Higuain, Dybala Score As Juventus Stay Top Of Serie A

Juventus’ Argentinian forward Gonzalo Higuain (C) celebrates with German midfielder Emre Can (L), Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey (2ndL) and Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci (R) after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match against Atalanta Bergamo on November 23, 2019 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

 

Gonzalo Higuain grabbed a second-half brace with Paulo Dybala adding a late third as Juventus rescued a 3-1 comeback win over Atalanta in the final quarter of an hour to stay top of Serie A on Saturday.

Robin Gosens had nodded Atalanta ahead after 56 minutes as the Bergamo side chased their first Serie A win over Juventus since February 2001.

Higuain hit back with two goals in an eight-minute spell while Dybala marked his 200th Serie A appearance with the final goal two minutes into injury time.

Maurizio Sarri’s side open up a four-point lead on second-placed Inter Milan, who travel to Torino later on Saturday, as Atalanta drop to sixth place after their fourth league game without a win.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed the trip to Bergamo despite his four-goal spree for Portugal because of a slight knee problem ahead of Juventus’s Champions League game against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

In the absence of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Argentine strike duo Dybala and Higuain ensured the eight-time reigning champions maintained their unbeaten run this season despite several controversial refereeing decisions.

Higuain had pulled Juventus level after 74 minutes with a ball that took a deflection off Rafael Toloi to beat Pierluigi Gollini in the Atalanta goal.

The Argentine completed his double when he picked up a cross from Juan Cuadrado on 82 where the Colombian put his hand on the ball during a sliding tackle at the start of the action.

Then Dybala broke through the Atalanta defence to finish off for his fourth Serie A goal this season.

Atalanta had their chances with Musa Barrow missing an early penalty.

The 21-year-old Gambian rattled the crossbar after 17 minutes following a penalty awarded for a Sami Khedira handball.

Inter will be looking to make it a perfect seven league games on the road this season as they travel to Torino.

Serie A runners-up Napoli, in seventh, desperately need a result at 14th-placed AC Milan, who are themselves floundering.

Ronaldo Leaves Stadium Before Final Whistle After Being Substituted

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) goes directly to the changing rooms after being substituted during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs AC Milan on November 10, 2019 at the Juventus Allianz stadium in Turin. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly left the Allianz Stadium before the final whistle of Juventus’ 1-0 Serie A win over AC Milan on Sunday after being substituted for the second match in a week.

Paulo Dybala replaced Ronaldo on 55 minutes with the Argentina striker going on to score the winning goal 22 minutes later to keep Juventus top in Serie A ahead of Inter Milan.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo looked glum as he came off and directed some words at coach Maurizio Sarri before heading to the changing rooms and Sky Sport Italia reported that the 34-year-old had left the stadium three minutes before the match finished.

However Sarri said he did not know whether Ronaldo had left the stadium early.

READ ALSO: Dybala keeps Juventus At Serie A Summit, Lazio And Cagliari Into Top Four

“Disrespectful to his teammates? Like I said, I don’t know,” Sarri said. “If it’s true that he left before the end it is a problem to be resolved with his teammates.”

“I have no problem with Cristiano, he should be thanked because he made himself available despite not being in the best condition,” said Sarri.

“In the last month he has had discomfort in his knee and this is a little problem for him.”

Ronaldo had reacted furiously after been substituted in his team’s 2-1 win against Lokomotiv Moscow midweek which saw Juventus advance to the Champions League last 16.

“The important thing is that he made himself available. If he gets angry when he comes out this is part of the game,” continued the Juventus coach.

“It’s only natural a player is going to be irritated about leaving the pitch, especially when he worked so hard to be there.

“All players who are trying to give their best will have at least five minutes of being annoyed when they are substituted, but a coach would in general be much more worried if he didn’t seem upset.”

Dybala keeps Juventus At Serie A Summit, Lazio And Cagliari Into Top Four

Juventus’ Argentine forward Paulo Dybala celebrates after opening the scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs AC Milan on November 10, 2019 at the Juventus Allianz stadium in Turin. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

 

Paulo Dybala struck the decisive goal in Juventus’ 1-0 win over AC Milan on Sunday after replacing Cristiano Ronaldo as Juventus stayed top of Serie A, while Lazio and Cagliari moved into the Champions League places.

Argentine forward Dybala hit the winner in the 77th minute in the Allianz Stadium having taken the place of Ronaldo 20 minutes earlier.

