Italian Cup

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Lazio controversially tops Atalanta to win seventh Coppa Italia

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The latest name to grace the Coppa Italia is Lazio.

Late goals from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Joaquin Correa lifted the Roman side to a 2-0 defeat of Atalanta in the Italian Cup Final.

It’s Lazio’s 7th Coppa Italia, tied for third with Inter Milan. Juventus won the previous four to give it 13 all-time, while Roma’s nine are good for second.

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Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini was furious with officials for not consulting VAR after ex-Middlesbrough defender Marten De Roon‘s shot hit the hand of Lazio defender Bastos in the box. From the BBC:

“Are we meant to only use VAR when it’s handy? It was a penalty and a red card,” Gasperini said. “This is a scandal. Tell me why it happened? Give me some justification.”

The match was a sub-story in some areas, as fans lit a police car on fire as part of several clashes with authorities.

Fiorentina coach Pioli steps down amid seven-game winless run

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli has stepped down amid a seven-match winless streak.

The club says assistant coach Giacomo Murelli was directing training on Tuesday, while no immediate replacement was named.

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Fiorentina has dropped out of contention for European competition and is down to 10th place in Serie A following a loss at home to relegation-threatened Frosinone on Sunday.

The club is anxious to straighten things out before facing Atalanta in the second leg of the Italian Cup semifinals on April 25. The first leg ended 3-3.

Pioli was hired in June 2017 and led Fiorentina to an eighth-place finish last season.

It’s the 12th coaching change in the Italian league this season.

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

Italian soccer federation signs deal with Chinese government

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ROME (AP) The Italian soccer federation has signed a wide-ranging memorandum with the Chinese government to promote soccer between the two countries.

The deal foresees playing the Italian Super Cup or Italian Cup in China within the next three years.

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The Italian Super Cup – which pits the Serie A champion against the Italian Cup champion – has already been played in China four times over the last 10 years.

The meeting with China Media Group head Shen Haixiong also focused on TV content and rights, collaboration over developing young Chinese players in Italy and instruction for using the video assistant referee.

Shen was in Rome for the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Italian federation president Gabriele Gravina says, “Soccer has shown once again to be a bridge between different cultures.”

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

Piatek scores 2 as Milan beats Napoli to reach semifinals

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MILAN (AP) Krzysztof Piatek was given a standing ovation when he went off the field on Tuesday after scoring two goals on his full AC Milan debut to send his new side into the Italian Cup semifinals.

Piatek, who joined Milan from Genoa last week for a reported 35 million euros, scored both goals inside 27 minutes to help Milan beat Napoli 2-0.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the PL on Tuesday? ]

The Poland forward had come off the bench against Napoli in the league this past weekend for the final 19 minutes of a 0-0 draw.

He was given his first Milan start at San Siro and it took him less than 11 minutes to open his Rossoneri account.

Nikola Maksimovic allowed a long ball from Diego Laxalt to bounce and Piatek ran into the area and drilled it into the bottom right corner.

Piatek’s second was even better as he controlled the ball on his chest, cut inside Kalidou Koulibaly and curled a shot between the defender and Maksimovic, into that same far bottom corner.

The 23-year-old Piatek is the cup’s top scorer, having netted four on his debut for Genoa against Lecce and another two against Virtus Entella, when his old side went out on penalties.

Piatek replaced Gonzalo Higuain and his threat in front of goal will give Milan hope that he can lead it into the Champions League. Milan currently occupies fourth place in Serie A, the final qualifying spot for Europe’s premier club competition, but has only one more point than Roma and two more than Sampdoria.

At the other end, Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made several crucial saves as the Rossoneri booked a semifinal spot against either city rival Inter Milan or Lazio, which face each other on Thursday.

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

Pjanic’s penalty seals Juve’s spot in Italian Cup final

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ROME (AP) Miralem Pjanic scored a controversial penalty as Juventus beat visiting Atalanta 1-0 Wednesday to reach the Italian Cup final.

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It appeared that Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi was only slightly touched from behind by Gianluca Mancini while attempting to meet a cross in the 74th.

But the referee’s decision was confirmed by the VAR and Pjanic converted into the center of the net as goalkeeper Etrit Berisha leaped to his right.

Juventus advanced 2-0 on aggregate following Gonzalo Higuain’s goal in the first leg.

Higuain sat out the second leg due to a minor injury.

In the May 9 final, Juventus will face either Lazio or AC Milan, who were playing later in Rome following a 0-0 first leg.

Juventus has won the Italian Cup a record 12 times, including the last three years.

After a first half in which Juventus seemed content to protect its first-leg advantage and Atalanta produced little, the match came to life midway through the second half when both sides hit the goalframe.

A long lob from Atalanta’s Alejandro “Papu” Gomez hit the post following a defensive error by Medhi Benatia.

Gomez then blasted another dangerous effort over the crossbar before Juve’s Douglas Costa curled a long shot off the bar just minutes later.

Juventus was also slated to host Atalanta in Serie A on Sunday but that match was snowed out and will be made up March 14.

Snow also fell during Wednesday’s game but it did not stick to the pitch.

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