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Arsenal, Aubameyang speak out on racism as Koulibaly video emerges

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Arsenal is condemning the culprits and investigating a video showing a fan shouting racist obscenities at star Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

“We utterly condemn use of this type of racist language,” Arsenal said in a statement. “We operate a zero-tolerance approach and anyone behaving like this is not welcome at Arsenal and will be banned from matches. We have an extremely diverse community of fans who are all part of the Arsenal family and such incidents are rare at the Emirates Stadium. We encourage supporters to report any incidents as they happen to stewards or via our matchday alert service.”

[ MORE: Liverpool in big money apparel switch? ]

The incident occurred in Arsenal’s 2-0 first leg defeat of Napoli in the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday, and comes on the heels of incidents involving big name clubs and players around Europe.

And increased reports and videos from around the grounds of England will appear like an open wound but are actually a sign of progress that fans and onlookers are no longer standing idly by and instead have found an avenue to expose such vile behavior.

After the match Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang admitted that racism in England has reared its head against him prior to Thursday. From Arsenal.com:

“I am really disappointed about that. I had the same problem here against Tottenham. When you are black like me it is really painful, I think, because we are in 2019 and obviously it is not good for football in England. Hopefully we will find a way to kick it out.”

Atleti takes 2-0 lead over Juve in Champions League (video)

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  • Morata sees goal disallowed via VAR
  • Gimenez, Godin score early
  • Atleti takes two goals away for 2nd leg

The defenders got it done, with a little help from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin scored second half goals, the latter putting his home after a Ronaldo deflection, as Atletico Madrid beat Juventus 2-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match on Wednesday at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atleti had an opening goal ruled out before Gimenez pushed home.

The second leg is March 12 in Turin.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

If you were betting on two defenses to conspire against the score line, this was it; Juve and Atleti allowed a combined 10 goals in 12 group stage matches.

Most of the prime chances resulted in user error, as typified by Diego Costa early in the second half. That said, Wojciech Szczesny made a finger tip save on Antonie Griezmann which was quite superb.

And when Atleti looked to have collected its lead through Alvaro Morata, the former Juve player saw his goal overturned through VAR.

Morata headed home, but the camera caught his shove on Giorgio Chiellini, initially unspotted by the referees.

Gimenez then made one count.

Morata won a header that hit Mario Mandzukic and fell into the path of Gimenez for a deserved goal.

Federico Bernardeschi had a solid bid to restore the deadlock, but Jan Oblak made a pretty save to keep it 1-0.

And Godin mopped up a shot that deflected off Ronaldo to double the hosts advantage after one leg.

Serie A: Higuain fires Juve past Milan; Roma outlast Bologna

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

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City’s historic start; Man United, Arsenal win ]

AC Milan 0-2 Juventus

Gonzalo Higuain bagged a brace on Saturday, as Juventus won their third straight game and continued to apply the pressure to Serie A leaders Napoli (Juve now sit top of the table on goal differential, with Napoli still to play this weekend). It’s been reported (by the press and the naked eye) that Higuain has slimmed down a bit after starting the season in relatively poor form and fitness.

Saturday’s opener came after 23 minutes, when the Argentine quickly touched the ball around one defender and fired low and hard from the top of the 18-yard box. It was Higuain’s 100th goal in Serie A (71 in three seasons for Napoli, 24 in his first season for Juventus, and his fifth thus far in 2017-18).

Higuain scored his sixth of the season to make it 2-0 just after the hour mark — another strike from distance.

AC Milan’s fourth defeat in six league games leaves them 12 points off the top spot, and already nine back of the fourth and final UEFA Champions League spot (having already played one more game than everyone else in the race).

Roma 1-0 Bologna

Roma, another of the half-dozen sides expected to factor into the top-four race, did just enough to top Bologna, courtesy of Stephan El Shaarawy’s 33rd-minute goal, the only one of the game.

Like Juve, it’s a third straight win for Eusebio Di Francesco’s side, which now sits fifth in the table, a point back of fourth-place Lazio and four back of Juve and Napoli.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Benevento vs. Lazio — 7:30 a.m. ET
Napoli vs. Sassuolo — 10 a.m. ET
Crotone vs. Fiorentina — 10 a.m. ET
Sampdoria vs. Chievo — 10 a.m. ET
SPAL vs. Genoa — 10 a.m. ET
Udinese vs. Atalanta — 10 a.m. ET
Torino vs. Cagliari — 3:45 p.m. ET

Roma pick Di Francesco to replace departed manager Spalletti

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ROME (AP) Former Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco has been named manager of Serie A runner-up Roma, marking a return to the club where he used to play as a midfielder.

[ MORE: Roma sign PSV’s Mexican defender Herrera for $7 million ]

Roma announced Tuesday that Di Francesco has signed a two-year contract to replace Luciano Spalletti, who left Roma to coach Inter Milan.

Di Francesco played for Roma for four seasons from 1997-2001, helping the Giallorossi win Serie A in 2001.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Monday | Sunday ]

Di Francesco coached Sassuolo for the last five seasons, guiding the club up from Serie B in 2013 to a sixth-place finish and Europa League qualification in 2016. He previously coached Virtus Lanciano, Pescara and Lecce.

Di Francesco says, “I am extremely happy to be able to return to Roma, to coach a club that has always meant a lot to me.”

Italy: Roma still perfect, Napoli stumbles, Juve fights back at Chievo (Video)

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Europe came into its midweek matches with four perfect teams across its top five domestic competitions. On Tuesday, Spain’s pair of perfectionists emerged unscathed, with Barcelona posting a 4-1 win over scuffling Real Sociedad while Atlético Madrid moved to 6-0-0 with 2-1 win over Osasuna.