Defending champions Juventus maintain their one-point lead over Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan who had taken pole position after their 2-1 win over Verona on Saturday.

AC Milan’s seventh defeat in 12 games saw Stefano Pioli’s side drop to 14th position, just four points above the relegation zone.

READ ALSO: Ronaldo Leaves Stadium Before Final Whistle After Being Substituted

However Milan had threatened as the former European giants chased their first win against Juventus in Turin in eight years.

Wojciech Szczesny was kept busy in the Juventus goal, denying fellow Pole Krzysztof Piatek, Lucas Paqueta and Hakan Calhanoglu.

Blaise Matuidi missed Juventus’s best chance before Dybala’s winner when his powerful curling effort flew wide just after the break.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo, who had also been taken off during the midweek Champions League win over Lokomotiv Moscow, reportedly left the stadium before the end of the game after being substituted on 55 minutes.

Douglas Costa also came on for Federico Bernardeschi after an hour, with the two substitutions changing the game for the champions.

Gonzalo Higuain fed Dybala, who easily shook off Alessio Romagnoli to beat Donnarumma and claim his third league goal this season.

“Cristiano should be thanked because he made himself available despite not being in optimal conditions,” said Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri.

“In the last month he has had this discomfort in his knee and this a little problem for him.

“It’s only natural a player is going to be irritated to leave the pitch, especially when he worked so hard to be there.”

Returning hero Nainggolan

Behind the leaders, Lazio and Cagliari moved into the top four after goal-packed wins.

Lazio saw off newly-promoted Lecce 4-2, while surprise package Cagliari continued their superb form with a 5-2 rout of Fiorentina.

The two teams are level on 24 points, eight behind Juventus with Lazio ahead of the Sardinians on goal difference.

Lazio’s Argentine forward Joaquin Correa hit a brace either side of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s strike, with Serie A top-scorer Ciro Immobile slotting in a penalty at the Stadio Olimpico.

Cagliari, who battled relegation last season, have been in superb form since Radja Nainggolan returned to the Sardinian outfit after five years away, including a difficult season at Inter Milan last term.

The Belgian contributed three assists and capped a stellar performance with the fifth goal of the game on 65 minutes.

Fiorentina are struggling without Franck Ribery who is serving a three-match ban for pushing an official.

Nainggolan set up Mark Rog for the opener on 17 minutes, with Fabio Pisacane nodding in the second less than ten minutes later.

The 31-year-old was involved again in Giovanni Simeone’s third goal against the Argentinian forward’s parent club, as well as Joao Pedro’s effort 10 minutes after the break, before blasting in his second goal of the campaign from distance.

He was given a standing ovation when substituted in the 78th minute.

“We are doing something extraordinary,” said Nainggolan whose side are unbeaten in 10 games, which include seven victories and three draws.

“Nobody would have said at the beginning of the year that we could play so well,” said the Belgian.

“There is an enthusiasm that hasn’t been seen at Cagliari for years.”

Atalanta lost ground in the league days after their 1-1 draw against Manchester City thanks to a goalless draw at relegation-threatened Sampdoria.

The Bergamo side are winless in three league games and played the last 15 minutes in Genoa a man down after Ruslan Malinovskiy was sent off for a second yellow card.

Paulo Fonseca’s injury-depleted Roma also showed signs of fatigue after their Europa League defeat in Germany, falling 2-0 at Parma and dropping down to sixth.

Parma pulled through thanks to a Mattia Sprocati strike on 68 minutes and Andreas Cornelius finding a way through deep into injury time.

Cagliari Rout Fiorentina 5-2, Climb To Third In Serie A

File: Dalbert of ACF Fiorentina during the Italian championship Serie A football match between AC Milan and AFC Fiorentina on September 29, 2019 at Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy – Photo Fabrizio Carabelli / Sportphoto24 / DPPI
Fabrizio Carabelli / SportPhoto24 / DPPI

 

Radja Nainggolan inspired Cagliari to a 5-2 win over Fiorentina as the Sardinians continued their fine form to move third in Serie A on Sunday.

The Mediterranean outfit have 24 points from 12 games — seven points behind leaders Inter Milan, who moved top after beating Verona 2-1 on Saturday.

Defending champions Juventus are second and can reclaim the number one spot when they host 13th-placed AC Milan later on Sunday.

“Not even in the most optimistic forecasts could we have imagined being here,” said Cagliari coach Rolando Maran.

“Radja is capable of extraordinary things and you just have to stand back and applaud.”

