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02-09-2017, 10:20 AM

Crotone 0-2 Juventus: Mandzukic and Higuain stretch Serie A leaders' advantage



Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain were on target as Juventus beat Crotone 2-0 on Wednesday to stretch their lead at the top of the Serie A table to seven points.

The first ever Serie A meeting between the sides was a tight battle before Mandzukic scrambled home the opener to set up a fourth straight victory for Massimiliano Allegri's men.

A Paulo Dybala effort was cleared off the line by Gianmarco Ferrari in the last minute of the first half as the champions found Crotone's defence difficult to break down for long passages of play.

But the breakthrough finally came on the hour-mark, Croatia international Mandzukic finishing well from a tight angle after goalkeeper Alex Cordaz saved Kwadwo Asamoah's header.

With Crotone committing more players forward, Miralem Pjanic slid Higuain through on goal and the prolific Argentine scored his fifth goal in four away Serie A matches to wrap up the win.

Juventus were rarely threatened at the back and the champions held out to record their sixth clean sheet in seven Serie A matches, leaving second-bottom Crotone remaining nine points from safety.

Crotone's defence was set determinedly deep in the opening stages and a mishit Dybala shot, a hopeful Sami Khedira effort and a Higuain strike pulled wide were the only shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.

Sublime one-touch build-up play from Juve then created a volleyed chance for Dybala on the edge of the area, Cordaz saving low to his right.

Higuain poked Dybala's low cross wide after 31 minutes and the latter had a strong penalty appeal rejected when he went down under a clumsy Djamel Mesbah challenge.

Juventus were struggling to find their rhythm on a bobbly pitch and Higuain picked out Cordaz after again linking up with Dybala, before Leonardo Capezzi fired wide on a rare Crotone break.

Ferrari cleared Dybala's shot off the line in a chaotic closing minute of the first half after Cordaz saved Marko Pjaca's header with his legs.

Crotone continued to frustrate Juve after the restart and Higuain nodded tamely at Cordaz after 56 minutes but the hosts' resistance was finally broken on the hour-mark.Cordaz got down well to save Asamoah's powerful header, but Mandzukic reacted quickest to squeeze in the opening goal from a narrow angle.

Gianluigi Buffon made his first save of the game moments later as Crotone responded strongly, but Diego Falcinelli's header was comfortable for the veteran goalkeeper.Higuain made the points safe with 16 minutes to go, rounding Cordaz to slot home after substitute Pjanic sent the striker through on goal.

Buffon had to save a sweet Capezzi volley but Pjanic almost added a third with six minutes to go, his shot thudding against the crossbar, as Juventus held on with ease to edge closer to a sixth straight Scudetto.
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02-09-2017, 10:22 AM

Bologna 0-1 AC Milan: Nine-man Rossoneri grab vital late win



Mario Pasalic scored with one minute remaining as nine-man AC Milan ended their crisis with an astonishing 1-0 Serie A victory at Bologna.

Vincenzo Montella's men came into the match having lost four straight games in all competitions - three in Serie A - and avoided a defeat that would have sealed their worst run of league losses since April 1986.

After Gianluigi Donnarumma had made a superb save from Ladislav Krejci, Milan sealed the most unlikely of victories when Gerard Deulofeu set up Pasalic to score from close range despite the hosts' numerical advantage.Bologna made five changes after they were humiliated by a 7-1 loss at home to Napoli last time out and this result is arguably just as unimpressive.

Milan's first half did not go to plan as they lost both starting centre-backs. Alessio Romagnoli came off through injury before Gabriel Paletta received his third red card of the season, getting a second yellow for a foul on Blerim Dzemaili.

Juraj Kucka was next to see red after receiving two yellows in the space of six second-half minutes, but Montella's re-shuffled pack survived before winning in the final moments.Seventh-placed Milan are now just two points behind rivals Inter in fifth, while Bologna stay 13th.

Milan should have taken an early lead when Deulofeu capitalised on a mistake from Emil Krafth but saw his effort saved by Angelo Da Costa at the near post, with Pasalic firing over a golden chance on the rebound.

Bologna threatened for the first time when a purposeful run into the box from Krejci saw him surge past Paletta's challenge before being denied by a brave block from Milan goalkeeper Donnarumma.

The hosts then went closer when Donnarumma initially fumbled Simone Verdi's cross and had to react promptly to stop Dzemaili tapping in.Milan, who made three changes, saw a new name added to their long injury list when Romagnoli was forced off, Cristian Zapata replacing him.

And the night went from bad to worse for Montella's men after 36 minutes when Paletta - already booked for shoving Ibrahima Mbaye - picked up another for bringing down Dzemaili as he sprinted towards the penalty area.

