Juve hand Inter nine-point lead as Napoli crisis deepens

Juve hand Inter nine-point lead as Napoli crisis deepens
Juventus’ Arkadiusz Milik, center left, and Verona’s Reda Belahyane, center right, battle for the ball during their Serie A soccer match at the Marcantonio Bentegodi Stadium in Verona, on Feb. 17, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 17 February 2024
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Juve hand Inter nine-point lead as Napoli crisis deepens

Juve hand Inter nine-point lead as Napoli crisis deepens
  • France midfielder Rabiot rifled home second-placed Juve’s leveller nine minutes after the break
  • “We should have done more, we’ve dropped points along the way recently,” said Rabiot

MILAN: Juventus trail Serie A leaders Inter Milan by nine points after being held 2-2 at relegation-threatened Verona, as a 1-1 draw with Genoa left champions Napoli deep in crisis.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side had their league title hopes further damaged following an entertaining encounter at the Stadio Bentegodi in which Adrien Rabiot stopped Juve from losing a third consecutive match.
France midfielder Rabiot rifled home second-placed Juve’s leveller nine minutes after the break, moments after Tijjani Noslin had put hosts Verona ahead for the second time in the match.
Michael Folorunsho, whose touch led to Noslin’s goal, had smashed Marco Baroni’s team into the lead early on with a stunning volley only for Dusan Vlahovic to equalize from the penalty spot in the 28th minute.
“We should have done more, we’ve dropped points along the way recently. But we started playing too late and it’s those details which make the difference,” said Rabiot.
“But we need to get back on track, regain trust in ourselves and starting winning again.”
The draw didn’t do a huge amount for Verona as they stay just inside the relegation zone, level on points with 17th-placed Sassuolo who are at Atalanta later on Saturday and have two games in hand.
However it was a strong performance for a club that let a raft of players go in January, and it also extended Juve’s winless run to four matches.
That poor form means that Juve are not only watching Inter charge off into the distance, they are now also looking over their shoulders at AC Milan.
A win at Monza on Sunday night would allow Milan, two points behind Juve in third, to snatch second spot from their rivals.
“We need to be realistic,” added Rabiot. “Inter are going their own way and we need to fight to keep hold of second place.”
Napoli’s draw was another heavy blow for the ailing Serie A champions ahead of the visit of Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Cyril Ngonge saved a home point for Napoli in the final minute after Morten Frendrup had given Genoa the lead with a powerful first-time finish just after half-time.
Napoli ran away with the league title last season but are now 27 points behind Inter in ninth spot meaning their chances of a place in next season’s revamped Champions League are increasingly slim.
Six points separate Napoli from fourth-placed Atalanta and that gap could easily be extended to nine.
“The players do what they can but things just don’t go our way,” said Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri, whose position is under serious threat after collecting just 15 points from 12 matches since taking over in November.
“The few errors we make we always have to correct because we end up conceding. We try everything but we struggle to score goals. It’s hard to explain.”
Ngonge’s low finish meant Napoli avoided a ninth defeat in all competitions since Mazzarri replaced Rudi Garcia, but being booed off the pitch was awful preparation for their last 16 tie with Barca.
Neither Napoli nor Barca are having stellar seasons but it would have been impossible to imagine how far Napoli would fall so soon after last season’s historic third league title.
Mazzarri said that he “hopes” to have star striker Victor Osimhen back for Wednesday’s first leg in Naples after sitting out Saturday’s defeat.
But Napoli’s goal problems run deeper than Osimhen being at the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria and they created very little against 12th-placed Genoa, making a result against Barca look like a huge task.


Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti

Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti
Updated 21 sec ago
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Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti

Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti
  • All four quarterfinal first leg matches thrilled supporters this week but some of the brightest names in the game were below their best on the biggest stage
  • Real Madrid visit Mallorca on Saturday looking to extend their eight-point lead in La Liga before second-placed Barcelona play at Cadiz later in the day

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti predicted Friday that Kylian Mbappe and football’s other brightest young stars would bounce back strongly after disappointing showings in the Champions League.

All four quarterfinal first leg matches thrilled supporters this week but some of the brightest names in the game were below their best on the biggest stage.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe was frustrated in Barcelona’s 3-2 win in the French capital, while Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger shackled Manchester City forward Erling Haaland.

Madrid’s top goalscorer Jude Bellingham also struggled to make an impact in his team’s white-knuckle 3-3 draw with the English champions at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“Calm down, calm down, maybe in the first legs they were below their best, but new games are coming and watch out, watch out for the three (of them),” Ancelotti told a news conference.

Real Madrid visit Mallorca on Saturday looking to extend their eight-point lead in La Liga before second-placed Barcelona play at Cadiz later in the day.

Ancelotti said England international Bellingham, 20, was fulfilling his role, even though his early season goal spree has come to an end.

