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Serie A 2018-19: Empoli, Parma, Frosinone make return

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MILAN (AP) The Italian league begins this weekend with Parma returning to the top flight only three years after being declared bankrupt.

Empoli and Frosinone are also back in Serie A.

The three promoted clubs replace Crotone, Hellas Verona and Benevento, which were relegated last season.

Spal was the only promoted team not to go back down last season.

[ MORE: Ramos takes shots at Klopp ]

Here’s a look at the new teams in Italy’s top division:

EMPOLI

Empoli, which is in the city of Florence, bounced back up to Serie A after only one season in the second division.

The Tuscan team won Serie B with four matches remaining and went on to finish 13 points ahead of second-place Parma.

Much of the credit goes to former Roma coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, who replaced Vincenzo Vivarini in December, with the team in fourth place.

It was Andreazzoli’s first managerial role since 2013 but, under the 64-year-old coach, Empoli went on a remarkable 23-match unbeaten run to the end of the season.

When it was last in Serie A, Empoli spent three seasons in the top flight before being relegated on the final day of the 2016-17 campaign after it failed to beat Palermo.

Andreazzoli has made astute signings, bringing in defenders Luca Antonelli and Matias Silvestre as well as young forward Antonino La Gumina.

Francesco Caputo was the top scorer in Serie B last season with 27 goals, six more than teammate Alfredo Donnarumma, who has since moved to Brescia.

The 31-year-old Caputo has scored only one Serie A goal, for Bari in the 2010-11 season.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

PARMA

Parma earned promotion to Serie A only three years after being declared bankrupt, becoming the first Italian club to earn three straight promotions.

Parma beat Spezia on the final day to finish second in Serie B after Frosinone conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 at home against Foggia. They finished level on points but Parma clinched second because of its head-to-head record.

Parma also became embroiled in an attempted match-fixing case after it was revealed forward Emanuele Calaio had sent text messages to Spezia defender Filippo De Col, encouraging him and another former teammate to not try too hard in the game.

Calaio insisted he was joking but Parma risked being demoted back to Serie B. It was deducted five points from the upcoming season but that was reduced to a fine on appeal.

Calaio, who was originally banned for two years, is suspended until Dec. 31.

Parma has signed a number of players, including Portugal defender Bruno Alves and Inter Milan trio Jonathan Biabiany, Federico Dimarco and Alessandro Bastoni.

It could also sign Antonio Cassano, who is looking to make a comeback after two years out of the game.

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FROSINONE

Frosinone recovered from missing out on automatic promotion to win the playoffs and earn a second season back in Serie A.

Frosinone, which is south of Rome, advanced with a controversial 3-2 aggregate victory over Palermo. It had lost the first leg but won the return match 2-0, although players were accused of intimidating the referee, while substitutes threw balls onto the field to delay play.

Palermo complained but the Italian soccer federation ruled that the promotion was not going to be overturned. However, Frosinone will have to play its first two home games on neutral ground.

Frosinone opened its Benito Stirpe Stadium last season, more than 40 years after construction began, including 30 years of inactivity.

In its only previous campaign in Serie A, Frosinone finished 19th out of 20 clubs in 2016.

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

Serie A roundup: Napoli miss Champions League spot, Palermo stun Roma

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Week 38 of Serie A soccer has finished.

The major storyline in the the last group of matches was Rafa Benitez’s upsetting conclusion with Napoli, falling short to capture a Champions League birth before his rumored move to Real Madrid.

Napoli 2-4 Lazio: Lazio were looking good in the third-place Champions League spot prior to this match, but if Napoli were to come out victorious, a better head-to-head record would have the Little Donkeys leapfrog their opposition. In the 33rd minute, Marco Parolo made a move inside and drove a high shot that accelerated past Napoli goalkeeper Mariano Andujar. Then as half time was seconds away, Antonio Candreva, in on goal facing just Andujar, received a feed from Senad Lulic and buried the effort to give Lazio a 2-0 advantage in the first 45 minutes. Gonzalo Higuain came on fire in the second half and notched a brace, though he missed a penalty kick that could’ve drawn his squad closer. After the 80-minute mark, Ogenyi Onazi and Miroslav Klose were the final scorers to put it away.

Roma 1-2 Palermo: Even Lazio’s victory didn’t mess with AS Roma’s second-place ending, while mid-table Palermo relied on a late goal to end their season on a great note. Nicolas Spolli dampened Roma’s beginning with handball that allowed Franco Vazquez to draw first blood in the 35th minute with a PK conversion, but forward Francesco Totti applied an nicely-weighted touch to draw the game level in the 85th minute. However, Andrea Belotti made up for his missed endeavor in the 70th minute with a strong effort to bang home the game-deciding goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Being promoted into Italy’s top-tier for this year, Palermo’s mid-table campaign has finished well. Manager Rudi Garcia, in his second season with Roma, has guided his side to second place again.

