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Blocked from traveling, Cagliari kicks over milk in compromise

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Sardinian side Cagliari had an interesting Serie A travel day to Milan in that there was a chance it might not happen at all.

The Italians were trapped inside their training ground by over 100 protestors who were not challenging Cagliari’s on-field performances, but wanted the 15th place side to cancel their match at AC Milan in solidarity with them over high milk prices.

[ MORE: Wild day in Bundesliga ]

Part of a nation-wide protest which sees people kick over milk on the road, protestors would only let Cagliari’s players leave for Sunday’s match at AC Milan via compromise.

That compromise saw three Cagliari players join in the protest. From Football-Italia.net:

The team was only allowed to leave after several players, including Nicolo Barella, Alessandro Deiola and Joao Pedrowere filmed kicking over milk pails in a gesture of solidarity.

This a story we didn’t expect at the start of the Matchday.

Serie A: Roma held, 10-man Fiorentina prevails, SPAL wins late

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It was a wild day in Serie A play, complete with comebacks, late winners, VAR controversy, man-down goals, and everything you want from a Sunday slate of league play.

In the biggest result of the day, Juventus came back from down a goal at Lazio, fighting back after a bad Ciro Immobile miss to win 2-1, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the winner in the 88th minute.

[ MORE: Juventus tops Lazio 2-1 on late comeback ]

Thanks to that result, which left Lazio in eight amid a crowded and vicious battle for the final Champions League place in Serie A, Fiorentina was able to move into ninth – level with Lazio on points – thanks to a wacko 4-3 win over Chievo Verona after scoring two goals while a man down.

It was a dream start for Fiorentina as Luis Muriel opened scored just four minutes in, and the game had its most controversial moment soon after. Chievo appeared to equalize as Emmanuele Giaccherini scored after forcing a horrible mistake from Fiorentina goalkeeper Alban Lafont, who passed it right to the former Sunderland attacker. However, VAR ruled the goal out after it was determined a pressing Chievo forward barely strayed into the penalty area before the goal-kick exited the 18-yard box.

Marco Benassi doubled Fiorentina’s lead just before the half-hour mark, roofing a lovely curling effort. Mariusz Stepinski brought Chievo back within one before the break with a towering header, and after the break, it went even more wrong for the visitors. Benassi essentially saved a goal with his outstretched arm right on the line, and he was sent off for the incident. Sergio Pellissier slotted home the ensuing penalty and the sides were level.

With Fiorentina a man down in a 2-2 game, they went back in front on a wonderful counter finished off by Federico Chiesa from a very tight angle. Chiesa grabbed the fourth as well four minutes from full-time, somehow finding space in a two-on-five situation as Gerson threaded the needle for the assist. Filip Djordjevic scored for Chievo in the 89th minute to make stoppage time interesting, but Fiorentina grabbed the vital three points.

Elsewhere, Edin Dzeko scored a brace and Stephen El Shaarawy added a third, but Roma was held on a stunning three-goal comeback by Atalanta, capped off by a 72nd minute equalizer from on-fire Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata. Zapata’s goal came just two minutes after he had missed a penalty, blasting miles over the bar, but he atoned for the 3-3 draw with a slow-roller at the near post, one Roma goalkeeper Robin Olsen will certainly want back. A win would have seen Roma pass AC Milan into the final Champions League place, but instead they remain fifth on 34 points, one back of the coveted fourth position.

Mohamed Fares scored a howitzer in the 87th minute and SPAL came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 over Parma, earning a critical three points in the relegation battle. Fares pounced on a headed clearance by Alessandro Bastoni and rifled it into the back of the net from 25 yards out. That completed the three-goal comeback, after Roberto Inglese had put Parma 2-0 up with a brace. Mattia Valoti began the comeback by getting SPAL on the board in the 70th minute, and Andrea Petagna equalized five minutes later to set up the dramatic finish. SPAL came into the day just four points above the drop zone, but with the win and Bologna’s 4-0 loss to Frosinone, they moved to 13th on 21 points, a much safer seven points above the bottom three.

Champions League wrap: PSG advances; USMNT stars shine

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Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain, and Liverpool clinched spots in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds with results on Tuesday.

For Liverpool and PSG, the spots came via away wins, while Spurs crafted an equalizer to earn a point in Barcelona.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

And two American players had good days, with Club Brugge goalkeeper Ethan Horvath keeping a clean sheet and Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic setting the table for a goal.


Club Brugge 0-0 Atletico Madrid

On the same day Zack Steffen was announced as a future goalkeeper for a Champions League club, fellow USMNT backstop Ethan Horvath produced a fine display in blanking Atletico Madrid.

Horvath, 23, made several key saves as Club Brugge finished third in its group and will play in the Europa League knockout rounds. Antoine Griezmann, Saul, Koke, and Thomas Lemar were among the top players in the XI for Atleti.

AS Monaco 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

Thierry Henry’s men are out of European competition thanks to a pair of goals from Raphael Guerreiro and no offensive answers of their own.

Paco Alcacer and Maximilian Philipp assisted the goals, and American winger Christian Pulisic went 90 minutes for the Bundesliga leaders.

He deserves the ol’ hockey assist on this one:


Barcelona 1-1 Tottenham HotspurRECAP

Lucas Moura‘s late goal was enough to get Spurs a draw at the Camp Nou, canceling out Ousmane Dembele’s terrific opening goal.

Inter Milan 1-1 PSV Eindhoven

Hirving Lozano’s early goal nearly stood up for the visitors, and Mauro Icardi’s late leveler wasn’t enough to push Inter beyond Spurs. That means Inter Milan is off to the Europa League.


