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Serie A: Juve now in control after win, Napoli’s loss to Roma

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ROME (AP) — Defending champion Juventus was poised to regain control of the Italian title race, closing the gap on leader Napoli to one point with a game in hand after Paulo Dybala’s superb injury-time winner beat Lazio 1-0 on Saturday.

The script could not have been written any better for Juventus, which is chasing a seventh straight Serie A title and 34th overall. If Dybala’s 93rd-minute winner wasn’t already enough to celebrate, Lazio’s cross-city rival Roma then did Juve a huge favor by winning at Napoli 4-2.

Striker Edin Dzeko netted twice for a rampant Roma which jumped above Lazio and into third place by one point. They are in a fierce fight with Inter Milan — preparing for the Milan derby on Sunday — for a Champions League place next season.


Livewire Lorenzo Insigne gave Napoli the perfect start by sweeping in Mario Rui’s cross from the left after six minutes.

But home celebrations ended one minute later when in-form Turkey forward Cengiz Under scored an audacious but slightly deflected lob over Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina from inside the penalty area. He was found by Radja Nainggolan after Napoli lost possession in midfield.

Then, the imposing Dzeko easily rose above Raul Albiol to plant a firm header past Reina from Alessandro Florenzi’s cross. Both players were on Roma’s bench last week in the home loss to AC Milan, but probably won’t be anymore.

Napoli sent on all-time leading club scorer Marek Hamsik midway through the second half to spark its attack, and seconds later Insigne’s quick shot from outside the box curled just wide.

But Dzeko produced a masterful goal in the 73rd. Expertly controlling the ball some 30 meters out, he beat two players before bending the ball out of Reina’s reach and into the bottom left corner from the right edge of the penalty area.

Insigne was Napoli’s main threat and twice had shots saved shortly after Dzeko’s second goal. But Napoli’s awful defending could not go unpunished and Diego Perotti blasted in the fourth after a cross from the left was badly dealt with.

Napoli’s players hardly celebrated when Dries Mertens slotted in an injury-time consolation goal.


Paulo Dybala had done nothing all game for Juventus at Lazio.

That was until the 93rd minute when he brilliantly cut inside Luiz Felipe with a quick flick, showed great upper-body strength to hold off Marco Parolo, and fired into the top right corner while off balance.

The diminutive Argentina forward, who started the move by winning the ball in midfield and spraying it quickly to the right, sprinted jubilantly into the arms of delirious Juve fans behind the goal in the away end. His teammates mobbed him as he celebrated his 15th league goal, making him the team’s top scorer, one ahead of Gonzalo Higuain, who did not play.

Juventus neutralized Lazio striker Ciro Immobile, Serie A’s top scorer with 23, but created little until Dybala’s moment of magic.

Juventus was more concerned on keeping a close eye on Immobile, who scored four times in his last two matches against the Bianconeri.

He was not at his sharpest, yet hardly had any service.

Still, Juve’s defenders were glad to see him go off 10 minutes from time.

Roma winger Under is a hero for Turkey’s government

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ROME (AP) From unknown status to Roma’s savior. From future star to national hero.

In the space of 2 1/2 weeks, Turkey winger Cengiz Under has undergone quite a transformation.

That’s what five goals in four matches do for a 20-year-old footballer.

Add in Under’s pro-military salute after his two-goal performance against Benevento this month, and it’s easy to see why he’s become an emblem for the government of Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The salute was seen as supporting Turkey’s offensive against a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria.

A day after the brace, Turkey Minister of Youth and Sports Osman Askin Bak tweeted “No need to explain” next to a photo of Under saluting. The tweet included emojis of a Turkish flag and clapping hands.

The reception comes in sharp contrast to what NBA player Enes Kanter has faced from his home country.

Turkish prosecutors are seeking more than four years in prison for the New York Knicks player on charges of insulting Erdogan.

Kanter cannot return to Turkey because his passport has been canceled. He is a vocal supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric blamed by Turkey for last year’s failed military coup.

Likewise, former national soccer team players Hakan Sukur and Arif Erdem have been stripped of their medals by the government for criticizing Erdogan.

As for Under, Erdogan reportedly called him in July to offer good luck when he completed a 13 million euros ($16 million) transfer from Basaksehir, an Istanbul club owned by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

But Under was not involved in any goals in his first 14 matches with Roma and was starting to be seen as a misplaced acquisition by new sporting director Monchi.

Until he scored 43 seconds into a 1-0 win over Hellas Verona at the start of the month that ended Roma’s five-match winless streak in Serie A.