READ ALSO: How Messi’s Dead-Ball Hat-Trick Put Barca Back On Top

Fiorentina are struggling without Franck Ribery who has been given a three-match ban for pushing an official.

But Cagliari, who battled relegation last season, have been in superb form since Nainggolan returned after five years away, including a difficult season at Inter Milan last term.

The Belgian contributed three assists and capped a stellar performance with the fifth goal of the game after 65 minutes.

Serb Dusan Vlahovic pulled two late goals back for Fiorentina in the final quarter of an hour but the Tuscans are eighth.

The game was halted at the 13th minute, as both teams paid tribute to former Fiorentina captain Davide Astori who also played for Cagliari.

Four minutes later Nainggolan set up Mark Rog for the opener, with Fabio Pisacane nodding in the second less than ten minutes later.

The 31-year-old Nainggolan was involved again in Giovanni Simeone’s third goal against the Spanish forward’s parent club, as well as Joao Pedro’s effort ten minutes after the break, before blasting in his second goal of the campaign from a distance.

He was given a standing ovation when substituted after 78 minutes.

“There is little to comment, it was an ordeal,” said Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella.

“They were clearly superior to us. We need to draw lessons from this.”

Cagliari extended their winning run to a third consecutive game and are unbeaten in ten games, which includes seven victories and three draws.

Roma travel to Parma later on Sunday where a win would put them back ahead of Cagliari.

Atalanta and Lazio will bid to move level on points with the Sardinians against Sampdoria and Lecce respectively.

AFP

Balotelli Threatens To Leave Pitch After Racist Abuse In Verona Defeat

Inter Milan’s Croatian defender Marcelo Brozovic vies with Brescia’s Italian forward Mario Balotelli during the Italian Serie A football match Brescia vs Inter Milan on October 29, 2019 at the Mario-Rigamonti stadium in Brescia. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Mario Balotelli threatened to leave the pitch on Sunday after apparently hearing racist abuse by Hellas Verona fans before scoring for Brescia in their 2-1 Serie A defeat.

With his side a goal down to Eddie Salcedo’s powerful header Balotelli, who has been a frequent target for racist chants during his three spells playing in his home country, booted the ball into the crowd after around an hour and charged towards Verona fans.

Pointing towards his ears, the former AC Milan and Manchester City striker then tried to leave the pitch, only to be stopped by his teammates and Verona players, some of whom hugged him.

The match was suspended for a few minutes before a message was read out of the stadium loudspeaker threatening both teams would all leave the field if there was a repeat of any abuse.

The message was whistled loudly by a large number of the home fans, who have a notorious reputation in Italy for hard-right politics and open racism.

With the game back underway Matteo Pessina doubled the hosts lead when he squeezed home a neat finish with nine minutes left before Balotelli pulled one back with a superb curling long-range effort.

Balotelli’s side remain in the bottom three after the defeat, while Verona jumped up to ninth, level on points with Fiorentina ahead of their match with Parma.

A number of black players have been racially abused by supporters in Italy in the opening weeks of the season, with Milan midfielder Franck Kessie targeted by Verona fans in September and Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku abused by Cagliari fans, also serial offenders.

Balotelli has a particularly hostile relationship with Verona fans, who six years ago targeted him with ironic cheers after then-mayor of the city Flavio Tosi called him a “troublemaker” who brought racist abuse on himself.

stt/dif/td/iwd

Lukaku Fires Inter Top At Bologna, Roma Beat Napoli To Go Third

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (2ndR) scores a goal during the Italian Serie A football match Bologna vs InterMilan on November 2, 2019 at the Renato Dall’ Ara stadium in Bologna. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Romelu Lukaku continued his red-hot scoring form to shoot Inter Milan top of Serie A with a brace in a late 2-1 win at Bologna, while Roma moved up to third with an enthralling win by the same scoreline over wobbling Napoli.

Lukaku tapped home his eighth goal of the season 15 minutes before the end to cancel out Roberto Soriano’s deflected opener before slotting home a stoppage time penalty to send Antonio Conte’s side two points ahead of Juventus.

However Inter will drop back down to second if champions Juve beat local rivals Torino later on Saturday.

Inter have been tipped as the principal challengers for Juve’s Serie A title but had to be saved from a lacklustre display by their star summer signing, who has nine goals in 11 league matches since arriving from Manchester United.

The away side twice thought they had taken the lead in the first half, only for Lautaro Martinez to be flagged offside and Lukaku denied by the ball going out of play before Martinez’s cross.