[RELATED: Ancelotti weighing offer for AC Milan return]

Inter Milan 4-3 Empoli: Mauro Icardi counted a brace in this one to become top goal scorer in Serie A alongside 38-year-old Verona striker Luca Toni. In the 53rd minute, the ex-Sampdoria striker had himself in superb position for his first goal, from an applaudable Mateo Kovacic assist, after providing the service on Rodrigo Palacio’s 49th-minute tap-in. Marcelo Brozovic found the back of the net in 70th minute and seven minutes passed before Icardi’s placed shot beat Empoli goalie Davide Bassi. The away side halved the scoreline on Levan Mchedlidze’s first–his second goal in the 88th minute–and drew level in the 62nd minute when Manuel Pucciarelli outclassed Andrea Ranocchia to alter the momentum.

Fiorentina 3-0 Chievo: Fiorentina qualified for a Europa League spot last week and saw out  a five-game winning streak with this triumph. As Napoli was downed by Lazio, the Lillies moved into fourth place at the Artemio Franchi clashing with a 10-man Chievo due to Isaac Cofie’s second booking in the 69th minute. Josip Ilicic commenced the scoring in the 12th minute from Mohamed Salah’s cross, while Federico Bernardeschi and Milan Badelj added the other two in the second half, subsequent to the decisive red card. Bernardeschi pounced on the rebound from Mati Fernandez’s seething strike, and Badelj’s left-footer was the stoppage-time sealer. Cheivo settled their season on a four-match winless stretch.

Other results from Sunday

Cagliari 4-3 Udinese

Torino 5-0 Cesena

Sampdoria 2-2 Parma

Sassuolo 3-1 Genoa

From Saturday

Verona 2-2 Juventus

Atalanta 1-3 Milan

Serie A roundup: Fiorentina qualify for Europa League, Sampdoria fall short

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The second-to-last Sunday in Serie A commenced, and several matchups took place that had implications on the league table.

As is the case in multiple leagues across Europe right now, the final period of spring signals a time of great import for squads meeting–or perhaps, failing to meet–their originally-set plans for the year.

Palermo 2-3 Fiorentina: At the Stadio Renzo Barbera, the Lilies staved off Palmero in a 3-2 victory to qualify for the Europa League. Midfielder Josip Ilicic left the Eagles behind in 2013 and the hometown fans harangued him in this match, but he was the man to open the scoring in the 23rd minute. Alberto Gilardino poached for the second goal and then Mato Jajalo struck for Palermo to halve the scoreline. A second-half comeback begun when Luca Rigoni converted on a poor defensive effort in the box, and the two sides were level. In the 78th minute, Marcos Alonso buried a ball from Gilardino to seal a finish in the top-six. A red card was given to Jasmin Kurtic in stoppage time, though it was too late to have an effect on the outcome.

Empoli 1-1 Sampdoria: Matias Vecino’s clanging of the crossbar marked the most notable chance of the first half. But Manuel Pucciarelli would have no bothers taking an assist from Massimo Maccarone, who also had a threatening shot from long range, in the 58th minute to give the Blue the lead. For those who thought Empoli would finish this up with a surprise win, you were nearly correct. Samuel Eto’o came off the bench, though, and found the back of the net in first minute of stoppage time to salvage a point. The draw now puts Sampdoria four points back and thus out of contention for the sixth-place Europa League spot on the heels of Palermo’s triumph.

[RELATED: Saturday’s Serie A & La Liga roundup]

AC Milan 3-0 Torino: Milan’s 3-2 loss to Sassuolo last week was tossed in the rearview mirror, and Stephan El Shaarawy starred with a brace en route to i Rossoneri’s smooth-sailing victory. Still, the Devils find themselves sitting smack in the middle of the table at 10th place but the good news was, of course, the performance of the 22-year-old El Shaarawy compensating a bit for his unsteady run of form. His first goal (his last score being in November 2014) was executed with a special first touch and finish, while a pinpointed left-footer into the bottom corner explains his second. Additionally, Giampaolo Pazzini added a penalty kick.

Udinese 0-1 Sassuolo: Down to 10 men in the 80th minute because of Guilherme’s second yellow card, Udinese essentially quashed their own hopes of surging back for to tie the match at 1-1. Francesco Magnanelli, the lone goalscorer, corralled a ball from Berardi and applied the touch to beat the reach of goalkeeper Simone Scuffet. The Little Zebras, having only won twice in their past 12 league contests, remained at 16th place. Sassuolo moved up to 12th place in the standings, and manager Eusebio Di Francesco, despite being on the shortlist for other Serie A teams, could stay on as head man at the Mapei Stadium.

