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Serie A Roundup: Roma, Napoli, Lazio all win

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Edin Dzeko‘s last-gasp winner for AS Roma headlines a busy day in Serie A action on Sunday.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Bologna 1-2 Roma

Roma kept its unbeaten start to the 2019-2020 Serie A season thanks to a 94th-minute Edin Dzeko winner. The American-owned club first took the lead in the 49th minute through another former Premier League player, Aleksandar Kolarov. The Serbian delightfully placed a free kick at the top of the box over the wall and into the top corner.

However, Bologna quickly capitalized after Kolarov bundled over Roberto Soriano in the box, leading to a penalty kick call that VAR confirmed. Nicola Sansone waited for Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez to move and then slotted the ball into the right corner to tie the match.

Roma went down to ten men in the 85th minute when new signing Gianluca Mancini, a centerback, picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Felipe Santander as he was about to run into the box. And yet, even though Roma was on the ropes, Dzeko popped up in a pocket of space at the top of the six-yard box and powered home a header just before the final whistle to win the game. With the win, Roma jumps into the top four with eight points from four games.

Lecce 1-4 Napoli

Don’t tell Fernando Llorente that his best days are behind him.

Having left Tottenham in search of more first team minutes, Llorente just scored for the second-game straight as he bagged a brace in Napoli’s rout on the road over Lecce. At 34-years old, the crafty veteran may be the perfect age for star striker in Italy, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella (26 goals last year at age 36) all at a similar age.

Llorente took advantage of his experience in the 28th minute, latching onto a blocked shot from Arkadiusz Milik that dribbled into the middle of the box, leaving Llorente for an easy finish past Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel.

VAR gave Napoli a controversial penalty kick in the 35th minute off a handball from Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the box. Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to take the penalty kick and his spot kick was saved expertly by Gabriel. However, the referee awarded a do-over after seeing Gabriel was a step off his line before the ball was kicked. Insigne didn’t miss on the second attempt, putting Napoli up 2-0.

Fabian Ruiz in the second half curled home an absolute beauty to put Napoli up 3-0. Lecce cut the decide by one with a penalty kick goal, but Llorente gave Napoli their three-goal lead again with another one-on-one finish from close.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 3-0 SPAL

Sampdoria 1-0 Torino

Atalanta 2-2 Fiorentina

Lazio 2-0 Parma

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

Man Utd: Smalling, Darmian seal Serie A moves

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Manchester United is waving goodbye to a pair of defenders, and only may eventually come back to Old Trafford.

Chris Smalling is off to AS Roma on loan, while Matteo Darmian will join Parma for an underwhelming $1.7 million (according to Sky Sports).

[ MORE: UEL group stage draw ]

Those Man Utd salaries have made from less than ideal transfer situations for the Red Devils. While Romelu Lukaku did fetch $90 million from Inter Milan, Alexis Sanchez joined the same Serie A side for an alarmingly low loan fee (reportedly).

Here’s Solskjaer on Smalling’s move to a fellow Europa League side. From ManUtd.com:

“At the moment we’ve got six center backs and it’s just something that popped up in the last couple of days. Chris fancied the chance to go over there; it’s a new experience, new adventure. He’ll come back better for it because it’s a big club, it’s a good league. There aren’t too many English players who have been playing in Italy so I think he’ll enjoy it.”

Whether United is able to bring in some free agent or budget savvy moves like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s pretty clear that chairman Ed Woodward (and maybe Solskjaer) believes the club is not ready for a Top Four challenge but has the strength to compete for continued UEL berths via blooding plenty of young depth.

Serie A: Milan stunned; Roma draw in six-goal thriller (video)

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight.

Roma 3-3 Genoa

There were plenty of promising talking points in Roma’s season opening six-goal thriller against Genoa, but their draw certainly overwrote almost everything with red ink.

Edin Dzeko was one of the few highlights that remained in the clear. The 33-year-old – five seasons into his Roma spell -scored and assisted for I Giallorossi. Recent arrival, Davide Zappacosta, made his debut in the 78th minute.

Genoa, not necessarily impressive throughout the match, figured out a way to crack Roma’s defense. When they conceded, they’d respond. Stadio Olimpico saw six lead changes, with Christian Kouame’s diving header in the 70th minute splitting the points.

For a Roma that missed out on qualifying for the Champions League last season, the result is a low-blow right off the bat. For Genoa, who remained in Serie A by a miraculous goal, a six-goal thriller in Roma is music to their ears.

Udinese 1-0 AC Milan

Another Italian giant had a slow, first day at the office.

AC Milan, boasting a plethora of firepower, were outclassed by a well-prepared and structured Udinese.

Rodrigo Becão’s debut goal was the only difference between both sides. Milan, who are already three points behind favorites such as Juventus and Napoli, have plenty of questions to answer. The reported possible arrival of Angel Correa may certainly help on the attacking side of things, but Marco Giampaolo still has plenty of work laid out in front of him.

Banned from Europa League for overspending by Financial Play Fair Rules, Milan are expected to fully focus on the Serie A campaign, which they have yet to win since the 2010/11 campaign.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sampdoria 0-3 Lazio 

Cagliari 0-1 Brescia

Verona 1-1 Bologna 

SPAL 2-3 Atalanta 

Torino 2-1 Sassuolo 

Napoli, loading up to dethrone Juve, sign defensive rock Manolas

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Napoli have seen enough of Juventus waltzing their way to Serie A title after Serie A title — eight straight of them, to be specific — and Carlo Ancelotti’s side appear hellbent on doing everything in their power to end their nearly decade-long reign.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

On Saturday, Napoli, who have finished second behind Juve three of the last four seasons, announced their $41-million signing of Roma defender Kostas Manolas, one of the Italian league’s most consistent performers the last few seasons. Not only is Napoli’s squad strengthened by the addition, but Roma’s squad is weakened by the subtraction.

Manolas, 28, made more than 200 appearances in five seasons at Roma.

Following the arrival of James Rodriguez last month, Napoli clearly believe they can close the gap, which finished at 11 points last season, on Juve and make a legitimate title challenge.

[ MORE: Matthijs de Ligt left off Ajax roster for start of preseason ]

The only problem is: while Napoli have made a large signal of intent by signing Manolas, Juve appear set to make a gigantic move for Matthijs de Ligt, one of the highest rated prospects to play the same position in quite some time.

It’ll be an uphill battle, as always, but Napoli aren’t shying away from the challenge.