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Serie A Roundup: Roma, Napoli, Lazio all win

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Edin Dzeko‘s last-gasp winner for AS Roma headlines a busy day in Serie A action on Sunday.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Bologna 1-2 Roma

Roma kept its unbeaten start to the 2019-2020 Serie A season thanks to a 94th-minute Edin Dzeko winner. The American-owned club first took the lead in the 49th minute through another former Premier League player, Aleksandar Kolarov. The Serbian delightfully placed a free kick at the top of the box over the wall and into the top corner.

However, Bologna quickly capitalized after Kolarov bundled over Roberto Soriano in the box, leading to a penalty kick call that VAR confirmed. Nicola Sansone waited for Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez to move and then slotted the ball into the right corner to tie the match.

Roma went down to ten men in the 85th minute when new signing Gianluca Mancini, a centerback, picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Felipe Santander as he was about to run into the box. And yet, even though Roma was on the ropes, Dzeko popped up in a pocket of space at the top of the six-yard box and powered home a header just before the final whistle to win the game. With the win, Roma jumps into the top four with eight points from four games.

Lecce 1-4 Napoli

Don’t tell Fernando Llorente that his best days are behind him.

Having left Tottenham in search of more first team minutes, Llorente just scored for the second-game straight as he bagged a brace in Napoli’s rout on the road over Lecce. At 34-years old, the crafty veteran may be the perfect age for star striker in Italy, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella (26 goals last year at age 36) all at a similar age.

Llorente took advantage of his experience in the 28th minute, latching onto a blocked shot from Arkadiusz Milik that dribbled into the middle of the box, leaving Llorente for an easy finish past Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel.

VAR gave Napoli a controversial penalty kick in the 35th minute off a handball from Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the box. Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to take the penalty kick and his spot kick was saved expertly by Gabriel. However, the referee awarded a do-over after seeing Gabriel was a step off his line before the ball was kicked. Insigne didn’t miss on the second attempt, putting Napoli up 2-0.

Fabian Ruiz in the second half curled home an absolute beauty to put Napoli up 3-0. Lecce cut the decide by one with a penalty kick goal, but Llorente gave Napoli their three-goal lead again with another one-on-one finish from close.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 3-0 SPAL

Sampdoria 1-0 Torino

Atalanta 2-2 Fiorentina

Lazio 2-0 Parma

Puskas Award nominees include Zlatan, Messi, Townsend

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The insane Andros Townsend volley against Manchester City last season has been nominated for the annual FIFA Puskas Award for best goal of the year, alongside a Zlatan Ibramhimovic scissor kick, a ridiculous Lionel Messi plink off the underside of the crossbar, a blistering run by USWNT veteran Amy Rodriguez, and six other fabulous efforts from throughout the past calendar year.

The stinging Townsend blast set the Premier League on fire last season as it saw Crystal Palace stun Manchester City for the eventual champions’ second defeat in three matches and provided social media with some fabulous video content. The goal won the official Premier League Goal of the Season award and swept just about every other media outlet’s version as well, although it was challenged on the penultimate day of the season by Vincent Kompany‘s similarly blistering effort that helped Man City nail down the league title. Kompany’s effort was not included int he Puskas Award list.

Zlatan was nominated for his scissor strike against Toronto FC last September, a strike that saw him catch a delivery from Jonathan dos Santos with a spinning 360-degree karate kick that whipped the ball into the back of the net. The Swedish international won the 2013 Puskas Award for his outrageous bicycle kick from miles out on international duty against England.

Messi’s strike – his sixth Puskas nomination, with no wins yet – came in March against Real Betis, a left-footed looper that clipped the underside of the crossbar and left goalkeeper Dani Martin with absolutely no chance.

Rodriguez was nominated for a goal scored for her club Utah Royals against fellow NWSL side Sky Blue FC just last month. She burst through the midfield across the halfway line and took aim from well outside the box, a left-footed effort that found the top corner. She joins Nigerian international Ajara Nchout and Cliftonville Ladies’ Billie Simpson as the only females on the list, with Nchout’s technically fabulous goal coming at this summer’s World Cup.

Others on the list are Sampdoria striker and Portuguese international Fabio Quagliarella, River Plate’s Juan Fernando Quintero, RB Leipzig’s Matheus Cunha, and Debrecen FC teenager Daniel Zsori.

You can watch all the goals nominated and vote for the winner here on FIFA’s official website. Fan voting determines the final three goals up for the award, and a FIFA panel of “legends” will determine the winner from those final three.

De Ligt not fazed by price tag after move to Juventus

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If you can’t beat them, buy them. That appears to be Juventus’ philosophy as it continues its quest for the Champions League title.

[ MORE: Pochettino might have left if Spurs won Champions League ]

In 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Real Madrid against Juventus to eliminate the Serie A champion from Europe’s premier club competition. A few months later Juventus signed him.

