Krzysztof Piatek

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Serie A: Piatek scores again as AC Milan win 2-1 at Chievo

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan ensured it will go into next weekend’s derby match ahead of Inter Milan after beating Chievo Verona 2-1 in Serie A on Saturday.

Krzysztof Piatek scored what was to prove the winner. His 19th league goal moved him level at the top of the goalscoring chart with Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella.

Milan consolidated third place, four points ahead of Inter, which hosts Spal on Sunday. The top four from Serie A qualify for the Champions League next season.

The only negative note for Milan was coach Gennaro Gattuso was sent to the stands in the first half for dissent and risks being suspended for the derby on March 17.

A decision will be announced on Tuesday and will depend on what is written about the incident in the referee’s report.

“The coach didn’t want to talk precisely because of his sending off,” said assistant coach Luigi Riccio, who stood in for Gattuso in the post-match news conference. “I just want to say that they have already clarified everything, they talked, and these are things that happen on the pitch.”

Lucas Biglia, back from a lengthy injury layoff, marked his first start since October by curling a magnificent free kick into the top left corner in the first half.

However, Chievo leveled four minutes from halftime when Mehdi Leris curled in a cross from the right for Perparim Hetemaj to head in at the far post.

It was only the third league goal Milan has conceded in 2019.

Piatek has scored seven goals for Milan since his move from Genoa, and the eighth arrived in the 57th following a chaotic and somewhat controversial move.

Piatek attempted an overhead kick after his initial effort was saved by Stefano Sorrentino but ended up kicking a Chievo player instead. The move continued and Samu Castillejo headed the ball back into the area for Piatek to volley home.

The Chievo players protested but the goal was allowed to stand after a check with the video assistant referee.

“I don’t want excuses but in the last six matches all the VAR decisions have gone against us,” Chievo coach Domenico Di Carlo said. “Piatek’s move on (Fabio) Depaoli wasn’t football, it’s kung fu … you can write the headline: `Chievo beaten by a kung fu kick.'”

Chievo remained bottom of the table, 12 points from safety.

Serie A: Milan tops Atalanta in massive win, Cagliari grabs 3 points

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AC Milan has scored one of the most important results of the Serie A season in what has turned out to be a vicious battle for the final Champions League places, coming from behind to beat Atalanta 3-1 on a brace from new signing Krzysztof Piatek. The win gave Milan a four-point gap between themselves and fifth-placed Atalanta, with Roma and Lazio all right there in the chase as well.

Both teams struggled to find good chances through the first 45 minutes, as the only two shots on target of the first half resulted in goals. Atalanta struck first through Remo Freuler, although Gianluigi Donnarumma will want it back. Just past the half-hour mark, great work from Josip Ilicic on the right-hand edge of the box led to a cutback where Freuler was waiting in acres of space, but his shot was right at Donnarumma. Unfortunately for the visitors, he was unable to stop the shot completely, and it trickled away to his right and over the line.

Milan was able to change the halftime feel of the game right on the stroke of the break as Piatek scored his 16th goal of the season and third for Milan since joining in the winter by somehow managing to touch Ricardo Rodriguez’s cross into the far corner despite his back to the target, contorting his body so that his leg whip redirected it inside the far post.

The visitors took the lead just after the break, a meaningful strike in more ways than one as Hakan Calhanoglu bagged his first goal of the season to a thunderous response from the Milan bench. His low strike from the top-left corner of the penalty area found the far post past a diving Etrit Berisha. Less than a week ago, Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso had called Calhanoglu out for poor play, saying “I expect more” from the Turkish winger. The goal is his first in league play since he ended last season with a run of three goals in the final four games of the campaign.

Piatek made it 3-1 just minutes after by heading in a Calhanoglu corner, and that was the ballgame wrapped up. Milan won its second in a row and fourth in its last six league matches. With just one league loss since the November international break, Milan has strengthened its Champions League hopes, just a point back of third-placed Inter who is set to host Sampdoria tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Cagliari also came from behind, beating Parma 2-1 on a brace from Leonardo Pavoletti despite falling behind before halftime.

The visitors at Sardegna Arena went in front in the 40th minute on an absolutely stunning header from Juraj Kucka, redirecting a free-kick from a great distance out, looping his header up and over Cagliari goalkeeper  Alessio Cragno, clipping the underside of the bar and deflecting into the net.

Cagliari stormed back and Pavoletti struck for the first time just past the hour mark, touching home on a set-piece development after Luca Cigarini’s looped free-kick found Luca Ceppitelli’s head, touching the ball across the face of goal right to the doorstep where Pavoletti was streaking in.

The hosts owned both the bulk of possession and the advantage in the shot count, finishing with 16 to Parma’s nine, but they struggled to get them on target. Finally, in the 85th minute, Pavoletti won it as Nicolo Barella produced a wonderful cutback delivery from the left touchline and his looping cross found the 30-year-old’s head leaving Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe no chance.

The win pushes Cagliari to 14th in the table, six points above the relegation zone and just one point below their opponents.

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

Chelsea’s Sarri: Higuain move soon, Hazard ‘has to do more’

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Maurizio Sarri is excited to be reunited with Gonzalo Higuain, pending a couple of passed physicals.

