Hamsik sights Maradona record, Zeman conjures magic at Pescara

Napoli's Marek Hamsik scores during a Serie A soccer match between Chievo Verona and Napoli at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Sunday. (AP)
Updated 19 February 2017

Hamsik sights Maradona record, Zeman conjures magic at Pescara

MILAN: Marek Hamsik moved to within three goals of Diego Maradona’s Napoli record in a 3-1 win at Chievo as veteran Zdenek Zeman steered Pescara to a first win since August in a 5-0 rout of Genoa on Sunday.
Slovakia midfielder Hamsik took his tally to 112 on Sunday with an easy tap-in seven minutes before half-time, and is now just three short of Maradona’s 115-goal club record.
The new goal came after the 30-year-old attacking midfielder scored his maiden Serie A hat-trick in a 7-1 rout at Bologna two weeks ago.
Lorenzo Insigne, fresh from scoring against Real Madrid in a 3-1 Champions League defeat to the Spanish giants, broke the deadlock on 31 minutes with a superb curling strike.
Piotr Zielinskini had Napoli 3-0 to the good before the hour and although Riccardo Meggiorini beat Pepe Reina with a stunner for a 72nd-minute consolation, it proved too little too late.
Napoli’s 16th win moved Maurizio Sarri’s men up to second place, one point above Roma before they host Torino later Sunday.
But the club’s media blackout — ordered by president Aurelio De Laurentiis following a spat with Sarri in the wake of defeat to Real — was confirmed post-game.
Chievo remain in 11th spot, 31 points behind Juventus but well clear of a relegation zone from which Pescara will now harbor hopes of escaping.
Zeman, however, said the task will be difficult and the players he inherited are unfit.
“I’m happy for the lads, we have to keep thinking that we can stay up although it will be difficult,” said Zeman.
A legendary figure in Serie A who has coached Roma, Lazio, Napoli and Cagliari, he also famously led Foggia into Serie A and to the brink of UEFA Cup qualification in three successive seasons.
Zeman felt compelled to return to Pescara, where he once coached Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, because he quit the club to begin the first of two spells at Roma.
Massimo Oddo was sacked in midweek, and the players are now set for punishing sessions of running up stairs in a bid to get fit.
“I’ve only laid some basic foundations, but from tomorrow (Monday) we start working seriously, also with the stairs. They’re not in great condition,” said the chain-smoking Czech.
Pescara were on fire from kick-off, Alberto Cerri forcing Lucas Orban into an own goal in the fifth minute after a great effort down the left.
Pescara’s only previous win this season was a shock 3-0 away defeat of Sassuolo last August, but Zeman’s men were 3-0 in front by half-time thanks to goals by Gianluca Caprari and Ahmad Benali.
Caprari secured his brace in the 81st minute and Cerri finally got on the scoresheet six minutes later.
Pecara remain rooted to the bottom on 12 points, 49 behind Juventus and 10 adrift of fourth-from-bottom Empoli while Genoa dropped to 16th.
Elsewhere, Seko Fofana hit a superb long-distance volley after coolly flicking Duvan Zapata’s pass into the air in the seventh minute to give hosts Udinese a seventh-minute lead.
But hopes of dominating a mid-table battle with Sassuolo were tempered by Frenchman Gregoire Defrel, who came off the bench to hit a second-half brace in the space of nine minutes.
Hosts Sampdoria conceded a sixth-minute opener when Chilean Mauricio Isla hit a superb angled drive at the Luigi Ferraris stadium.
Sampdoria got back on level terms soon after, Fabio Quagliarella staying on his feet to connect with Luis Muriel’s deflected punt from deep on the left to beat Gabriel on the volley to secure a share of the spoils.
Earlier Sunday, 20-year-old Brazil international Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa came off the bench to hit his maiden Serie A goal for Inter Milan to secure a 1-0 win at Bologna that has boosted their Europa League qualifying hopes.
“I’m really happy, for my first goal and for this important win,” said Barbosa. “I hope it’s the start of something special.”
Inter sit fourth, 15 points behind Juventus and five points behind Roma.


Police want Liverpool title decider in neutral stadium

Updated 30 May 2020

Police want Liverpool title decider in neutral stadium

  • The move aims to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes

MANCHESTER, England: Liverpool might not win the English Premier League at Anfield after police included the leader’s key games among at least five it wants at neutral venues in a bid to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp hopes authorities will allow them to play at home as planned, with supporters adhering to advice while they are prevented from attending games due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Police originally wanted neutral venues for all 92 remaining games but the plan was opposed by the clubs — particularly those trying to avoid relegation.
The league plans to resume on June 17 after a 100-day shutdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, pending final approval from government, which is trying to prevent a second spike in cases.
Police don’t object to the games on that Wednesday night being played at Manchester City and Aston Villa.
But police want the derby between Everton and Liverpool to be played away from Merseyside a few days later. The game was originally scheduled at Goodison Park. Liverpool, which leads by 25 points with nine games remaining, could clinch the title by beating Everton if second-placed City loses to Arsenal on June 17.
If the 30-year title drought doesn’t end that day, police want Liverpool’s next game, against Crystal Palace, to be played away from Anfield.
Greater Manchester Police have already determined Liverpool’s third game back against Manchester City should be staged away from Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool’s fourth game back is against Aston Villa, currently scheduled at Anfield.
The same Manchester force wants City’s game against Newcastle and Manchester United’s home game against Sheffield United played outside of the northwest location.
Police in Newcastle also don’t want the home game against Liverpool to be played at St. James’ Park on the final day of the season, which could be July 26.
Mark Roberts, the head of football policing in England, said the plans will remain under review but are based on public health demands.
“We have reached a consensus that balances the needs of football, while also minimizing the demand on policing,” said Roberts, the football policing lead at the National Police Chiefs’ Council. “The views and agreement of forces which host Premier League clubs have been sought and where there were concerns, the Premier League has been supportive in providing flexibility in arranging alternative venues where requested.”
One obvious neutral venue is Wembley Stadium in north London which is not the home of any club side.
“This plan will be kept continually under review to ensure public health and safety and a key part of this is for supporters to continue to respect the social distancing guidelines, and not to attend or gather outside the stadiums,” Roberts said.
Even without a vaccine for COVID-19, fans could return to games next season, which is due to begin in September.
“There is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will see fans back in the stadiums next season,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told Sky Sports TV, “and it may happen on a phased basis.”
Only 200 of the 380 Premier League games each season are contracted to be broadcast live in Britain, but all remaining fixtures will be aired live because fans will not be allowed in stadiums.
The reshaped English season is set to end with the FA Cup final on Aug. 1.
The Football Association on Friday announced its competition will provisionally resume with the quarterfinals on the weekend of June 27-28. The semifinals are now scheduled for July 18-19.
“This has been a difficult period for many people and, while this is a positive step, the restart date is dependent on all safety measures being met,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.
Though the COVID-19 deaths per day have fallen in Britain since early April, another 377 were still reported on Thursday, bringing the known death toll in all settings including hospitals and care homes to 37,837.