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Serie A: Bonucci scores on return to Juve; Napoli drop points

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MILAN (AP) Leonardo Bonucci’s goal on his return to former team Juventus ultimately counted for nothing as the Bianconeri beat AC Milan 3-1 to move four points clear in Serie A on Saturday.

Bonucci cancelled out Paulo Dybala’s opener in the first half and Hakan Calhanoglu rattled the crossbar as Milan surprisingly outplayed the six-time defending champion.

But Juan Cuadrado and Sami Khedira struck late for Juventus.

Second-placed Napoli slipped further behind after drawing at Sassuolo 1-1.

All 10 matches were played on Saturday because of Easter.

Juventus got off to the perfect start when Dybala fired it in front with a powerful shot from outside the area in the eighth minute.

But Milan is much improved under Gennaro Gattuso and the players didn’t let their heads go down.

Andre Silva headed wide from six yards and Milan leveled in the 28th minute when Bonucci got between his former teammates Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini to head in.

It was Bonucci’s first match at Juventus since his surprise exit in July after seven years at the club, and his every touch was met by jeers and insults. The Italy defender celebrated with a wash-your-mouth action.

It was the first league goal Juventus conceded this year.

Milan almost took the lead 10 minutes after the break as Calhanoglu’s effort crashed off the crossbar and Gianluigi Buffon turned Suso’s follow-up round the post.

Cuadrado was brought on for his first appearance of 2018 on the hour and he marked his return from injury with a goal 19 minutes later, heading in Khedira’s cross.

Khedira got on the scoresheet himself three minutes from time following a low cross from Dybala.

Matteo Politano almost joined Napoli in January. He could have just cost the southern-based club the Serie A title.

Napoli was desperate to sign Politano in the January transfer window but failed to get the paperwork completed in time.

He showed Napoli what it missed when he volleyed in a rebound in the 22nd minute after Federico Peluso headed Stefano Sensi’s free kick off the right post.

Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli kept Napoli at bay with a couple of saves from point-blank range but the visitors leveled 10 minutes from time when Jose Callejon turned in Mario Rui’s low cross to the back post.

Napoli threw everyone forward and substitute Arkadiusz Milik hit the crossbar with an overhead kick.

The race to be Serie A top goalscorer is heating up with leading candidates Ciro Immobile and Mauro Icardi both scoring twice.

Icardi’s goals helped Inter Milan reaffirm its return to form with a 3-0 win over Hellas Verona, while Immobile helped Lazio beat 10-man Benevento 6-2.

Immobile leads with 26 goals, two more than Icardi.

Icardi scored four in Inter’s 5-0 win at Sampdoria before the international break and he resumed where he left off, firing his side in front after just 38 seconds and doubling his tally early in the second half.

Ivan Perisic set up both of Icardi’s goals and scored Inter’s second.

Verona goalkeeper Nicolas was sent off in the final minute for bringing down Eder.

Inter, which faces AC Milan in the derby on Wednesday, remained in fourth spot. It leads Lazio by one point after the capital side survived a scare when bottom side Benevento took a 2-1 lead in the second half despite playing from the seventh minute with 10 men after goalkeeper Christian Puggioni was sent off for handling the ball outside his area.

Last year’s top goalscorer, Edin Dzeko, came off the bench to help Roma draw at Bologna 1-1.

Midfielder Radja Nainggolan limped off after just 16 minutes, and is a serious doubt to face Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Genoa missed a penalty but netted another in a controversial 1-1 draw against Spal, which moved two points above the relegation zone after 10-man Crotone lost at Fiorentina 2-0.

Chievo Verona moved four points clear after beating Sampdoria 2-1.

Torino won at Cagliari 4-0, and Atalanta beat Udinese 2-0.

Donnarumma in tears after Milan fans jeer him

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MILAN (AP) A visibly shaken Gianluigi Donnarumma was comforted by AC Milan teammate Leonardo Bonucci as insults poured down on the teenage goalkeeper from the fans. And that was only the warmup.

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Donnarumma has swiftly gone from being one of Milan’s most adored players to its most hated.

After a protracted saga appeared to be settled in the offseason by Donnarumma signing a contract until 2021, speculation over his future has started again and supporters have had enough.

Despite the new deal being worth 6 million euros ($7 million) a year and including the signing of his older brother as Milan’s third-choice goalkeeper, Donnarumma and his agent, Mino Raiola, are reportedly looking to annul the contract because he felt pressure to agree to it.

Before Wednesday’s Italian Cup victory over Hellas Verona, fans unveiled a giant banner saying: “Moral abuse, 6 million a year and the signing of a parasite brother? Now go, our patience is finished.”

There were jeers ahead of the kick-off when the 18-year-old Donnarumma’s name was read out, and shouts for him to leave. He was in tears as he was comforted by Bonucci.

Donnarumma had to play the first half below the giant banner and his every touch was greeted with boos.

“Of course he’s upset, he’s only 18,” Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso said before his team plays Hellas Verona again in Serie A on Sunday. “For the age that he is, there’s no doubt that he will become the best goalkeeper in the world, but he’s not calm and it can’t be easy to go out on the pitch and be criticized by your own fans. I can only say that while he is with me he will always have my total protection.

