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Serie A: Lazio rescues Milan draw, Napoli held, Empoli wins late

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Napoli and Lazio both took the field on Sunday hoping to entrench themselves in a top four position, but came away with disappointing draws. Napoli was held off the scoreboard, while Lazio needed a stoppage time goal just to earn the lone point.

It was especially disappointing for Napoli, who hosted basement-dwellers Chievo Verona and failed to find the scoresheet. Napoli ripped off 21 total shots, including eight on net, but could not find an opener. Lorenzo Insigne missed a huge opportunity just minutes after halftime as he ripped wide on a turn-and-shoot behind the defense. It looked like Insigne expected the offside flag to go up, but it correctly never did. With ticks left on the clock, Amadou Diawara attempted an audacious overhead kick and nearly won it in spectacular fashion, but his was just wide right.

Lazio found the back of the net, but it took 94 minutes to do so as they drew 1-1 with AC Milan. It was quite a cheap goal for Milan to concede, as Lazio lumped the ball forward, and while Christian Zapata cleared the initial ball with his head, it wasn’t nearly far enough, and it fell to Joaquin Correa who flicked it up in the air and then volleyed a speculative effort on net that squeaked past Gianluigi Donnarumma. That canceled out Franck Kessie’s opener that had come in the 78th minute, a deflected effort that banged hard off the tucked arm of Lazio defender Wallace. The draw leaves Lazio in fourth, unable to extend their one-point above fifth-place Milan.

Empoli picked up a huge three points by downing 10-man Atalanta 3-2 with a goal from Matias Silvestre in the 92nd minute. The 34-year-old Argentinian headed in off a corner for a huge victory, moving Empoli out of the relegation zone and into 17th position with 12 points. Serbian midfielder Josip Ilicic had been stupidly sent off in the 84th minute, earning a yellow card for a tackle in transition, and then immediately sent off for dissent. That left Empoli to go for the win in the dying minutes with the game level at 2-2.

Parma moved into 6th in the table with a 2-1 victory over Sassuolo. All three goals were scored in the first half, with Parma going two-up on a 25th minute winner from 36-year-old Portuguese defender Bruno Alves, the first Parma goal for Alves who joined this summer on a free transfer from Rangers. It’s the fourth one-goal victory for Parma this season, jumping a point above Roma in the league table.

Elsewhere, Genoa and Sampdoria drew 1-1 after early goals from Krzystof Piatek and Fabio Quagliarella cancelled out. Fiorentina popped off 19 shots on a visit to Bologna, but only managed five of those on target as they drew 0-0.

Empoli fire Andreazzoli after one win in 11 matches

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EMPOLI, Italy — Relegation-threatened Empoli has fired Aurelio Andreazzoli after winning only one of 11 matches in Serie A.

Empoli made the announcement on its website late Monday, three days after being routed 5-1 by Napoli.

Empoli is reportedly in negotiations to hire former Palermo and Sassuolo coach Giuseppe Iachini as a replacement.

It’s the third coaching change in Serie A this season following moves at Chievo Verona and Genoa.

Andreazzoli was hired by Empoli in December and led the club to the Serie B title and direct promotion last season.

The Tuscan squad’s only win this season came in the opening round over Cagliari.

Andreazzoli was previously an assistant at Roma then coached the Giallorossi in a caretaker role in the second half of the 2012-13 season.

Sarri says he’s “hermetically-sealed” in his office each day

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When you consider all the work Maurizio Sarri puts into getting ready for a match, it makes a little more sense that the anxious magician winds up with odd habits like chewing on cigarettes during the game.

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The Chelsea boss, 59, gave an interview to Corriere dello Sport where he admits he spends 10 hours a day getting ready for matches, (perhaps) joking that he doesn’t allow himself to be disturbed.

It’s a habit that came later in his managerial career, and one he believed propelled him to the stage he now ascends each weekend at Stamford Bridge and around the Premier League and Europa League. From The London Evening Standard:

“I got a house… in Effingham, so they lock me up in my hermitic seal and if they knock, I don’t answer the door. I am immersed in my world.

“I achieved this almost at the age of 60. I don’t need to thank anyone other than those who cared for me, supported me and understood me, but not those who tried to exploit me. … I spent my time in Serie C, that’s a league that grinds you down and spits you out.”

Sarri had 16 (sixteen!) jobs before he got a chance at even the Serie B level in Italy, but has now led Empoli to Serie A promotion and safety before guiding Napoli to wins in nearly two-thirds of their matches.

He’s only unbeaten at Chelsea, which seems an impossible standard to keep up.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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