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Some players taking advantage of new handball rules

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MILAN (AP) Some players appear to be taking advantage of newly implemented handball rules to deliberately win penalties.

The new rules state that it is automatically a penalty if the ball touches a player’s hand or arm when it is above their shoulder, regardless of intent.

That is how Roma forward Edin Dzeko won the first-half penalty in the Rome derby on Sunday.

Rather than shooting at goal, Dzeko appeared to see Sergej Milinkovic-Savic raise his arm and instead struck the extended limb to earn the spot kick which was then converted by Aleksandar Kolarov.

“We have to get used to this new rule,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi said. “I think it was looked for and it was found.

“We mustn’t keep our arms up because otherwise footballers with really good aim will look for the arm in the area and, as a consequence, with these rules, a penalty will be given.”

Luis Alberto equalized for Lazio after the break and the match ended 1-1.

The rules were supposed to provide greater clarity for those playing or watching the game but they continue to cause controversy.

Last week, Fiorentina was awarded an early penalty when the ball was deflected by a knee on to the underside of Piotr Zielinski’s arm, which was slightly raised.

However, Napoli went on to win 4-3.

DEFENSIVE FRAILTIES

Juventus has had the best defense in Serie A in each of the past eight seasons.

Its famed BBC defense of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini have helped it win the title in each of those years.

Despite the retirement of Barzagli, Juventus was expected to remain solid at the back especially after it made Matthijs de Ligt the most expensive defender in Serie A history when signing him from Ajax for 75 million euro ($85 million) last month.

But the Bianconeri were hit by a blow when Chiellini tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in training on Friday, ruling the Juventus and Italy captain out for about five months.

De Ligt was handed his debut in Saturday’s match against title rival Napoli and was at fault for two of the goals as Napoli fought back from three goals down to level before Juventus won 4-3 thanks to a stoppage-time own goal.

“He comes from a team that defended differently, in a league that is not the Italian one,” Juventus assistant coach Giovanni Martusciello said. “He also played well for an hour, then his condition was lacking a bit. But he is a player of the highest level.”

WATCHING BALOTELLI

Mario Balotelli was at San Siro on Saturday to see his new club take on his old as Brescia lost 1-0 at AC Milan.

Balotelli joined newly promoted Brescia after his deal with Marseille expired, returning to Serie A with his hometown club after an absence of three years.

The forward has to wait to make his debut as he serves a four-match ban following a straight red card in his final game for Marseille against Montpellier in May.

“He’s working really hard, he’s done double training sessions three times,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “He’s here with the right mentality, we’re counting a lot on him.”

Balotelli’s last spell in Italy was a miserable one as he struggled with injury and scored only once in a season-long loan at AC Milan before returning to Liverpool in 2016 and moving immediately to France, resurrecting his career first with Nice and then at Marseille.

That was Balotelli’s second spell at Milan, the team he supported as a child.

Balotelli’s first appearance for Brescia will likely be the home match against eight-time defending champion Juventus on Sept. 25.

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

Transfer rumors: Oyarzabal to Man City; Milinkovic-Savic to Man United

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The transfer window is in full swing as reports and rumors are in overdrive between now and Aug. 8 when the window shuts for the start of the 2019-20 season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the Premier League…


Man City don’t want to sell Leroy Sane this summer, but Pep Guardiola has admitted that the player will decide the outcome as Bayern Munich continue to lurk and grow in confidence of signing the German winger.

But the reigning Premier League champions have a plan in place to replace Sane. Step forward, Mikel Oyarzabal.

The Real Sociedad star, 22, has a release clause of $83.5 million and according to a report in Spain from AS, City will activate that in order for the Spanish U21 international to replace Sane.

Oyarzabal starred for Spain in their U21 European Championship success this summer and with Sane said to be valued at around $93 million, City would replace one hugely-talented, and young, winger with another. Oyarzabal has been a rising star at the Basque club and he’s scored 14 goals in each of the past two seasons, with four La Liga campaigns now under his belt.

City don’t want Sane to leave but if he does, they kinda have this transfer market thing figured out, right?


A report from the Daily Mail claims that Manchester United have agreed a deal for Serbia and Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, but the move will only go through if Paul Pogba leaves for Real Madrid this summer.

The central midfielder, 24, has been linked with Europe’s top clubs time and time again over the past few seasons but after bursting onto the scene in Serie A in 2016, his stock has fallen a little after some inconsistency and a less than impressive 2018 World Cup. But in the 2018-19 campaign he rebounded to lead Lazio to the Italian Cup and he was also named the best midfielder in Italy’s top-flight.

A powerful, attack-minded central midfielder, Milinkovic-Savic would be a perfect like-for-like replacement for Pogba if he was to leave United. It is believed Lazio also want over $100 million for their Serbian star, which is $50 million less than what United want from Real for Pogba.

If this does happens, maybe Ed Woodward is showing the first signs that he is indeed a genius in the transfer market after all…

On a serious note, the jury is still out on Milinkovic-Savic at the highest level and his defensive capabilities are a little concerning and may be similar to the issues United have had with Pogba in recent seasons. The fact he is called the Serbian Pogba says it all, as his talent is undoubted and United would need him to become more of an all-round midfielder.

Fun fact: Milinkovic-Savic’s brother, Vanja, was a United goalkeeper from 2014-16 but left them after failing to gain a work permit in the UK.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man Utd eye Lazio star, PL clubs duel for Joelinton

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Rampant links with transfer targets happen every summer at Manchester United, especially when a manager is involved with his first transfer window.

Throw in the Red Devils recent spells outside the UEFA Champions League, and there are plenty of wrinkles this go-round.

[ MORE: Latest on USMNT’s Cameron ]

For great players on middling clubs like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, however, Europa League football is a step up considering Lazio’s underwhelming 2018-19 season.

Lazio slapped a nine-figure price tag on the exceptional 24-year-old center midfielder; Milinkovic-Savic was the club’s top performer last season, and chipped in offensively with five goals and three assists.

That was a far cry from his 12-goal 2017-18 season, but he’s only gotten better in his defensive contributions. Sky Sports says the player likes the idea of moving to United, but would also be happy to spend another season in Rome.

Hoffenheim’s big, young Brazilian striker Joelinton is looking to take the next step in his career, with both Wolves and Newcastle interested in the 22-year-old.

Joelinton scored seven times with seven assists in his return to the Bundesliga, which came after two loan stints with Rapid Vienna. He posted a combined 15 goals and six assists in league matches with the Austrian powers.

Newcastle is in dire need of a center forward, with Salomon Rondon reportedly on the verge of a move from West Bromwich Albion to Dalian Yifang in China.

Wolves would add a target forward with playmaking abilities much like Raul Jimenez, who is 28 and will need relief with the West Midlands club eyeing up a Europa League campaign.

Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

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ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

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

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.

[ MORE: Derby County reaches playoff final ]

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.