Montella brought on defender Gustavo Gomez for midfielder Manuel Locatelli at the break and the visitors made a steady start to the second half, Deulofeu forcing another save from Da Costa.

But Milan were down to nine men by the hour-mark, Kucka clipping Adam Nagy to earn a second yellow only six minutes after fouling Dzemaili for his initial booking.

Carlos Bacca had clashed with Montella having been taken off against Sampdoria at the weekend, but was more understanding of the circumstances this time around as he was withdrawn for Andrea Poli in the head coach's final change.

It took a magnificent save from Donnarumma to keep Milan on level terms, Krejci's first-time effort kept out from eight yards after he latched on to Dzemaili's cutback.But it was not all one-way traffic, Deulofeu leading a promising Milan counter-attack and finding Pasalic, who saw his left-footed strike saved by Da Costa.

Deulofeu then saw his corner bounce against the crossbar as Milan threatened victory, but Mattia Destro volleyed Verdi's cross just off-target at the other end.


Verdi curled a free-kick over, but Donnarumma did not have a major late save to make before Pasalic struck after Deulofeu had superbly beaten Krafth with a nutmeg and crossed into his path as Milan secured a morale-boosting triumph.
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02-09-2017, 10:23 AM

Alaves 1-0 Celta (agg. 1-0): Supersub Edgar strikes to set up dream Barca date



Alaves will contest a Copa del Rey final for the first time in their history after Edgar Mendez's late goal secured a 1-0 aggregate over Celta Vigo on Wednesday to set up a showdown with Barcelona.

Mauricio Pellegrino's men claimed a commendable 0-0 draw in last week's first leg and were good value for victory at Mendizorroza, as second-half substitute Edgar secured a famous win in what was the club's biggest match since losing to Liverpool in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup final.

Victory was nothing more than their general play deserved, as they showed far more attacking intent than their visitors - though Iago Aspas remained a real nuisance to them and went close to breaking the deadlock on two separate occasions in the first half.The home side's problem in the first period was their inability to turn control into efforts on goal, failing to register a single shot on target.

They were better after the break, though, testing Sergio Alvarez more regularly and spending almost the entire second period in the ascendancy.And eventually the breakthrough came eight minutes from time, as Edgar scored a lovely solo goal to send Alaves through to an historic final.

Sensing the potential for history, there was a vibrant atmosphere in the stands throughout and that seemed to contribute to a positive start by the home side, as they pushed men forward and looked full of purpose.

But Celta crafted the match's first chance 12 minutes in, as Aspas flicked the ball through his marker's legs and sent a controlled effort towards the bottom-left corner from a tight angle, only to see a full-stretch Fernando Pacheco brilliantly tip it just wide of the post.The visitors were also made to worry shortly after, with Ibai Gomez's 20-yard free-kick landing on the roof of the net.

Although Alaves exerted more control in midfield, Celta continued to look a threat on the break and a moment of Aspas brilliance just before the half-hour mark nearly gave them a crucial away goal.

The striker latched on to a misjudged header down the right flank and looped a half-volley over Pacheco and, unfortunately for Celta, on to the top of the goal.
Proceedings were rather less frantic at the start of the second period, though Alaves continued to look more committed to attacking and went close again after an hour – Deyverson seeing his 10-yard half-volley deflected over after the visitors failed to clear a corner.But Celta's counter-attacking approach almost paid off a few moments later, as they caught Alaves short at the back and Daniel Wass inexplicably missed the target from six yards, though the offside flag saved him from some embarrassment.

Alaves were starting to up the ante, though, with Sergio Alvarez denying Ibai Gomez from distance, before Deyverson slammed an effort over from 25 yards when he appeared to have the time to get into the box.

Alvarez was ultimately rendered helpless in the 82nd minute, however, as Edgar - brought on for Gaizka Toquero just a few moments earlier - burst through the Celta defence and applied a clever finish beyond the goalkeeper to wrap up a huge win in fitting style.
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02-09-2017, 10:24 AM

Leicester City 3-1 Derby County (aet): Ndidi stunner sends Leicester through



Wilfred Ndidi's stunning first goal for Leicester City and Demarai Gray's man-of-the-match performance earned some respite for embattled Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri by securing a 3-1 win over Derby County in an FA Cup fourth-round replay on Wednesday.

Following an entertaining 2-2 draw in the first match at Pride Park, both managers made sweeping changes to their respective line-ups for the clash at King Power Stadium, where Andy King headed the hosts into the lead in the 46th minute.Gray cut inside from the left flank and crossed to the back post, where Marc Albrighton nodded back from the byline for King to score.

Derby equalised when Abdoul Camara's free-kick took a big deflection off the outstretched leg of Ben Chilwell just past the hour mark and neither side could force a winner in regulation time.