The Chelsea manager admitted that his former Napoli star striker is all but a member of the Blues, with Higuain in London for a medical with the Stamford Bridge outfit. Chelsea will take over Higuain’s loan from Juventus and would have an option to buy the player in the summer.

[ MORE: Freiburg’s Stanko to Cincinnati ]

AC Milan will replace Higuain with Krzysztof Piatek of Genoa, the latter undergoing a physical of his own.

Both have been playing regularly and passed summer medicals for their current clubs.

Sarri is not worried about Higuain’s relatively dry patch in the goal department, citing his prolific career record which includes 23 goals for Juventus last season.

“This season he had some troubles but I think that’s part of every player’s career, you have your down moments,” Sarri said. “We hope we can regenerate him quickly so he can pay us back with his goals. It’s very difficult in January to find one of the most important strikers in the world. So I think the club is working very well because it’s not easy to get a new striker.”

Higuain has eight goals this season, breaking a long run without scoring on Dec. 29 with a finish against SPAL.

As for the man who could set up Higuain to feast, Sarri praised Chelsea’s gamebreaking Eden Hazard but admitted there are issues with the often unsettled megastar.

“I think that he said that coaches told him that he needed to do more. I think he has to do more because the potential is higher than the performances I think. So he has to respect first of all himself, he has to do more.

“I don’t know in this moment he is more an individual player than a leader. He’s very important for us because he’s a great player. He always can win the match in two minutes. Sometimes in one minute. But at the moment he is not a leader.”

It’s hard to lead when you’re unwilling to commit your future to a club. Hot take: It would make a lot of sense for Chelsea for find a way to move Hazard now. His value is going to go down in the summer, and January has a premium on players. Find a player who can function in Sarri’s system, let Callum Hudson-Odoi get a bit more time, and move on from the Belgian.

As good as Hazard is — and he’s one of the best talents in the world — he is also a common thread across teams that have performed and under-performed under three managers. The four players who’ve spent time under Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, and Sarri are Hazard, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, Willian, and David Luiz. Cahill and Azpilicueta are amongst Chelsea’s captains, while Luiz spent two years at Paris-Saint Germain during that span.

Ronaldo may be tiring as Juve go on record march

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Cristiano Ronaldo is helping Juventus break records but it could be taking a toll on the Portugal star.

Ronaldo has started all but one of Juve’s 23 games this season, having missed only the first Champions League match against Young Boys through suspension following his first-ever red card in the competition.

The 33-year-old forward has scored 12 goals since leaving Real Madrid in the offseason, despite being the subject of a rape allegation in the United States.

Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada in September claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. The Juve player has denied any wrongdoing.

[ MORE: Atlanta hires De Boer ]

Ronaldo’s form in front of goal has dipped in recent games, failing to score in open play in four matches although he did convert a penalty in the Turin derby on Dec. 15.

He went close on several occasions in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Roma and was denied by goalkeeper Robin Olsen. Ronaldo also produced some trademark fancy footwork to set up a goal for Douglas Costa that was ruled out following a video review.

However, the Portugal great looked tired at times and Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri has said he will give the five-time World Player of the Year a rest by sitting out one of the upcoming matches before the winter break, against Atalanta or Sampdoria.

Juve can afford to sideline him after the victory over Roma clinched the unofficial winter title with two matches to go before the halfway point of the season is reached.

Allegri’s side, seemingly unstoppable as it seeks an eighth successive Serie A title, has an eight-point lead over second-placed Napoli and a 16-point advantage over Inter Milan in third.

Juve has won 16 of 17 league matches, dropping points only in a surprise draw against Genoa.

The club’s haul of 49 points has broken its own Italian record and set a record for the top five leagues in Europe.

Still, Juve appears not to have hit top gear. It is traditionally stronger in the second half of the season and appeared to be conserving energy in its past three matches, winning each 1-0.

MISFIRING FORWARDS

Napoli’s top strikers have been misfiring.

Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens have seven Serie A goals apiece this season but neither has scored in five league matches since a 5-1 win over Empoli on Nov. 2.

Both hit the woodwork in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Spal when defender Raul Albiol was on target.

Another Napoli forward, Jose Callejon, has failed to score this season in 20 matches in all competitions.

Mertens was the club’s top marksman last term with 18 league goals.

PIATEK POWER

Genoa forward Krzysztof Piatek has regained his scoring touch.

He netted nine goals in his opening seven league matches, plus four in his first game for the club in the Italian Cup, but the Poland international then failed to hit the target in five games before breaking his drought last month.

Piatek struck again in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Atalanta to take his tally to six in as many matches in all competitions. However, he was dismayed that another effort was given as a Rafael Toloi own goal.

“I am very happy with the great Genoa victory,” he wrote on Instagram. “But I celebrated less because as soon I got to the locker room I heard the news that my first goal was an own goal. I feel that it is in every respect a double and that Serie A should go back on its decision.”

Piatek tops the scoring charts with 13 league goals, two more than Ronaldo. No player in Europe’s top leagues has netted more domestically.

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