Then came the brace and an assist as Benevento was beaten 5-2.

“Under has done extraordinary things and improved a lot,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. “Right now he’s a decisive player.”

In a 2-0 win at Udinese last weekend, Under scored the opener with a powerful, rising shot from beyond the area.

The fine form extended to Under’s Champions League debut against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. Under’s opener in a 2-1 loss kept alive Roma’s hopes of advancing after the second leg at home in three weeks.

While there have been no more salutes from Under since the Benevento match, that hasn’t lessened his popularity.

“Our national pride scored his first goal in the giants’ league,” the Haberturk newspaper headlined on Thursday.

Up next for third-place Roma and Under: AC Milan on Sunday.

Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

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

LIVE, UCL – Sevilla vs. Man United, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma

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Jose Mourinho has created a splash this morning by benching Paul Pogba despite utilizing a 3-man central midfield formation as Manchester United heads to Spain to take on Sevilla in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg meeting.

Pogba was left out of Saturday’s win over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup due to illness, but having made the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad, it seems his omission is instead due to tactical reasons. 21-year-old academy product Scott McTominay starts in Pogba’s place alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, with the Frenchman on the bench among the substitutes.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

The decision is surprising given Manchester United’s 16-point deficit in the Premier League table as they trail runaway favorites Manchester City, leaving the Champions League as the best competition remaining that the Red Devils have a shot to win.

Up front for Manchester United, Alexis Sanchez carries the creative load along with Juan Mata, with both supporting Romelu Lukaku at the striker position. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof continue to work as the central defensive partnership, while Antonio Valencia captains the side as full-back, mirrored by Ashley Young on the other edge.

In the other matchup, Roma heads to the Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk, who finished 2nd in Group F three points behind Manchester City. The Ukranian side has only just returned from its winter break, with just a single game played since December 10th.

Roma, meanwhile, has pulled itself out of a rut just in time for the return of Champions League play, with three straight Serie A wins coming on the heels of a five-match winless run. They have scored eight goals over those three wins, with a pair of road clean sheets among the group. 20-year-old Turkish winger Cengiz Under is on fire over the win streak, scoring four goals over that span.


Today’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Sevilla vs. Manchester United – 2:45 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma – 2:45 p.m. ET

Serie A: Turkish youngster Under fires Roma back into 3rd

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ROME (AP) The rapid development of 20-year-old Turkey winger Cengiz Under is playing a big role in Roma’s revival.

Under scored his fourth goal in three matches and Roma won at Udinese 2-0 for its third straight win in Serie A on Saturday.

Roma moved into third place, two points ahead of Inter Milan, which lost at Genoa 2-0.

It’s a drastic improvement from where Roma was a month ago, when the Giallorossi were mired in a five-match winless streak that risked dropping them out of contention for the Champions League places.

“We’re getting back on track to where we were in the first half of the season,” forward Diego Perotti said.

Roma went ahead when Under unleashed a powerful, rising shot from beyond the area in the 70th.

Perotti sealed the victory in the 90th with an angled effort after Udinese gave the ball away near midfield.

Under is having a breakout month.

First, he scored after 43 seconds when Roma ended a five-match winless streak by beating Hellas Verona 1-0. Then he had a brace and also delivered an assist in a 5-2 win over Benevento last weekend.

All this after not being involved in any goals in his first 14 matches with Roma.

“He plays far more for the team than himself,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said of Under. “His greatest strength is being able to prepare his shot with great speed, making him difficult to close down.”

Added Perotti, “He’s very humble and he doesn’t speak Italian yet but he’s well behaved and is a great kid. He deserves all of this.”

On Wednesday, Roma visits Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

“We’ve got to make the most of the fact they’ve had a winter break and might not be match fit,” Di Francesco said of the Ukrainian side. “They have a lot of quality in attack and are dangerous, but we shouldn’t change our attitude.”


Inter’s defense was in shambles against Genoa.

The hosts took the lead before the break when a failed clearance attempt from Milan Skriniar ricocheted off of a stunned Andrea Ranocchia, who was charged with an own goal.

Then former Inter striker Goran Pandev was left unmarked to score from the center of the area midway through the second half.

Inter hasn’t won at regional rival Genoa in more than seven years.

Chievo Verona took a big step toward avoiding relegation with a 2-1 win over visiting Cagliari.

Emanuele Giaccherini and Roberto Inglese scored late for the hosts before Leonardo Pavoletti pulled one back for Cagliari.

Chievo moved up to 14th, level on points with Cagliari, eight points above the drop zone.