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Pallotta perplexed at Monchi’s departure, said director had no ‘Plan B’

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AS Roma owner Jim Pallotta is set for a much different April than his previous one.

It was about 11 months ago that the American businessman was swimming in a Roman fountain following an upset of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

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Now, he’s fired coach Eusebio Di Francesco and watched as sporting director Monchi left his position for a spot back home at Sevilla.

And the latter part has him perplexed, especially as Monchi used his departure to say that Pallotta wanted to opposite of his sporting director.

Pallotta has taken the opportunity to explain his feelings via the Roma web site.

“In November, when our season was going from bad to worse and everyone could see that the coach was struggling to get a reaction out of the players, I asked Monchi for his Plan B should things continue to get worse. He had sole responsibility for football operations at Roma but he didn’t have a Plan B. That was November. He said his Plan B was just to keep doing the same as Plan A.

“So, if I read or listen to the radio interviews he’s giving where he says that the idea of the ownership was different to his and that is why he left, please let me know what Monchi wanted to do differently? He asked me to trust him and let him do it his way. We gave him complete control and now we have more injuries than we’ve ever had and are in danger of missing out on finishing in the Top 3 for the first time since 2014.”

Also notable, as Claudio Ranieri shepherds Roma through life without a permanent manager, are reports that Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is Pallotta’s preferred next-in-line.

Calcio Mercato says Roma would offer the embattled Chelsea boss a path back to Serie A, where he shown with Napoli before being publicly courted by the Stamford Bridge set.

Roma is four points behind Milan and six back of third-place Inter, and is a Lazio win away from sitting sixth. I Lupi was stunned by Porto in the Champions League, and waxed by Fiorentina in the Italian Cup.

Napoli, Inter, and Juventus are still on Roma’s fixture list with 10 matches to play.

Sevilla fires coach Pablo Machin after poor run

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MADRID (AP) Sevilla says it has fired coach Pablo Machin, a day after the team was eliminated from the Europa League.

Sevilla says it is letting Machin go because of “the poor results by the team in recent weeks.”

The club made the decision after Sevilla lost in the last 16 at Czech club Slavia Prague 4-3. It conceded a last-minute goal in extra time to go out 6-5 on aggregate.

Sevilla has also lost six of its last nine Spanish league matches, falling into sixth place and out of the top four spots that earn Champions League berths.

Sports director and former coach Joaquin Caparros will take over. Caparros also took over the club for the final stretch of last season after Vincenzo Montella was fired.

Sevilla visits Espanyol on Sunday.

Europa League wrap: Valencia advance with dramatic stoppage time goal

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Valencia was on the verge of being knocked out of the UEFA Europa League in the round of 16 for the second consecutive year. Then Goncalo Guedes showed why he’s one of the top young attackers in Europe.

Deep in second half stoppage time, the Portuguese international used a shoulder faint to get past a defender in the box, took a touch, and then slotted home with his left foot to send the visiting Valencia squad into hysterics. The goal gave Valencia a 1-1 draw on the evening but a 3-2 aggregate win over FC Kuban Krasnodar. With the win, Valencia advances to the Europa League quarterfinals.

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Guedes’ strike followed an outstanding curling goal into the top corner by Krasnodar’s 19-year-old midfielder Magomed Suleymanov, which had put Krasnodar in position to advance to the next round.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, Inter Milan were bounced from the tournament by Eintracht Frankfurt. One of the top young attackers in Europe, Luka Jovic, scored the game’s only goal in the 6th minute. It’s an earlier-than-expected end to European competition for big spending Inter.

Here are the other finals from across Thursday’s Europa League action:

RB Salzburg 3-1 Napoli (3-4 agg.)

Benfica 3-0 AET Dinamo Zagreb (3-0 agg.)

Slavia Prague 4-3 AET Sevilla (6-5 agg.)

Villarreal 2-1 Zenit St. Petersburg (5-2 agg.)

La Liga: Messi hat-trick, Getafe goes 4th

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Lionel Messi was the star of La Liga’s Sunday slate, scoring the 50th hat-trick of his career as he single-handedly carried Barcelona to a 4-2 victory over Sevilla to move 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Messi scored a pair of absurd goals and finished his hat-trick with the eventual winner, before Luis Suarez finally ended his long goal drought in stoppage time to finish the scoreline. The first was especially delicious, an inspired side-volley that powered home a cross from Ivan Rakitic.

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It wasn’t always a sure thing for Barcelona, who trailed at two different points in the match, including at halftime when goals from Jesus Navas and Gabriel Mercado saw Sevilla ahead. Messi’s second brought Barcelona level past the hour mark when he curled in a right-footed effort from near the top of the box. The winner came five minutes from full-time as a stroke of luck saw Carles Alena’s shot clatter into Sevilla defender Simon Kjaer and trickled perfectly into the path of Messi clean through on goal for a chip finish past Tomas Vaclik.

Meanwhile, the La Liga Champions League places has a surprising new member as Getafe moved to 4th in the league with a 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano. Jamie Mata and Jorge Molina scored the necessary goals, moving Getafe into what would be its highest-ever La Liga finish. Mata in particular is red-hot, scoring his seventh goal in the club’s last eight league games. Mata then assisted Molina’s winner, giving him four assists in that span as well, and helping the club to its fourth win in the last six matches. Getafe has lost just two games since mid-November – to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Relegated in 2016 and then promoted back to La Liga the following year, Getafe finished 8th last season and continues to climb, potentially qualifying for European competition for only the third time in club history. A 6th place finish in 2010 remains its best-ever league result, while a 2007 Copa del Rey finals appearance marked the first time they ever qualified for a continental competition.

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Celta Vigo pulled out of the relegation zone with a grinding away point at Alaves as the two teams drew 0-0. The home side whipped off 17 shots, but could only put four of them on target. Celta Vigo proved dangerous one-on-one, but could never put together anything of note. The biggest chance of the game fell to Takashi Inui just past halftime but missed wide right, and while they accumulated a ton of chances inside the penalty area, they could never find the winning moment.

Finally, Athletic Bilbao leapfrogged Eibar for the ninth spot in the table after a 1-0 win over Eibar. The only goal came inside the first minute, with Raul Garcia pouncing immediately after the opening whistle. That was it for the match, as the two sides were only able to accumulate five total shots on target. Athletic should have had a second soon after halftime, but Inigo Martinez was unable to put his doorstep header on target.

Sevilla knocks out Lazio to reach Europa League round of 16

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SEVILLA, Spain (AP) Former champion Sevilla became the first team to reach the round of 16 in the Europa League with a 2-0 victory over Lazio on Wednesday in a game that saw both sides have a player sent off.

Sevilla advanced 3-0 on aggregate following a 1-0 victory in the first leg in Rome last week.

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The home side was reduced to 10 men whenreceived his second yellow card on the hour-mark but Lazio followed suit 11 minutes later when Adam Marusic got a straight red.

Sevilla striker Wissam Ben Yedder struck 20 minutes into the match on a rebound after Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha parried a low shot from Pablo Sarabia. Ben Yedder also scored in the first leg.

Sarabia doubled the advantage in the 78th.

Sevilla has a perfect home record in the Europa League this season with seven wins, including the qualifying phase. It has three Europa League titles and also won the tournament twice when it was known as the UEFA Cup.

Lazio fell to a third straight loss in all competitions.

The remaining 15 second-leg games in the round of 32 are scheduled for Thursday.

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