Luis Alberto

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Serie A: Lazio goes top, Napoli on a roll

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Serie A postponed a whole boatload of games on Saturday due to coronavirus, but a pair of games still went on as planned, and they had major table implications.

Table-toppers Juventus saw their massive game against Inter postponed, which allowed Lazio to temporarily take control of the top spot thanks to a 2-0 win over Bologna. Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa both scored within a three-minute span early in the game to secure the victory.

Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, a former Lazio player who is undergoing treatment for leukemia but still working the sideline, was given a standing ovation by Lazio fans before the kickoff.

“I never imagined we’d be top after 26 matches even knowing that I coach some really good lads,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi, a former Lazio teammate of Mihailovic, said after the match. “We should have had a bigger lead at halftime but we suffered a bit in the second half, which was a merit of Bologna.”

At the San Paolo Stadium, Kostas Manolas and Giovanni Di Lorenzo both scored to give Napoli a 2-1 win over Torino. Manolas headed home the opener 18 minutes in off a set-piece, while Di Lorenzo tacked the eventual winner on in the 82nd minute. Torino snagged a consolation in stoppage time through Simone Edera, but it wasn’t enough to see them rise above 15th. Napoli jumped to sixth, six points back of fourth-placed Atalanta with their fourth win in their last five matches.

Inter and Lazio posing serious threat to Juve’s eight-year reign

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ROME — All of a sudden, it’s a three-way race for the Serie A title.

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With Inter Milan and Lazio both posting victories on Sunday, a day after Juventus’ surprise loss at Hellas Verona, the Bianconeri’s eight-year hold on the Italian league is facing a serious challenge.

Inter and Juventus are level on points, with Lazio one behind.

Inter should have the most confidence after coming from two goals down to beat AC Milan 4-2 in the Milan derby.

Lazio’s 1-0 win at Parma extended the Roman club’s unbeaten streak to a club-record 18 matches. The club is 11 points ahead of fourth-place Atalanta – with the top four qualifying for the Champions League.

“At this point when we’re only one point behind we’ve got to aim for more than just the Champions League,” Lazio winger Luis Alberto said. “We’re right there and we’re going to fight for it until the end. Juventus remains the favorite but we’re going to try to create some trouble.”

There are some worrisome numbers for Juventus, which has only the fourth-best attack and the third-best defense in terms of goals for and against.

But Juventus will be favored to jump back in front next weekend when it hosts relegation-threatened Brescia while Inter visits Lazio.

VERONA COMEBACKS

Verona’s current eight-game unbeaten run began in December by eliminating a three-goal deficit in a 3-3 draw with Torino.

Verona coach Ivan Jurić is known for pushing his team so hard in preseason training that players often get sick with exhaustion. The hard work paid off in a 2-1 comeback win against Juventus, which was sealed by a decisive penalty from substitute Giampaolo Pazzini.

Pazzini, a 35-year-old former Italy striker, has remained with Verona through two seasons in Serie B — including last season when Verona was promoted after winning a Serie B playoff by erasing a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Cittadella in the final.

BARROW AND BOGA

African players Musa Barrow and Jérémie Boga had two of the best performances of the weekend.

Barrow, a 21-year-old Gambia forward, scored twice for Bologna in a 3-2 win at Roma in his first start since joining on loan from Atalanta – raising his tally to three goals in four matches with his new club.

Boga, a 23-year-old French-born midfielder who represents Ivory Coast, earned a penalty and then scored a 90th-minute winner in Sassuolo’s 2-1 comeback victory at Spal.

Already known for his dribbling expertise, Boga’s intuitive run to redirect a long cross from Domenico Berardi with a header for the winner showed that he’s a complete player.

Having come up through Chelsea’s youth system, Boga transferred to Sassuolo in 2018 but the London club included a clause in the deal that allows it to buy him back – an increasingly likely prospect considering his recent performances.

Serie A: Juve buys $40M Kulusevski, Milan introduces Zlatan

Two Swedish stars find new Serie A clubs
Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP
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Two of Italy’s most celebrated sides unveiled significant Swedish additions on Thursday, one signing half the age of the other.

Juventus purchased 19-year-old Dejan Kulusevski from Atalanta for $40 million on Thursday, while AC Milan introduced Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the legendary Swede passed his medical.

Kulusevski has one cap for Sweden. Ibrahimovic? 116 caps and a national record 62 goals.

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Juve will allow their teen Swede to continue his loan at Parma, where he’s scored four times with seven assists in 17 Serie A appearances this season. He’s committed to The Old Lady through 2023/24.

The winger has represented Sweden at nearly every level, rising from the U15 level all the way to his first senior team cap in November.

Only Lazio’s Luis Alberto has more league assists than Kulusevski, who is rated 18th in Serie A by WhoScored and 50th by SofaScore. The latter site says his 35 successful dribbles are tired for fifth in the league.

As for Zlatan, he’s passed his medical to rejoin AC Milan after leaving the club in 2012 to join Paris Saint-Germain.

The move, announced late last month, gives Milan much-needed center forward reinforcements. Star striker Krzysztof Piatek has just four goals in 17 league matches this season.

Ibrahimovic will wear No. 21 when he makes his Milan debut. The side restarts Serie A play on Monday morning at Sampdoria.

Lazio beats Juventus 3-1 to win Italian Super Cup in Riyadh

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) Lazio beat Juventus 3-1 on Sunday to win the Italian Super Cup for a fifth time amid a background of protests and political outrage at the game being held in Saudi Arabia.

Senad Lulic scored in the 73rd minute for Lazio after Juve’s Paulo Dybala had canceled out Luis Alberto‘s opener at Riyadh’s King Saud University Stadium.

Danilo Cataldi sealed the result in stoppage time with a free kick. That was conceded by Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, who was shown a second yellow card and sent off.

It was the second time in three years that Lazio had beaten Juventus in the Super Cup. The capital side had also won 3-1 when the two clubs met in Serie A two weeks ago in what was Maurizio Sarri‘s only previous defeat as Juventus coach.

Amnesty International and the journalists union for Italian state TV RAI had written a joint letter to the presidents of Juventus and Lazio. The letter asked the clubs not to play the Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia because of the country’s human rights record.

Italian politicians and human rights activists also objected to last season’s game being played in Saudi Arabia, citing the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Italian league has a contract with Saudi Arabia to play three Super Cups in the country over five years and – just like last year – the match went ahead.

Lazio took the lead in the 16th minute when Lulic crossed for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic at the back post, and he cut it back for Luis Alberto to fire into the roof of the net.

Sarri had again started with the superstar trident of Cristiano Ronaldo, Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain and the first two combined for the equalizer on the stroke of halftime.

Dybala turned in the rebound from close range after Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha could only parry Ronaldo’s effort.

But Lazio captain Lulic helped to win the match with a splendid volley at the back post after Marco Parolo had nodded on Manuel Lazzari’s cross.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Video: Lazio score twice in stoppage-time to win

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Lazio fans learned the meaning of “it ain’t over ’till it’s over” on Monday.

Facing a second-straight defeat in all competitions, and a tough loss a week ahead of a trip to Juventus, Lazio came back from one goal down with two stoppage-time strikes to beat Cagliari, 2-1, in Serie A action.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Luis Alberto blasted a strike into the turf off a scramble in the box to tie the game at 1-1 in the 93rd minute, and then Felipe Caicedo headed home off a terrific cross from Jony to give Lazio the improbable win. Lazio pushed everything forward and it was too much for Cagliari to take in the end.

With the win, Lazio move into third place, four points ahead of arch rival Roma and just three points behind league-leaders Inter and Juventus.