On Wednesday, it was time to test Italy’s perfect duo, Napoli and Roma, who each entered the mid-week round not only perfect in four matches but also having cleared significant weekend hurdles.  Compared with this weekend’s trip to Milan, a visit from newly-promoted Sassuolo should have been a breeze for the Neopolitans, considering Inter had just run out 7-0 winners at Sassuolo this weekend. Roma has just downed rival Lazio but were in greater danger of losing their perfect start, with a Sampdoria playing at the Luigi Ferraris theoretically more capable of derailing the Giallorossi.

[MORE: Wrapping up last weekend’s action in Serie A.] 

But for the second game in a row, Roma responded to a scoreless second half with a 2-0 win, particularly interesting considering Rudi Garcia made five chances the team to that won this weekend’s Rome Derby. Like that team, today’s was better throughout, finally breaking through via a piece of Mehdi Benatia brilliance in the 65th minute (that’s a defender doing that, below). Arsenal refugee Gervinho doubled his team’s lead two minutes from time, keeping Roma at the top of the league.

Highlights:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Cue6Oj4ISE]

The 5-0-0 record is the best start in Roma’s history; or, put more precisely, the longest into a new season they’ve maintained a perfect start. That they’ve done so while operating under a new coach after selling one of their best attackers (Erik Lamela) and best defender (Marquinhos) explains while most are surprised. Having yet to face another of Serie A’s emerging top five, there are still questions, but with 15 points from five games, Garcia and Roma are certainly building  a margin for error.

“I’m really happy with the five consecutive wins, but I’m more interested in making history at the end of the season,” Garcia told the assembled media after the match.

“It’s too early to start assessing things, but I’m happy for the team.”

That happiness was not replicated in Naples, however, as Napoli suffered their first stumble of the season, drawing a game many saw as their easiest to date. And when Blerim Dzemaili cleaned up a poor, 15th minute clearance to give the partenopei and early lead, the result did seem a foregone conclusion.

That all changed five minutes later, with Pepe Reina allowing a shot form a sharp angle from Simone Zaza to go high an under the cross-bar for an unlikely equalizer (insert credit to Zaza here, because it was a surprisingly great shot). The Spanish international would make up it in the second half, but the fact he was needed only spoke to the extent to which Napoli were off their game. The 1-1 result was a reflection of a patient, dangerous performance from Sassuolo as well as Napoli’s inability to forge a winner.

Highlights:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuWs1UcfRsc]

It was only a draw — in the big picture, not a huge deal — but it’s a result that leaves Napoli two points behind Roma. And now, only three teams in Europe’s big five remains perfect in their league campaigns.

JUVENTUS FIGHT BACK TO CLAIM FULL POINTS AT CHIEVO

When Chievo went up 1-0 in the 27th minute through Cyril Théréau, you knew what was going to happen. We’ve seen this performance before. Whether through skill or brute force, execution or fortune, Juventus was going to come back. And by the 65th minute, they had. Juve went on to beat the Flying Donkeys, 2-1.

But today’s performance, as controlling as it was after Juventus ceded the lead, still required more fortune than they would have liked. The 48th minute equalizer from Fabio Quagliarella wasn’t part of that, though, as Juve practically brute-forced the goal past Christian Puggioni. Besides, Quadliarella and Andrea Pirlo nearly had that equalizer just before halftime, going tantalizingly close on a sequence that ended when Pirlo went over the crossbar.

The winner, however, came via an Alessandro Bernardini own goal, a score that doubled-down on Chievo frustrations after their own go-ahead tally had been waved off. Earlier in the second half, the Donkeys, seemingly taking advantage of another disappointing performance from Gianluigi Buffon, had buried a ball spilt in front of goal only to see the assistant referee’s flag lifted overhead.

Still, as they have when they’ve converted other sub-par performances into results, Juventus deserve credit. As we see with Napoli’s result, it’s not uncommon for a good team to struggle and drop points against inferior competition. But Juventus avoided that fate today. By whatever means necessary, skill or fortune, they got three, not one. As a result, they’ll pulled even with Napoli on 13 points, just behind Roma.

Highlights:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VhHWjgpOz0]

ELSEWHERE IN SERIE A

  • Bologna 3-3 AC Milan: The Rossoneri again are left to fight back late, with 26-year-old Ignazio Abate’s first goal for Milan (149 appearances) giving Max Allegri’s team a stoppage time equalizer.
  • Lazio 3-1 Catania: The Aquile bounce back from derby disappointment through Ederson and Senad Lucic before Hernanes added late insurance against the 10-man Elephants.
  • Livorno 1-1 Calgliari: Andrea Luci and Victor Ibarbo trade goals as Livorno get their eighth point of the season (2-1-2).
  • Torino 2-2 Hellas Verona: Alessio Cerci’s up to three goals in two games for Torino after today’s brace, but Jorginho Frello’s second half penalty conversion allows Verona to escape with a point.
  • Parma 4-3 Atalanta: Thanks in part to a first half double from Marco Parolo, Parma went into half up 4-2 but came out of intermission made to hold on. Amauri’s straight red in the 52nd minute allowed Atalanta to control the rest of the game, but only a 79th minute goal from Marko Livaja saw the visitors make any progress.
  • Udinese 1-0 Genoa (Tuesday): Antonio Di Natale’s late restart went off Emanuele Calaio and into his own net, the own goal deciding an otherwise mundane affair 11 minutes about time.
  • Inter Milan – Fiorentina (Thursday):  Coming off their 7-0 win, Inter gets their second match of the young season against one of the league’s big five. Thankfully for them, both this and Sept. 14’s meeting with Inter take/took place at the San Siro.