“They’re turning a lad of 18 into a monster. And he doesn’t deserve it, he has incredible values. Luckily this was a match where there weren’t many people (about 9,000). Imagine how difficult it would have been with 50-60,000.”

It’s not the first time Donnarumma has faced insults from the stands. He had fake money thrown at him during Italy’s Under-21 European Championship opener against Denmark in June after it was announced he would not be renewing his contract, while a banner emblazoned with “Dollarumma” was also displayed.

“We understand the fans but I ask them to boo our opponents and not our players,” Milan sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli said. “Gigio is a young lad and he’s not entirely at fault, he loves Milan and one day he will understand what’s good and what’s bad.

“He needs to be supported and the club will do so because he is an asset. We know where the evil comes from and we hope to resolve this problem in the next few months.”

Mirabelli said Milan “has no intention of selling Donnarumma” and criticized Raiola.

“I don’t have any plans to meet with Raiola. I don’t have anything to say to him,” Mirabelli said. “There’s a man who is trying to damage our image but he is becoming more a showman than anything else. We laugh about it, but he won’t get away with it.

“Gigio has never said he wants to leave, otherwise he would never have signed through to 2021. There’s someone who is trying to organize something deliberately, but we will look out for Milan’s interests in every arena.”

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Donnarumma has been playing for Milan since October 2015, when he became the youngest goalkeeper to start a Serie A match, at the age of 16 years, 8 months, 6 days.

He has made four senior Italy appearances and is likely to take over as the No. 1 after Gianluigi Buffon retired from international duty following the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Italy’s once-vaunted ‘BBC’ defense is showing its age

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ROME (AP) With a combined age of 99, Italy’s once vaunted “BBC” defensive trio is showing its years.

The Azzurri will still rely on Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup playoff against Sweden next month but the signs in Serie A lately have not been encouraging.

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Bonucci’s red card with AC Milan over the weekend was the latest in a series of poor performances after his high-profile transfer from Juventus made him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Chiellini and Barzagli were beaten for goals twice by Ciro Immobile in Juventus’ 2-1 home loss to Lazio less than 10 days ago, and Chiellini was again off form in the Bianconeri’s 6-2 victory over Udinese on Sunday.

Chiellini was fooled by Stipe Perica for Udinese’s first goal and then left Danilo unmarked to head in another as he appealed for an offside call that never came.

Bonucci is 30, Chiellini is 33 and Barzagli is 36.

While Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has shown interest in developing new talent, he has shown no indication that he plans to cast aside the “BBC” when it counts.

After all, Italy has historically been slow to incorporate younger players, especially defenders.

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That means the likes of Daniele Rugani (who plays for Juventus), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan) or Mattia Caldara (Atalanta) – who are all in their 20s – may have to wait for their chances with the Azzurri.

But Ventura would do well to remember how Marcello Lippi kept Fabio Cannavaro and other veterans in the lineup at the 2010 World Cup only to acknowledge after the first-round exit that he made a mistake and was overly influenced by the older players’ performance en route to the title four years earlier.

From Franco Baresi to Giuseppe Bergomi to Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Cannavaro and the “BBC,” strong center backs have been a source of uninterrupted pride for the Azzurri for decades.

Gianluigi Buffon in goal has also provided a security blanket for nearly 20 years but he, too, is approaching the end of his career and will likely retire after this season – or after his record sixth World Cup if Italy qualifies.

Italy’s hopes of avoiding the playoffs were dashed with a debilitating 3-0 loss in Spain last month that offered a first hint of defensive problems. The defeat ended Italy’s 11-year unbeaten run in qualifiers for World Cups and European Championships.

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The Azzurri attributed the loss to Spain on Sept. 2 to a lack of physical condition so early in the season.

Bonucci, it was figured, just needed some time to adapt to his new surroundings at Milan.

In July, Bonucci completed a surprise transfer from Juventus, where he clashed with coach Massimiliano Allegri last season and was memorably left in the tribune for a Champions League match at Porto.

The transfer fee topped 40 million euros (nearly $50 million) and Bonucci signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros (nearly $12 million) per season. He was also made captain before he ever wore a Milan shirt.

When Milan started to falter a month ago, physical trainer Emanuele Marra was fired – reportedly in large part because Bonucci demanded better fitness preparation.

But Bonucci was out run by Mauro Icardi on Inter Milan’s first goal when the striker scored a hat trick in a 3-2 derby win eight days ago. He was also to blame for the second, failing to mark Icardi in the area.

Things got even worse for Bonucci when he was sent off in the first half of Milan’s 0-0 draw at home with Genoa on Sunday for elbowing a defender in the head as he jostled for position on a free kick.

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Bonucci will likely be given a multiple-match ban, which would exclude him from facing Juventus next Sunday and could affect his form for the Nov. 10 and 13 playoffs.

“Leo is a champion,” Buffon said. “He’ll become decisive again. But it makes me feel calmer knowing that we won’t have to face him on Saturday.”