Soriano put the hosts, missing coach Sinisa Mihajlovic as he battles Leukemia, in the lead when he rifled home from Mattias Svanberg’s layoff.

Lukaku pounced to level after Milan Skriniar shot was well saved by Lukasz Skorupski, and he stepped up to snatch the three points when the lively Martinez was felled by a daft challenge from Riccardo Orsolini as he darted in the box with seconds remaining.

Inter are six points ahead of Roma, who moved third in Serie A on Saturday after their win over Napoli that took them to within four of Juve.

 Resurgent Roma third 

Rising star Nicolo Zaniolo opened the scoring midway through the first half with his fourth goal in as many games in all competitions before Jordan Veretout sealed the points from the penalty spot 10 minutes after the break and stretched Roma’s unbeaten league run to six games.

“We are really happy with the victory, it was a head-to-head we needed to win and we did. We’ve always said that we are a team with great talent and we are back on form after losing our way a bit last season,” Zaniolo told Sky Sport.

“I’m very pleased with my current form, I hope to continue like this and to score many more goals.”

Arkadiusz Milik’s fifth goal in four games closed the gap for Napoli, but the defeat sees them drop down to seventh, level on 18 points with Lazio and Cagliari after winning just one of their last five in Serie A.

They are eight points behind Juve and could fall further back later on Saturday when the reigning champions travel to local rivals Torino.

Paulo Fonseca’s Roma meanwhile are on a fine recent run despite an injury crisis that kept a host of first team starters out of action over the last few weeks.

The Portuguese has his side playing well despite missing three starting midfielders to injury and central defender Federico Fazio following his straight red card in their 4-0 win at Udinese last weekend.

They are set to have further selection problems next week after Fazio’s replacement Mert Cetin was sent off for two bookable offences deep in stoppage time.

AFP

Serie A: Lecce Hold Juventus To Draw

Juventus’ Argentine forward Paulo Dybala shoots to score a penalty and open the scoring during the Italian Serie A footbal match Lecce vs Juventus on October 26, 2019 at the Stadio Comunlae Via del Mare in Lecce. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Paulo Dybala scored but Juventus were held 1-1 at lowly Lecce on Saturday with the defending champions in danger of being overtaken by Inter Milan at the top of the Serie A table.

Both goals came from penalties with Dybala’s strike from the spot after 50 minutes cancelled out by Lecce’s Marco Mancosu’s effort six minutes later.

The Italian champions have 23 points from nine games, but could be overtaken by Antonio Conte’s Inter who are two points behind before hosting Parma later on Saturday.

Juventus rested Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo after Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League win over Lokomotiv Moscow, and ahead of two Serie A matches in four days next week.

But Dybala, who scored both goals against the Russians, started up front alongside Gonzalo Higuain, with Federico Bernardeschi just behind the Argentine strike duo.

Maurizio Sarri gave starts to Emre Can and Danilo with Blaise Matuidi and Juan Cuadrado starting on the bench.

Promoted Lecce, a side from the heel of Italy, are struggling above the relegation zone, but managed to pull through for a precious point despite being dominated by the visitors.

Slovenian midfielder Zan Majer forced a save from Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after just two minutes.

Dybala was targeted early by the Lecce defenders with Luca Rossettini and Marco Calderoni picking up yellow cards early for fouling the Argentine forward.

Higuain looked as he had the opener after a quarter of an hour finishing off Alex Sandro’s cross, but his effort was ruled for offside.

Gabriel denied Dybala and Bernardeschi then failed to connect with a Danilo cross just before the break.

But Dybala put Juventus ahead five minutes into the second half with his sixth goal in five games following a disputed foul on Miralem Pjanic.

But captain Mancosu pulled his side back level from the spot six minutes later after a Matthijs De Ligt handball.

Gabriel denied Higuain on the line after 68 minutes and Leonardo Bonucci also sent over as the Turin giants pushed forward unsuccessfully for the winner.

The bruising encounter could prove costly for the champions with Pjanic, Higuain and Rodrigo Bentancur all taking knocks.

Inter host Parma later Saturday with Genoa playing their first game under new coach Thiago Motta at home against Mario Balotelli’s Brescia.

Thiago Motta Appointed Genoa Coach

Italian former football player Thiago Motta is seen ahead of the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace (RCS) on September 14, 2019 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. Martin BUREAU / AFP

 

Former Italy international Thiago Motto was appointed coach of Serie A strugglers Genoa on Tuesday hours after Aurelio Andreazzoli was sacked.