 

Other results from Sunday

Parma 2-2 Verona

Cesena 0-1 Cagliari

Chievo 0-1 Atalanta

 

Saturday’s results 

Juventus 3-1 Napoli

Genoa 3-2 Inter Milan

WATCH: Incredible whiff from Torino goalkeeper gifts Empoli a lead

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Here it is, your goalkeeping howler of the week, courtesy of some early morning Serie A action.

Neither of these teams have a whole lot to play for, with both mired in the middle of the table and just four matches left, but the games go on anyways, and when players lose concentration even for a little bit, mistakes are made. Really, really bad mistakes.

Torino goalkeeper Daniele Padelli took a simple back-pass from Emiliano Moretti and completely flubbed it, clipping the ball just right so it skidded and curled into the far corner of the net. The most painful part of the whole video is the final slow-motion angle where Padelli scuffs the ball, immediately realizes what he’s done, and stares down the ball willing it to somehow go wide before it tucks inside the goal post and his fears come to fruition.

The goal gave Empoli a 1-0 lead in just the third minute of play, a lead which they held through the first half.

Astute Premier League fans may remember Padelli from his very brief Liverpool days, when he joined in January of 2007 on loan and made one appearance, the last day of the season against Charlton, presiding over a 2-2 draw.

Thankfully for Padelli, he has a historic win in the most recent Turin derby to fall back on if anyone dares make fun of him for this own-goal. Which they will. Endlessly.

La Liga and Serie A roundup: Real Madrid smokes Deportivo, Juve downs Milan

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Across the world of soccer, La Liga and Serie A boast some of the most talented teams on the globe beside the Premier League, and below is listed a brief recap of few matches in each league this weekend (Saturday and Sunday).

LA LIGA

Deportivo 2-8 Real Madrid: There really wasn’t anything Deportivo could do in hopes of matching the obvious star power of Real Madrid. The scoring was led by a hat trick from Cristiano Ronaldo, who started working his magic in the 29th minute with a powerfully hit header inside the penalty area. James Rodriquez then struck a left-footer that sailed into the upper right-hand corner of frame, another wonderful goal. Ronaldo scored on an open net in the 41st minute, and Gareth Bale rolled the fourth one past Deportivo goalkeeper German Lux.  New loanee from Manchester United Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez notched a brace, including an magnificent volleyed goal in the 88th minute. Real Madrid, currently at seventh place in the league standings, looks poised to shoot up the table.

Atletico Madrid 2-2 Celta Vigo: Atletico Madrid needed a win to get to first place in La Liga past Barcelona (prior to the win at Levante). Unfortunately for them, Celta Vigo was sturdy competition, drawing first blood in the 19th minute on Pablo Hernandez’s eye-popping back-heeled volley. Gabi fed world class center back Diego Godin to head home the score just before halftime. In the 31st minute, Atletico defender Mirando managed to level the scoreline, but he also conceded the penalty kick that essentially handed the Celts an equalizer in the 53rd minute. Four points behind Barcelona, Atletico still has a solid position in league play, cemented in third place (with 8 pts.) for now.

Levante 0-5 Barcelona: Barcelona remains undefeated with a win streak that hasn’t broken since the beginning of the season. Match highlights and recap are available here.

SERIE A

Juventus 1-0 AC Milan: Two Italian powers clashed, and Juve came out of the match victorious on Carlos Tevez’s lone goal. Pogba held up with his back to the net inside the penalty box prior to his turn and pass that put Tevez through for a close-range finish. Fernando Torres, on loan to AC Milan from Chelsea for two years, made his debut as a substitute in the 76th minute. Milan didn’t have many occasions when they were solidly on the attack, but both squads stand in the top of the table.

AS Roma 2-0 Cagliari: Alessandro Florenzi provided the service on Mattia Destro’s 10th minute goal, and he the scored the second goal of the match, set free on a through ball before burying the low attempt and celebrating with his grandmother in the stands. Roma midfielder Gervinho displayed the best quality during that match, setting up Florenzi’s tally and generally urging his team forward with his playmaking abilities. With Juventus, Roma is the only team in Serie A to have won all of their league games so far. Cagliari’s fighting to remove themselves from the relegation area.

Palermo 1-1 Inter Milan: For Inter Milan, the goal was to get three points when they faced Palermo, but the Eagles made it difficult on the Black and Blues, notching the opening score of the match in the third minute to force a deficit right off the bat. Franco Vazquez picked Inter defender Nemanja Vidic’s pocket and then nailed his goal past Palermo goalie Stefano Sorrentino from a tough angle. Sorrentino was Palermo’s saving figure at points during the match, and Vidic nearly had a headed game-winner only to be ruled offside. Inter is positioned in sixth place, one point behind Udinese in the fifth spot and AC Milan in the fourth rank.