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Serie A roundup: Roma’s Mkhitaryan scores on debut, Milan edges Verona

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Roma’s first win of the season headlines Sunday’s Serie A action.

Roma 4-2 Sassuolo

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s stint with Roma is off to a brilliant start.

The former Arsenal attacker, scored a blistering goal in his debut with the Italian giants, who won their first game of the season in the 4-2 thumping of Sassuolo.

The Armenian’s goal was only one of the four that Roma put together in the first 45 minutes of the game. With a headed goal off of a corner kick, Bryan Cristante gave the home side an early lead. Seven minutes later, Edin Dzeko tallied his second goal of a young season.

By the 33rd minute, Justin Kluivert’s calm finish inside the box had Roma up by four goals. I Giallorossi kept pushing, dismantling the visiting with their frenetic pace down the wings, but came up short, striking the bar post in three different occasions.

Despite being outclassed in the first half, Sassuolo’s silver lining showed up in the final 45 minutes: Domenico Berardi. A wonder free-kick opened the scoring for the 24-year-old, who eventually sealed his brace in 72nd minute. The captain has scored five goals in two league matches this season.

With confidence under their belt, Roma travel to Bologna next, while Sassuolo host SPAL.

Verona 0-1 AC Milan

Milan aren’t doing it in convincing fashion, but they’re winning.

A game that saw both teams end up with 10 players, also saw Milan walk away with a 1-0 victory in Verona. The win has Marco Giampaolo’s side sixth in the table only three points behind leaders and rivals Inter Milan.
Despite playing a player down early on, Verona had a pair of chances in the first half. A half-effort bicycle was no match for a well-positioned Roma defense and Gianluigi Donnarumma. The clearest chance of them all came right before the first 45 minutes came to a close, however. In motion, with his back turned on the ball, Valerio Verre’s first touch and subsequent strike would just go inches high of the bar.
As the second half went on, Milan proved to be too much for the home side, controlling the ball and taking a plethora of shots on goal. Eventually, it took a tool on I Gialloblu. In the 68th minute, Hakan Çalhanoğlu shot struck Verona’s Koray Gunter hand, resulting in a penalty that Krzysztof Piątek put away.

Now in sixth place, Milan face rivals Inter Milan next. On the hand, Verona travel to Turin to take on a mighty Juventus.

Elsewhere in Serie A

SPAL 2- 1 Lazio

Brescia 3-4 Bologna

Parma 1-3 Cagliari

Mkhitaryan: Premier League struggles down to happiness

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Sometimes, a footballer’s lack of success can come down to happiness.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan says that’s the case with his tumultuous time with Arsenal and Manchester United following a high profile transfer from Borussia Dortmund in 2016.

[ MORE: Spurs’ Lo Celso injured ]

Mkhitaryan, now 30, arrived on the heels of 23-goal, 32-assist season (!!!), and failed to reach those totals over three seasons between Old Trafford and the Emirates.

The Armenian captain is hoping that a loan to Roma changes his fortunes, because he simply hasn’t felt home in the Premier League.

From Sky Sports:

“I have to enjoy playing football, no matter the place. In England, I no longer felt happy,” he said. “I got a call from my agent and I wanted to come, because it was a great opportunity for me. I didn’t even have a discussion with my agent about money. Maybe I was not fitting so well in English football, so I think a change was good.”

Mkhitaryan is branding his time in Roma “an opportunity to be seized.”

Henrikh Mkhitaryan moves to Roma

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan will get a fresh start at AS Roma.

Mkhitaryan, 30, has agreed to a season-long loan move to Italy, as he will join Roma on deadline day in Europe.

Per reports, Roma have an option to buy Mkhitaryan from Arsenal at the end of the 2019-20 season.

He has a contract with the Gunners until the summer of 2021 and has played in three of Arsenal’s four Premier League games so far, but Unai Emery obviously believes he isn’t needed this season.

The Armenian international arrived at Arsenal from Man United in January 2018 in an outrageous swap deal for Alexis Sanchez. That swap hasn’t worked out for either club, as Mkhitaryan scored six goals and added four assists in 25 Premier League appearances last season. Previously he’d won the League Cup and Europa League with Man United, but he just hasn’t taken to life in the PL and often drifts in and out of games. After starring for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, Mkhitaryan couldn’t replicate that form in England.