Bellingham has 20 goals across all competitions for Madrid but just three in his last 13 games.

“Bellingham’s goal output is down, but that was a surprise,” said the coach.

“He’s doing his job, which is more as a midfielder, but in a footballing sense he’s doing very well, not missing anything, just goals, which sooner or later will return.”

The coach said forward Rodrygo Goes, who missed training on Friday, would be fit to face Mallorca.


NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match

NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match
Updated 12 April 2024
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NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match

NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match
  • Young fans met their football idols who shared the exciting news with them during a kickabout
  • The mascots will wear innovative haptic technology shirts for the game

NEWCASTLE: Several young members of the deaf community in Newcastle were on Friday invited by Newcastle United stars Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn to be mascots during the club’s Premier League clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
On Thursday, NUFC’s front-of-shirt sponsor, Sela, said they will introduce the haptic shirts — which allow deaf fans and fans with hearing loss to experience the live atmosphere — during Saturday’s match against Spurs at St. James’ Park. Haptic shirts use a technology that transforms the noise of the stadium into real-time touch sensations.
During a visit to meet young fans from the deaf community to invite them to come to the Tottenham game, Burn revealed to the youngsters: “For the Tottenham game you’re all going to be mascots. So, you get to walk out with us in front of the crowd.”


Trippier added: “To walk out in the Royal National Institute for Deaf shirts is special, and we had a good kickabout with the kids as well.”
The youngsters met their football idols at the Newcastle United Foundation where Burn and Trippier shared the exciting news with them during a friendly kickabout.
In addition to acting as mascots, the youngsters will also wear the innovative haptic technology shirts to enhance their matchday experience.
Sela has donated its front-of-shirt sponsorship rights for Saturday’s clash to RNID, a national UK charity that supports 12 million people who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by sela | صلة (@sela)


“The kids were teaching us a goal celebration, so watch out for it. I’ll probably get a few more before the end of the season,” added Burn. The children also taught the players how to sign “love the fans.”
One of the youngsters said: “I was so happy to see Kieran and Dan, it’s the best day of my life.”
Some Newcastle fans will be wearing haptic shirts with the RNID logo for the first time during the Tottenham game, while the branding will be on display around St. James’ Park and on the big screen to raise awareness of the institute’s work.
Teri Devine, associate director of inclusion at RNID, said: “We’re really grateful to Sela and to Newcastle for doing this. It’s absolutely fantastic that the players take time out to come and meet the kids, and actually get to see the barriers that deaf children face.”

 


Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case

Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case
Updated 12 April 2024
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Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case

Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case
  • The judge suspended Rocha’s statement and made him an investigated party in the graft case
  • Rubiales, who was briefly detained by police on his arrival in Spain on April 3 as part of the probe after he arrived from the Dominican Republic, is due to testify on April 29

MADRID: Pedro Rocha’s chances of succeeding the disgraced Luis Rubiales as Spanish football federation (RFEF) president have been placed in doubt after being placed under investigation in the alleged graft scandal which has rocked Spain’s football elite.
Rocha, seen as favorite to fill the post, appeared in court on the outskirts of Madrid on Friday as a witness in the case in which Rubiales is being investigated.
However, the judge suspended Rocha’s statement and made him an investigated party in the graft case.
“(The judge) has agreed this morning to change the procedural status of Pedro Rocha from witness to investigated party,” said the court in a statement.
“The classification of the alleged crimes is yet to be defined, as well as the date of his next statement.”
Rubiales, who was briefly detained by police on his arrival in Spain on April 3 as part of the probe after he arrived from the Dominican Republic, is due to testify on April 29.
Rocha, who moved up from vice president to become interim president after Rubiales resigned last year, seemed poised to replace him officially as president as soon as Monday.
Spanish media have reported the two other candidates, Carlos Herrera and Eva Parera, have been unable to collect the minimum of 21 endorsements necessary from RFEF assembly members, while he has 107.
In March Spanish police searched 11 locations, including the RFEF’s Madrid headquarters and Rubiales’ house in Granada as part of the investigation into corruption and other crimes.
Federation contracts signed since 2018 are being investigated including one by Rubiales to take the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.
The Super Cup contracts are worth 40 million euros a year ($43 million) with the deal brokered by Kosmos, a company owned by former Barcelona and Spain defender Gerard Pique.
Rubiales was forced to step down as RFEF boss in September after forcibly kissing Women’s World Cup star Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s triumph in the Sydney final in August.


Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League

Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League
Updated 12 April 2024
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Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League

Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League
  • The loss damages Liverpool’s hopes of a treble of trophies in manager Jurgen Klopp’s final season at Anfield
  • Bayer Leverkusen got late goals from substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface to top West Ham 2-0 and extend their unbeaten streak to 42 games

Gianluca Scamacca struck twice as visiting Atalanta upset Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday.