Brazilian-born Motta played for Paris Saint-Germain from 2012 to 2018, with his only previous coaching experience with PSG’s U19 team, which he managed until July 2019.

The 37-year-old takes over a Genoa side that has  won just one game out of eight played this season against Fiorentina on September 1.

They are second from bottom of the Serie A table with 20 goals conceded after Sunday’s 5-1 defeat to Parma.

Motta oversaw his first training session on Tuesday and will be officially presented at the north-western side on Wednesday.

The former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid midfielder played for one season with Genoa, before moving to Inter Milan in 2009, winning the treble the following season under Jose Mourinho.

He won five Ligue 1 titles at Paris Saint-Germain, and two La Liga crowns with Barcelona.

Motta earned 30 caps playing for Italy, reaching the finals of Euro 2012.

Genoa escaped relegation from Serie A last season on the final day under Cesare Prandelli, who was replaced by Andreazzoli in June.

Motta’s first game in charge will be on Saturday against Mario Balotelli’s Brescia, before travelling to Turin to play defending champions Juventus next week.

AFP

Inter Milan Keep Pace With Juventus As Sampdoria Hold Roma

FromL) Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, Inter Milan’s Argentinian forward Lautaro Martinez and Sassuolo’s Italian goalkeeper Andrea Consigli go for the ball during the Italian Serie A football match Sassuolo vs Inter Milan on October 20, 2019 at the Mapei stadium in Reggio-Emilia. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan held off a late Sassuolo surge to win 4-3 and keep pace with leaders Juventus in Serie A on Sunday as Claudio Ranieri settled for a goalless draw against former club Roma in his first game as Sampdoria coach.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez each bagged a brace for Inter in a seven-goal thriller to keep Antonio Conte’s side second, a point behind Juventus who beat Bologna 2-1 on Saturday.

The match at Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium was briefly interrupted before the break after a parachutist inexplicably landed on the pitch just as Lukaku was about to take a penalty.

The man was quickly led off by security agents as players and fans looked on bewildered. Then the former Manchester United striker slotted in to give Inter a 3-1 lead.

Martinez had opened the scoring after two minutes. He added a penalty after 71 minute, following Lukaku’s quick-fire double on 38 and 45 minutes.

Inter were in control 4-1 with 20 minutes to go, when Antonio Conte brought on winger Matteo Politano and midfielder Valentino Lazaro for their first appearances this season.

Then Filip Djuricic (74) and Jeremie Boga (81) hit back for the hosts to add to Domenic Berardi’s first-half goal.

Inter held on for a win after consecutive defeats against Barcelona in the Champions League and Juventus in Serie A.

“Once it goes to 3-1 and 4-1, it should be over,” said Lukaku who has now scored five Serie A goals in eight games.

“In the first half, we did everything well. However, we should have scored in the first 15 minutes after the restart to really kill off the match.

“The positive we take is that we got the three points, but we need to defend better than that.

“It was very important to get this win.”

Sassuolo fell to their fifth loss of the season and sit 16th just above the relegation zone.

“For more than an hour we played very well, then there was a blackout that we will analyse in detail,” said Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini speaking as Conte missed the post-match conference because of illness.

“We did well, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

AS Roma’s injury crisis grew worse as they lost both Bryan Cristante and Nikola Kalinic early as they settled for a fourth draw in eight games against Ranieri’s basement club Sampdoria.

Edin Dzeko came on for Kalinic with his face protected by a mask after breaking a cheekbone two weeks ago.

The Romans also played the final five minutes a man down after Justin Kluivert was sent off for a second yellow card.

Roma fall to sixth in the table behind Cagliari who beat SPAL 2-0 as Sampdoria stay bottom but take their first point in four games.

Ranieri said he had made progress.

“I’m satisfied especially after only a week training together and against a very good Rome,” said Ranieri, who turned 68 on Sunday. “Now let me have time to get to know the players and then we will try to find solutions to score.”

Stefano Okaka’s header was enough to give struggling Udinese their second win of the season as Torino slipped to ninth.

Stefano Pioli takes charge of his first game as AC Milan coach later Sunday against Lecce.

Ranieri Appointed Sampdoria Coach

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 01, 2018 Nantes’ Italian head coach Claudio Ranieri attends the French L1 football match between Nantes and Saint-Etienne at The La Beaujoire Stadium in Nantes. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Former Roma boss Claudio Ranieri has been appointed coach of Serie A strugglers Sampdoria, the club confirmed on Saturday.