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

Serie A: 10-man Juve score 6; Bonucci sees red, Milan in free fall

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MILAN (AP) Leonardo Bonucci’s latest lapse in concentration may end up costing Vincenzo Montella his job at big-spending AC Milan.

Bonucci was sent off in the first half of Milan’s 0-0 draw at home with Genoa on Sunday for elbowing a defender in the head as he jostled for position on a free kick.

Juventus also had a player sent off early on, forward Mario Mandzukic, but bounced back to win 6-2 at Udinese and close the gap on leader Napoli to three points. Lazio can move level with third-place Juve with a win at home to Cagliari later Sunday.

Milan lost its three previous Serie A matches and was also held 0-0 at home with AEK in the Europa League on Thursday. Last weekend, the Rossoneri were beaten 3-2 by Inter Milan in the city derby after Bonucci was beaten by Mauro Icardi for Inter’s opener.

The Rossoneri’s last league win came more than a month ago and they have dropped to 11th spot.

“Unfortunately, everything that could have happened has,” Montella said. “But I feel supported by the club. … We deserved to win today, because we created chances even when we were a man down.”

Milan, which was bought by a Chinese-led consortium in April, spent nearly $250 million on new players in the offseason and Bonucci was the centerpiece of the overhaul.

The fee for Bonucci’s surprise move from Juventus topped $50 million, and he signed a five-year contract worth up to $12 million per season — making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

But Bonucci has been off form over the last month and now risks missing the game against Juventus next Sunday if he’s given a two-match ban.

Bonucci’s blow to Aleandro Rosi’s head in the 23rd minute left the Genoa player on the ground for several minutes before the blood was cleaned up and he continued playing.

The referee did not initially show Bonucci a red card. The decision came with the help of the video assistant referee (VAR) – marking the first time a red card was handed out by the VAR in Italy.

“I don’t think it was intentional foul play. He was positioning himself. Do you know how many goals I scored in situations like that?” said Montella, whose goals as a player helped Roma to the 2001 title.

“The VAR needs to be remodeled,” Montella added. “If Bonucci hadn’t injured his opponent I don’t think he would have been sent off.”

Sami Khedira netted the first hat trick of his career as 10-man Juventus ran riot in Udine, ending its two-match winless streak in style.

Juve was looking to take advantage of Saturday’s 0-0 draw between Napoli and Inter Milan, the top two sides in Serie A.

Khedira’s first of the match and an own-goal from Samir put Juve in front after Udinese had taken a shock lead early on through Stipe Perica.

But it looked bleak for Juventus when Mandzukic was booked for an argument with Udinese’s Ali Adnan and then turned around and appeared to swear at the referee. He was shown a second yellow card and sent off, leaving Juventus with 10 men for more than an hour.

Danilo leveled immediately after halftime but it was false hope for Udinese as Daniele Rugani restored Juve’s lead shortly afterward. Two more goals from Khedira and another from Miralem Pjanic completed the rout.

Aleksandar Kolarov followed up his midweek goal against Chelsea by scoring from a free kick in Roma’s 1-0 win at Torino.

The Serbian became the first player to score two goals from direct free kicks in Serie A this season, having also connected on his Roma debut in August against Atalanta.

Stretching back to last season, it was Roma’s 11th straight away win, matching the Serie A record.

Roberto Inglese bolstered his case for a January move to Serie A leader Napoli with a brace in the Verona derby, helping Chievo to a 3-2 win.

Napoli purchased Inglese’s rights in August but left the striker on loan at Chievo. It has expressed interest in moving up his arrival after Arkadiusz Milik’s long-term injury.

‘Nothing is impossible’: Bonucci brings hope to AC Milan

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MILAN (AP) Nothing is impossible. That’s AC Milan’s new unofficial slogan following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise transfer from defending six-time Serie A champion Juventus.

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Presenting fans to Bonucci via Weibo on Friday, Milan CEO Marco Fassone recounted how Italy’s top defender moved to a rival club.

“It started by chance and it seemed impossible but Leo interrupted me right away and said, `Nothing is impossible. When there’s desire to do things you can get them done.”‘

Milan has been on a spending spree following the club’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium for $800 million in April, and Bonucci is the top acquisition, so far.

“Leo doesn’t require introductions,” Fassone said. “It’s an extraordinary reinforcement for us. … He completes a mosaic sought after by (Milan chief sport officer Massimiliano) Mirabelli – a mix of younger players and experienced leaders who will make the road ahead easier.”

Other recent signings by Milan included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Bonucci thanked Kessie for letting him wear his preferred No. 19 shirt, and pointed to Milan’s seven European Cups and Champions League titles as a reference point for a club that did not even qualify for continental play the last three years and hasn’t won Serie A since 2011.

“Milan deserves to be among the elite again in Italy and Europe,” Bonucci said. “When you are united you win. The strength has to be that of the squad whereas singular players alone can do nothing. We can get back to the top and that’s what this club deserves.”

Bonucci’s transfer fee reportedly topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Meanwhile, Juventus is reportedly near to signing prized winger Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($45 million). The Gazzetta dello Sport reported Juventus will sign the 23-year-old Bernardeschi to five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.