The loss damages Liverpool’s hopes of a treble of trophies in manager Jurgen Klopp’s final season at Anfield.

The Italian visitors went into the break up 1-0 after Scamacca got a low drive past goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher in the 38th minute.

Klopp sent on Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai and Andy Robertson as substitutes for the second half, but Scamacca netted again after Charles De Ketelaere fed him at the far post on the hour mark.

Mario Pasalic finished the scoring seven minutes from time.

Atalanta won at Anfield 2-0 in the group stage of the Champions League in 2020.

Liverpool won the English League Cup and are in a tight Premier League title race with Arsenal and Manchester City. Klopp’s team were eliminated from the FA Cup in the quarterfinals.

The lackluster display Thursday might turn out to be Klopp’s final European game at Anfield. The team needs a big comeback in Bergamo to stay alive.

If Liverpool reaches the Europa League final in Dublin on May 22, it would be Klopp’s final game in charge after nearly nine years.

Bayer Leverkusen got late goals from substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface to top West Ham 2-0 and extend their unbeaten streak to 42 games in a season that can also end up with a treble of trophies.

Hofmann netted on a rebound in the 83rd before Boniface clinched a well-deserved victory with a header in stoppage time.

With a 16-point lead atop the Bundesliga, Xabi Alonso’s team are on course to clinch their first-ever league title and have reached the German Cup final.

In an all-Italian matchup, Gianluca Mancini headed in a winner off a corner kick from Paulo Dybala to upset AC Milan 1-0 at San Siro.

Mancini also scored the lone goal in the Italian capital derby against Lazio on Saturday in Serie A.

It was the first win for Roma over Milan since October 2019.

Milan, the seven-time European champions, have never won the second-tier Europa League or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup.

Milan have never even reached the final — something Roma achieved twice, losing both in 1991 and last year.

Rafa Silva and veteran forward Angel Di Maria scored in each half for Benfica to beat Marseille 2-1. In an encounter of two former European champions. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for Marseille, who lost their fifth straight game in all competitions.

Aubameyang has 24 goals this season in total.

The second-leg games will be played next week.

EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE

Kostas Fortounis scored and provided an assist to help Olympiakos beat Fenerbahce 3-2 in the first leg of the Europa Conference League quarterfinals on Thursday.

Olympiakos built a 3-0 lead in Piraeus and held on after the Turkish team fought back with two second-half goals.

Fortounis opened the scoring after just eight minutes, netting his fifth goal of the European campaign. He then set up Stevan Jovetić to double the lead before halftime.

Chiquinho made it 3-0 with a precise low drive approaching the hour mark before Dusan Tadic pulled one back from the penalty spot and İrfan Can Kahveci added the second for Fenerbahce.

Olympiakos is one of the two Greek teams in the last eight hoping to reach a home final in Athens.

The other, PAOK, lost 1-0 at Club Brugge.

Ollie Watkins and captain John McGinn scored early in each half to secure a 2-1 win for Aston Villa over Lille for manager Unai Emery, who claimed the Europa League on four occasions — three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal.

Viktoria Plzen held last year’s runner-up Fiorentina to a 0-0 draw in what was the first European quarterfinal for the Czech club, which hasn’t conceded a goal for seven straight games in the third-tier competition.

As Fiorentina looked in control in the second half, the match was interrupted for several minutes because of flares that its fans threw onto the pitch.


French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga

French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga
Updated 11 April 2024
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French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga

French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga
  • ‘He is far from being a bad person,’ says Gomis on X
  • Post attracts over 11,000 likes, 4,500 retweets, more than 1,500 replies

RIAYDH: French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis on Thursday defended Al-Hilal’s Saudi defender Ali Al-Bulayhi following his altercation with Al-Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday during their Super Cup semifinal showdown.
The Portuguese international was sent off for elbowing Al-Bulayhi during Al-Nassr’s narrow 2-1 defeat.
Gomis, a former Al-Hilal player who turned out for the Riyadh giants between 2018 and 2022, said of his former teammate Al-Bulayhi on X: “An exemplary teammate, first come, last left from training. He gives everything for his country and for his club. Actually, he’s one of the best center-backs in the world and I know a few things from my experience. He is far from being a bad person!!!”

Currently playing for Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale, Gomis’ post has attracted more than 11,000 likes, 4,500 retweets and in excess of 1,500 replies.
One user posted a video of Al-Bulayhi and Gomis hugging, and wrote: “Two historic legends.”
Another user posted a video — which is believed to have been filmed when Gomis left Al-Hilal — of the two players saluting each other and a comment citing the Frenchman as saying “I love you, Bulayhi.”
A user called Yousef commented, saying: “Thank you Gomis for the unforgettable days!”
The Saudi Ministry of Sport denied rumors on Wednesday that its minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki bin Faisal, had held discussions with Ronaldo after his controversial sending off.