Ranieri, who memorably guided outsiders Leicester City to the 2016 English Premier League title, takes over from Eusebio di Francesco, who was sacked after a poor start to the season.

The 67-year-old Ranieri, who took over as coach at Roma last March after di Francesco was sacked, has signed a contract until June 2021.

Ranieri guided the Roman outfit, who he played for during his football career and had previously coached, to a sixth-place finish, missing out on Champions League football.

Sampdoria finished ninth last season, with Di Francesco taking over after Marco Giampaolo left for AC Milan.

The Genoese club have just one win in seven games and are bottom of the table, with 16 goals conceded.

Ranieri’s vast coaching experience includes spells at Chelsea, Valencia, Monaco, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Juventus and Napoli.

His first game in charge will be at home against former club Roma on October 20.

AFP

Pellegrini Out For Two Months After Foot Surgery

AS Roma Italian midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini and CSKA Moscow’s Slovenian midfielder Jaka Bijol vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between PFC CSKA Moscow and AS Roma at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on November 7, 2018. Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP

 

Italy international midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini has been ruled out for two months after undergoing foot surgery, his Serie A club Roma said Tuesday.

“Pellegrini underwent a corrective procedure on the fifth metatarsal of his right foot,” the club said in a statement.

The surgery was successful and Pellegrini should “complete his recovery in around 60 days,” it added.

Pellegrini will miss Italy’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Greece in Rome on October 12, when the Azzurri could seal their spot in next year’s continental tournament.

The 23-year-old, who has 12 caps, scored his first goal for Italy in a Euro 2020 qualifying win over Armenia last month.

AFP

Balotelli Scores First Brescia Goal In Defeat To Napoli

Brescia’s Italian forward Mario Balotelli (Front) shoots a free kick as (FromL) Napoli’s Spanish forward Jose Callejon, Napoli’s Spanish defender Fabian Ruiz and Napoli’s Belgian forward Dries Mertens jump to defend during the Italian Serie A football match Napoli vs Brescia on September 29, 2019 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Mario Balotelli scored his first goal for new club Brescia but the promoted northerners still fell to a 2-1 defeat to Napoli in Serie A action on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Italian international headed in after 67 minutes in his second match for his hometown club having missed four games because of a ban he incurred with former club Marseille.

First-half goals by Dries Mertens and Kostas Manolas ensured Napoli took all three points after their midweek loss to Cagliari, to boost confidence ahead of their Champions League trip to Belgian club Genk.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli stay fourth with 12 points from six games, six behind league leaders Inter Milan who beat Sampdoria 3-1 on Saturday.

Inter have a maximum 18 points from six games — two ahead of Juve — after winning their first six league matches for the first time since the 1966-67 season.

Juventus beat SPAL 2-0 to stay second with Atalanta third — a point ahead of Napoli — after thrashing Sassuolo 4-1 on Saturday.

“Suffering is natural in these games if you don’t kill it off with 3-0 and then concede a goal, it all opens up again,” Ancelotti told DAZN.

“But all in all I’m satisfied.

“We played an excellent first half, the second was less impressive, but it was very hot and the players were tired.”

Balotelli carried his daughter Pia, who lives in Naples with her mother and was decked out in the Napoli colours, onto the pitch at the San Paolo Stadium.

The home side were without Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly who has been given a two-match ban for his red card in the Cagliari game.

Ancelotti’s side went ahead after 13 minutes. Mertens connected with a Jose Callejon cross to blast in his 114th goal in a Napoli jersey — one shy of Argentine legend Diego Maradona’s total from 1984 to 1991. Slovak Marek Hamsik leads both with 121.

The 32-year-old Belgian international has been in form this season with four goals in five Serie A games. He also converted a penalty in the 2-0 Champions League win over holders Liverpool.

Manolas thought he had scored on 19 minutes but the goal was ruled out after a VAR review. The Greek defender did head in just before the break off a Mertens corner.

Napoli’s tempo dipped after the break allowing the promoted side to get back into the game.

There with a nervy final half hour after Balotelli got his head to a Sandro Tonali corner to serve notice to Italy coach Roberto Mancini of his ambitions to play Euro 2020.

It was his first goal in Italy in four years but Balotelli’s losing streak to Napoli stretched to eight games — having never won while playing for both Milan clubs, Manchester City, Nice and now Brescia.

Brescia slip to 14th in the table after their fourth defeat in six games.

AS Roma play in Lecce later on Sunday with AC Milan hosting Fiorentina.

AFP