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Inter ‘ultras’ leader arrested for death of fan in clashes

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MILAN (AP) Police have arrested a leader of Inter Milan’s hardcore “ultras” fan group following the death of a supporter during clashes with visiting Napoli fans last week.

The ANSA news agency reports that Marco Piovella, the arrested fan, is being charged with homicide.

[ RECAP: Newcastle 0-2 Man Utd ]

Investigators believe that Daniele Belardinelli, the 35-year-old fan who died, may have been fatally struck by a van or SUV during the clashes outside the San Siro stadium.

Investigators believe that the Inter fans instigated the clashes with a pre-planned assault on a large group of Napoli’s hardcore ultras, who avoided police detection by arriving in mini-vans.

At least four Napoli fans were injured in the clashes – where bars, knives and other weapons were reportedly used – and three Inter supporters were previously arrested.

The Dec. 26 match was also marred by racist chants aimed at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

Inter has been ordered to play its next two home matches in an empty stadium, plus a third home game with a partial closure of the San Siro.

Inter fans were also barred from traveling to a match at Empoli last Saturday.

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

Leader of Inter Milan ultras arrested for death of fan in clashes

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MILAN (AP) Police have arrested a leader of Inter Milan’s hardcore “ultras” fan group following the death of a supporter during clashes with visiting Napoli fans last week.

The ANSA news agency reports that Marco Piovella, the arrested fan, is being charged with homicide.

Investigators believe that Daniele Belardinelli, the 35-year-old fan who died, may have been fatally struck by a van or SUV during the clashes outside the San Siro stadium.

Investigators believe that the Inter fans instigated the clashes with a pre-planned assault on a large group of Napoli’s hardcore ultras, who avoided police detection by arriving in mini-vans.

At least four Napoli fans were injured in the clashes – where bars, knives and other weapons were reportedly used – and three Inter supporters were previously arrested.

The Dec. 26 match was also marred by racist chants aimed at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

Inter has been ordered to play its next two home matches in an empty stadium, plus a third home game with a partial closure of the San Siro.

Inter fans were also barred from traveling to a match at Empoli last Saturday.

Serie A: Ronaldo scores twice as VAR helps Juventus

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ROME (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as runaway leader Juventus escaped with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria in Serie A on Saturday with help from the VAR.

Ronaldo’s second goal, a penalty, was awarded by the VAR for a questionable handball. Then Sampdoria had a stoppage-time goal chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee.

Sampdoria thought it had become the first visiting Serie A club to score more than one goal at the Allianz Stadium in more than a year when Riccardo Saponara’s shot went in off the underside of the crossbar, but replays showed the play was offside.

“I like (the VAR) a lot because it reduces the number of mistakes,” Ronaldo said. “It’s not easy for the match officials to analyze everything that goes on. We just have to let them get on with their jobs.”

Ronaldo had put Juventus ahead two minutes in with a bouncing shot and Fabio Quagliarella equalized with a penalty before the break to become the first player to score in nine consecutive Serie A matches since David Trezeguet accomplished the feat with Juventus in 2005.

Ronaldo’s decisive penalty came in the 65th after the VAR decided that Alex Ferrari had used his arm, even though it appeared as if the defender kept his arm next to his body and didn’t move it toward the ball.

The double gave Ronaldo 14 goals in 19 matches this season to move one ahead of Genoa’s Krzysztof Piatek atop the league scoring chart.

Aiming for a record-extending eighth straight league title, Juventus set a record of 53 points at the season’s halfway mark with 17 wins, two draws and no defeats. The Bianconeri remained nine points ahead of second-placed Napoli, which beat Bologna 3-2, and 14 points ahead of third-placed Inter Milan, which won 1-0 at Empoli.

“The first half of the season has gone really well,” Ronaldo said. “We’ve won nearly all our games and we’re a solid side but there’s still a long way to go. We must stay focused and keep working away if we want to achieve great things.”

Napoli fans and players showed their support for defender Kalidou Koulibaly during the win over Bologna after the Senegal international was subjected to racist chants this week.

With Koulibaly suspended, Napoli fullback Faouzi Ghoulam warmed up wearing the Senegal international’s No. 26 shirt.

Fans held up photos of Koulibaly and anti-racism banners with the hashtag label (hash)SiamotuttiKalidou, which translates as “We’re all Kalidou.”

Koulibaly had monkey noises directed at him throughout a match against Inter Milan on Wednesday at the San Siro Stadium.

Against Bologna, Dries Mertens scored the winner two minutes from time with a shot from beyond the area after the hosts had twice given up the lead.

Arkadiusz Milik scored twice for Napoli but Federico Santander replied to his first and Danilo equalized after his second.

The victory meant Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti got the better of Bologna counterpart Filippo Inzaghi, his former striker at AC Milan.

Nainggolan suspended by Inter Milan for ‘disciplinary reasons’

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan has banned midfielder Radja Nainggolan “for disciplinary reasons.”

In a brief statement on Sunday, Inter says it “can confirm Nainggolan has been temporarily suspended from football activity.”

The club has not disclosed precise reasons, or the length of the ban, but according to Italian media reports he turned up late for training on Sunday morning, and had also done so several times last week.

Nainggolan was fined and dropped from his previous club Roma’s squad for a match in January after a series of drunken, live Instagram postings on New Year’s Eve.

The 30-year-old Belgian joined Inter in the offseason in a deal which valued him at 38 million euros ($44.3 million).

Nainggolan has struggled with an ankle injury this month but played more than an hour of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Chievo Verona.

The suspension means he will miss Wednesday’s showdown against Napoli. Inter is third in Serie A, eight points behind Napoli and 16 adrift of leader Juventus.

Serie A: Juve make it 8 straight; Napoli squeeze by SPAL

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 18? ]

Juventus 1-0 Roma

Juve eked out a 1-0 victory over Roma on Saturday, guaranteeing themselves the top-of-the-table place when Serie A hits its annual winter break next week.

Mario Mandzukic scored the game’s only goal in the 35th minute, getting on the end of a floated cross to the back post from Mattia De Sciglio. Juve’s march toward an eighth straight scudetto shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down, as they’re already out to an eight-point lead with 21 games still to play.

Napoli 1-0 SPAL

If Juve were to slip up in the most unexpected of ways, the opportunity to usurp Massimiliano Allegri’s side would fall to Carlo Ancelotti and Napoli.

Like Juve, they were victorious by a 1-0 final score on Saturday, thanks to Raul Albiol’s 46th-minute header. Dries Mertens whipped in the tantalizing corner kick to the near post and Albiol beat a pair of SPAL defenders either side of him to glance his header just inside the far post. As things stand — and have stood for four weeks now, with Juve and Napoli each winning — the gap is eight points.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Chievo 1-1 Inter Milan
Lazio 3-1 Cagliari
AC Milan 0-1 Fiorentina
Empoli 2-4 Sampdoria
Sassuolo 1-1 Torino
Genoa 3-1 Atalanta
Parma 0-0 Bologna
Udinese 1-1 Frosinone