This year Matthijs de Ligt scored the goal that eliminated Juventus from the Champions League in April as he captained Ajax to the semifinals. On Thursday, Juventus signed the Netherlands defender.

Juventus is an overwhelming favorite to win a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title but it is desperate to end its long wait for European success.

Since Juventus’ last title in 1996, it has finished runner-up five times in the Champions League.

[ MORE: Conte calls Lukaku an “important” part of his plans at Inter ]

“We want to win them all: this is the mentality of Juventus,” said De Ligt at his first news conference as a Juventus player on Friday. “I’m 19, I can still improve and I want to do that. It’s important to work hard every day and to learn, and I hope to become a better player.”

De Ligt became the most expensive defender in Serie A history when he completed an $85-million transfer from Ajax.

But the teen is not fazed at the price tag.

“Of course, when a club buys you for a big amount of money, there’s a lot of pressure, but pressure is normal in football,” De Ligt said. “I think pressure is the most important thing and if you want to be a good player, you have to deal with it.

“It’s not a big deal for me. I’ll just play my game, work hard and show it on the pitch. In the end, everyone will see how I deal with it, but it’s not going to be a problem.”

[ MORE: Report: Barcelona logs bid for Neymar ]

A photo emerged during the week of De Ligt wearing a Juventus shirt as a child and he admitted he grew up idolizing Juventus defender Fabio Cannavaro, who captained Italy to World Cup success in 2006.

“The photo of me in a Juventus shirt was taken when I was about six or seven, at that time Fabio Cannavaro was a defender that I admired,” he said. “I always had a good feeling about Juventus and I’ve always been a fan.”

Another reason De Ligt chose Juventus was because of new coach Maurizio Sarri, who replaced Massimiliano Allegri at the end of the season.

“I spoke to Sarri on the phone before coming, just to get to know each other,” De Ligt said. “He was one of the reasons that I wanted to join here, I’ve heard a lot of good things about him and I like his footballing philosophy and how he prepares his defense.”

Sarri meets with Ronaldo about center forward role at Juve

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In theory, Maurizio Sarri won’t have to do much work to convince Cristiano Ronaldo to buy into his tactical plan.

“Cristiano, buddy, wanna lead a third league in scoring?”

We’re guessing he’ll sign up.

[ REPORT: De Ligt chooses Juve ]

Sarri reportedly has flown to meet with his new player, hoping to convince him to play as a center forward and take a run at the Serie A Capocannoniere. Ronaldo has played the role sparingly over the year, but operated on the left side for most of 2018-19.

Ronaldo finished five goals shy of the league lead last season playing his most league games since 2015-16. He’s led La Liga in scoring and the Premier League. From Football-Italia:

“Multiple sources including La Stampa, Corriere della Sera, Gazzetta dello Sport and more all state that Sarri and director of sport Fabio Paratici flew out to the Cote d’Azur on Friday for a face-to-face meeting with Ronaldo on his yacht. … He intends to speak to the players and adapt his tactics to fit their characteristics, starting with the MVP Ronaldo.”

The goal besides a good relationship was to convince Ronaldo to score all the goals, more or less.

Of course it’s a little less straight-forward than that. Sarri wants to win a scudetto, sure, but that’s the second target right now at Juve. We’re guessing if most fans would welcome Sarri saying the goal is the UEFA Champions League, and we know Ronaldo loves that competition.

There’s no guarantee CR7 will be able to reach the heights of 30 goals as a 35-year-old when the season ends, nor that he’ll play enough minutes in Serie A to tempt any sort of records, but most would expect him to rival anyone in the league should he play a central role in the attack.

Reports: Rabiot picks Juventus, will sign five-year contract

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According to a report by Football Italia which corroborates an earlier report by Sky Italia, former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot has decided to sign with Juventus and will sign a five-year contract with the Italian champions.

The decision means Manchester United will miss out on the free agent midfielder, having reportedly submitted an offer. Rabiot had previously admitted his final decision was between those two teams.

The reports say that his deal with Juventus will be worth $7.9 million per year plus an $11.3 million signing bonus. According to a report by Goal.com’s Romeo Agresti, Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici has led the charge for the club and has worked heavily to convince Rabiot’s mother and agent Veronique of the agreement.

Rabiot becomes the second high-profile free-agent midfielder to sign with Juventus, following Aaron Ramsey. He will have heavy competition in the Juventus midfield with Ramsey, Blaise Matuidi, Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic, Rodrigo Betancur, and Emre Can all vying for time in the center of the pitch. It is worth noting that Matuidi and Khedira are both 32 years old, and the latter has suffered through numerous injury troubles over the last few years.

The 24-year-old French midfielder is a highly regarded talent, but has been plagued by off-field troubles at both the club and national team levels. Veronique has also been criticized for her outspoken attack of PSG’s handling of contract extension negotiations. Rabiot was a regular in the PSG lineup until he was frozen out for refusing a contract extension, not appearing for the club after early December.