Red Star Belgrade 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain

The stars were out for PSG, which knew it would move into the knockout rounds with a win and built a 2-0 lead through Edinson Cavani and Neymar before Marquinhos and Kylian Mbappe put it to bed late to win Group C.

Liverpool 1-0 NapoliRECAP

The chances were myriad for Liverpool, but only Mohamed Salah found the back of the net as the Reds earned a spot in the Round of 16.


Schalke 1-0 Lokomotiv Moscow

Alessandro Schopf scored the lone goal, and USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie was rested for already-advanced Schalke.

Galatasaray 2-3 Porto

Sergio Oliveira’s goal was decisive in a wild match with two penalties but no lead changes.

Mancini might hand debut to Italy’s “next Pirlo” vs. USMNT

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GENK, Belgium (AP) Italian teenager Sandro Tonali could become the first player born in the millennium to play for the Azzurri on Tuesday in a friendly against the United States.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT face Italy in 2018 finale | Should Pulisic move to PL? ]

The hype around Tonal has labeled the 18-year-old midfielder the next Andrea Pirlo.

Tonali has never played in the Italian top flight, and made his professional debut only 14 months ago for Serie B side Brescia, but has impressed sufficiently to be summoned by the national side.

He didn’t feature on Saturday in the 0-0 draw against Portugal in the UEFA Nations League but he and other young players will likely get their chance against the U.S.

“We’re here to look at players like Tonali,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said on Monday. “And I’m curious to see them, too.

“If the players from Saturday have recovered and are well they’ll play. But then of course there will be space for others since it’s a test. We’re curious to see Tonali at work, as well as the other youngsters.”

Five of the players who started at San Siro on Saturday are unavailable: Giorgio Chiellini, Alessandro Florenzi, Lorenzo Inisgne, Ciro Immobile and Jorginho have been allowed to return to their clubs, as well as Lorenzo Pellegrini.

[ UEFA Nations League: Germany end year with late collapse, relegation ]

Sassuolo midfielder Stefano Sensi and Hoffenheim forward Vincenzo Grifo could also be in line for their debuts.

Mancini will be hoping whoever he picks will find the back of the net against the U.S., and end Italy’s struggles.

Defender Chiellini, who made his 100th appearance for Italy on Saturday, was the top goalscorer among those called up for the two matches, having netted eight times for the team.

“It’s a problem because if you don’t score you don’t win,” Mancini said. “But in the matches against Ukraine, Poland, and Portugal we created more than 20 chances.

“It’s just a question of bad luck. Let’s hope the wheel will turn soon. What’s important is to continue creating chances and playing in attack.”

Preview: USMNT face Italy in 2018 finale

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The U.S. men’s national team end their 2018 campaign with a friendly against Italy in Genk, Belgium on Tuesday at 2:45 p.m. ET.

This is a clash between two teams who failed to reach the 2018 World Cup and have now turned to youth to try and turn their programs around.

[ MORE: How will USA line up v Italy? ]

It has been a strange year for everyone connected with the USMNT, as interim head coach Dave Sarachan has now been in charge for 13 months but still no new permanent coach had been announced and the U.S. were humbled 3-0 by a much-changed England at Wembley last Thursday.

[ MORE: Dortmund issue Pulisic update

Roberto Mancini and the Azzurri are the final test of a gruelling few months for the USMNT, as they’ve now faced Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and England in the fall, winning just one of those games as several youngsters have been given the chance to shine but there’s still no long-term plan.

Christian Pulisic is back in the U.S. setup and will be looking to lead a team which has an average age of just under 24 to an upset of No. 19 ranked Italy. Mancini has sent home several of his more experienced players ahead of this game and will give plenty of youngsters a chance, including teenager Sandro Tonali who Italy have high hopes for as a deep-lying playmaker.

[ MORE: VAR to be used for Italy-USA ]

In team news Weston McKennie, Kenny Saief and Luca De La Torre all left the USMNT squad over the past few days due to injury, but Josh Sargent is fit to play against Italy as the Werder Bremen forward didn’t feature against England due to a small knock. Sarachan has said there will be plenty of changes to his lineup, and it will be intriguing to see if the USMNT players who will be involved in the MLS Cup playoffs next week will feature.

Pro Soccer Talk will be at the Luminus Arena in Genk and you can follow live updates on Italy v. USA here.


What they’re saying…

Dave Sarachan on Italy and possible USMNT lineup: “We respect them. It will be an important test for our guys. We will have a number of changes in the lineup and it will be one of those tests that will go a long way down the road. We are excited about it and it should be a good night.”

Roberto Mancini on giving youngsters a chance: “We are working, trying to renovate the Nazionale with young players and a different tactical approach. We need to get to know them better, to see them in action. Hopefully, many young players will get a chance to feature, as that’ll mean we’ve got a bright future ahead of us. I think there are many talented players out there, they just need to gain some experience.”


Prediction

This is a very tough game to call. There’s no doubt that the USMNT youngsters will want to end a tough year on a high as they try to impress the incoming coach (expected to be Gregg Berhalter) but Italy’s youngsters will want to grab their chance to impress too. Pulisic could be the difference in this game and I’m going for a 1-1 draw in Genk as Sarachan will leave his time in charge of the USMNT with his head held high. A draw would be a very respectable end to a tough 12 months for the U.S. program. 2019 can’t come soon enough as they plan for the long road ahead and a shot at redemption.