With Dani Ceballos and Nicolas Pepe arriving this summer, youngsters Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock breaking through, plus Mesut Ozil still around and returning to fitness, it was unlikely Mkhitaryan would have played much for the Gunners this season.

Roma have reshaped their squad this summer after failing to reach the UEFA Champions League and Mkhitaryan joins Chris Smalling as a loanee from the Premier League.

Paulo Fonseca’s side will be up there in the top four battle in Serie A and Mkhitaryan is likely to get plenty of minutes, at the very least in the UEFA Europa League, for Roma.

Opposing fans show unusual solidarity as Rome derby ends 1-1

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ROME (AP) A 1-1 draw in the Rome derby was an appropriate result amid unusual solidarity between normally warring supporters of Lazio and Roma on Sunday following the shooting death of a high-profile fan.

Both ends of the Stadio Olimpico paid tribute to Fabrizio “Diabolik” Piscitelli, the former Lazio “ultras” chief who was shot dead at point-blank range in an unsolved murder last month.

Roma went ahead with a first-half penalty from Aleksandar Kolarov, and Luis Alberto equalized for Lazio after the break.

Despite stifling humidity, the match was highly entertaining and featured six shots off the woodwork – four by Lazio (Lucas Leiva, Ciro Immobile, Joaquin Correa and Marco Parolo) and two by Roma (both by Nicolo Zaniolo).

Roma’s penalty was due to new and stricter handball rules.

Edin Dzeko saw Sergej Milinkovic-Savic raise his arm and struck the extended limb to earn the spot kick converted by Kolarov, the former Lazio fullback.

Luis Alberto’s goal came with a blistering shot through a crowded area.

The result will likely leave both sides frustrated.

Lazio, last season’s Italian Cup champion, will rue missed chances after hitting the goal frame so many times, while Roma has now drawn twice in its opening two matches under new coach Paulo Fonseca.

Roma has undergone a complete overhaul following a turbulent offseason that included the resignation of former captain Francesco Totti from his management position and the departure of Daniele De Rossi to Boca Juniors.

Police were on high alert for fan tensions following Piscitelli’s murder and the subsequent controversy over a public funeral. But there were no immediate reports of clashes or serious violence.

Many Lazio fans wore shirts that said “Diablo” to honor Piscitelli’s nickname, “Diabolik.”

Lazio supporters held aloft a huge banner featuring an image of Piscitelli before kickoff and Roma fans responded with smaller banners that read, “Rest in peace, Fabrizio” and “Fly high! Ciao Diablo.”

The “curva nord” – northern end – where Lazio’s hard-core fans sit stood silently during the first half in protest at the club’s decision not to express condolences over the death of Piscitelli, who had a long criminal record.

Lazio’s players were told not to celebrate below the “curva nord” to respect the fans’ protest and Luis Alberto kept his distance despite scoring at that end.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Man Utd: Smalling, Darmian seal Serie A moves

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Manchester United is waving goodbye to a pair of defenders, and only may eventually come back to Old Trafford.

Chris Smalling is off to AS Roma on loan, while Matteo Darmian will join Parma for an underwhelming $1.7 million (according to Sky Sports).

[ MORE: UEL group stage draw ]

Those Man Utd salaries have made from less than ideal transfer situations for the Red Devils. While Romelu Lukaku did fetch $90 million from Inter Milan, Alexis Sanchez joined the same Serie A side for an alarmingly low loan fee (reportedly).

Here’s Solskjaer on Smalling’s move to a fellow Europa League side. From ManUtd.com:

“At the moment we’ve got six center backs and it’s just something that popped up in the last couple of days. Chris fancied the chance to go over there; it’s a new experience, new adventure. He’ll come back better for it because it’s a big club, it’s a good league. There aren’t too many English players who have been playing in Italy so I think he’ll enjoy it.”

Whether United is able to bring in some free agent or budget savvy moves like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s pretty clear that chairman Ed Woodward (and maybe Solskjaer) believes the club is not ready for a Top Four challenge but has the strength to compete for continued UEL berths via blooding plenty of young depth.