth, one point behind AC Milan.

Also, Sassuolo took a big step toward staying up with a dominant 4-0 win over last-place Chievo Verona, which is nearing relegation.

Turkey defender Merih Demiral scored a brace with two headers in the first half and Manuel Locatelli and Domenico Berardi added goals after the break.

Chievo forward Emanuele Giaccherini had one goal disallowed by the VAR then had a penalty saved by Andrea Consigli near the end.

Sassuolo is 11th, eight points above the drop zone, while Chievo is buried at the bottom with only one win.

Aston Villa great Agbonlahor announces retirement

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With the exception of a couple of loans when he was a teenager, Gabriel Agbonlahor was a one-club man at Aston Villa. On Wednesday, he confirmed that he’d end his career in the Claret and Blue.

The English striker called time on his 14-year professional career, having spent the last nine months as a free agent after being released by Aston Villa last summer. Agbonlahor finishes his career with 322 Premier League appearances and goals in England’s top tier. From 2005 when he made his professional debut, he quickly became one of the most exciting young prospects in the Premier League, going on to become a prolific scorer.

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Between 2007 and 2010, Agbonlahor scored 36 goals for Aston Villa in the Premier League, helping them to strong finishes in the league. His league form also earned him a few call-ups for Fabio Capello and the England National Team, though he only made three appearances.

With his breath-taking pace and dribbling ability, Agbonlahor looked as though he’d develop into the next great Premier League striker. Yet he never truly reached those great heights. Although he stayed with Aston Villa when it was relegated, he wasn’t able to find his old form to bring them back to the top division.

EURO qualifying: A pair of 3-3 draws, feat. 3 stoppage-time goals

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A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in 2020 European Championship qualification…

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Italy 6-0 Liechtenstein

Italy thrashed Liechtenstein on the back of two penalty kicks converted by Fabio Quagliarella (35th and 45th minutes), along with individual tallies from Stefano Sensi (17th), Marco Veratti (32nd), Moise Kean (70′) and Leonardo Pavoletti (76th).

With two victories from two games, and a +8 goal difference now in tow, Italy sit perched high atop Group J. With two sides set to qualify from the six-team group, it’s just about impossible to conjure up a scenario in which the Azzurri don’t qualify with more than a couple qualifiers still remaining.

Malta 0-2 Spain

Alvaro Morata bagged a brace (31st and 73rd minutes) to help Spain to a comfortable, if slightly labored, victory over Malta. Spain enjoyed a healthy 80 percent of possession and out-shot Malta by a margin of 23-2 (7-1 on target).

The only side with six points from their first two games, Spain lead Group F by two points over Sweden.

Switzerland 3-3 Denmark

The game of the day.

Remo Freuler put Switzerland ahead after 19 minutes. It would stay that way until the final 25 minutes, when a massive explosion of goals saw the game quickly get out of hand, in the most unimaginable of ways.

Granti Xhaka made it 2-0 in the 66th, and Breel Embolo made it 3-0 in the 76th. That was it, the game was over, done and dusted, right? Wrong.

Mathias Jorgensen brought Denmark back to 3-1 in the 84th, followed by Christian Gytkjaer in the 88th for 3-1. Deep into stoppage time — as in, three minutes deep — Henrik Dalsgaard completed the comeback with a header to clean up a mad scramble of failed headed clearances inside the penalty area.

Norway 3-3 Sweden

While also a six-goal thriller with stoppage-time drama, Sweden’s comeback was only from 2-0 down.

Bjoern Maars Johnsen (41st) and Joshua King (59th) established the lead just before the hour mark, and everything was going exactly to play for Norway. That remained the case until the 70th minute, when scored Viktor Claesson from open play. Norway scored again in the 86th minute, only Havard Nordtveit put the ball into his own net, which drew the Swedes level.

Robin Quaison gave Sweden the lead in the 91st minute, surely sealing all three points in a memorable comeback, right? Wrong again. Ola Kamara’s 96th-minute equalizer meant a 3-3 draw that neither side would be happy with, nor particularly dissatisfied.

Elsewhere in EURO 2010 qualifying

Group D

Ireland 1-0 Georgia

Group F

Romania 4-1 Faroe Islands

Group J

Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-2 Greece
Armenia 0-2 Finland