Leicester restored their lead four minutes into extra time, Ndidi opening his account with a long-range rocket after the Rams' defence unwisely backed off the advancing Nigerian.
And Gray, impressive throughout, capped off the win by dancing through the Derby backline to stab the ball above goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell and into the roof of the net with six minutes to go.

The win may ease at least some of the pressure on Ranieri, whose reigning champions are just one point outside the Premier League relegation zone ahead of a trip to fellow strugglers Swansea City on Sunday.
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02-09-2017, 10:26 AM

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Hertha BSC (3-2 pens.): Tuchel breathes a sigh of relief



Borussia Dortmund triumphed 3-2 on penalties to book their place in the last eight of the DFB-Pokal at the expense of Hertha Berlin.

The two sides, with just two places and one point between them in the Bundesliga, had drawn 1-1 in their league meeting in October and that scoreline was replicated after 120 minutes at Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos' two quickfire bookings for dissent saw Dortmund finish extra time with 10 men before Fabian Lustenberger, Vladimir Darida and Salomon Kalou all erred from the spot, rendering Christian Pulisic's miss irrelevant.

Dortmund, now unbeaten in nine matches across all competitions, fell behind in the 27th minute when Kalou converted Niklas Stark's delivery from the right wing.

Seemingly unimpressed by his team's first-half display, Thomas Tuchel sent on Pulisic and Matthias Ginter at the interval and the former assisted Reus for the equaliser within two minutes.

This encounter was a repeat of last year's semi-final - a 3-0 win for Dortmund - but Tuchel's men were given a much sterner examination here and may feel they should have been spared extra time with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang controversially denied a second by the officials in the 57th minute.

Dortmund, losing finalists in each of the past three seasons, were not quite at their best and survived a scare in the ninth minute when Sokratis produced a last-ditch block after his poor control allowed Vedad Ibisevic to race through on goal.

Twice in as many minutes, Aubameyang had the chance to add to his tally of 21 goals this season - first losing his footing in trying to round Rune Jarstein from Ousmane Dembele's excellent flick, and then seeing the goalkeeper superbly tip his low effort around the post.

Ibisevic nodded over from three yards after Roman Burki had parried John Brooks' header, but that miss did not prove costly as Kalou broke the deadlock a minute later.The former Chelsea man made an intelligent run across the Dortmund defence and used the outside of his right foot to volley home Stark's cross.

Marc Bartra glanced over from Reus' free-kick as Dortmund sought a rapid riposte, which arrived early in the second period.Dembele struck the base of the post but Hertha failed to clear and the striker combined with Pulisic, who teed up Reus to sweep home.

Only a fine block from Sebastian Langkamp denied Reus a quickfire second as Hertha wilted, Aubameyang seeing an effort chalked off when the referee deemed the forward to have kicked the ball out of Jarstein's hand on the line.Jarstein produced a superb save to keep out Raphael Guerreiro's effort from range before Dembele shot agonisingly wide in the 81st minute.

The extra period produced little by the way of goalmouth incident - Sokratis dismissed in the 119th minute - before Hertha thrice faltered from 12 yards to send Dortmund through.
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02-10-2017, 08:46 AM

Koeman: Everton must prove ambition to Lukaku



Ronald Koeman says it is on Everton to prove to Romelu Lukaku that they can match his ambition in order to keep him at the club.The Belgium international is the Premier League's top scorer with 16 this season, including a superb four-goal haul in the 6-3 home win over Bournemouth last time out.

Koeman said he was unsure whether agent Mino Raiola's reported claim that Lukaku will sign a new deal was accurate, but welcomed the development.Lukaku has been linked with a return to former club Chelsea, but Koeman hopes Everton can prove they are on the rise in order to keep their star striker.

"If the club and team is improving and showing ambition then it is always a good way for players to stay," Koeman said ahead of Saturday's trip to play Middlesbrough."That is what we need to show him so he is convinced that the future, or the short future, is at Everton.

"Normally players, if they really see a future in a club, if they see the team is improving, the team is getting stronger every day that is always a plus."We have had one or two conversations. The most important was at the start of the season when he came back from the Euros and then it was okay. "You need to explain [your ambition] to players and then they need to see it and you have to show it. At the moment it is really good and that gives players confidence to stay.

"I didn't speak to the board about Romelu. If his agent mentioned that he likes to stay and is close or will sign a new a deal then that is perfect for Everton."We know everybody has his own ambition, that is normal, that is a human being. We like to keep the good players and he is one of them.

"At the moment he is top scorer in the league and playing at a high level. He is so clinical and it would be difficult to find a replacement for him. Because of that I hope he will stay."Koeman thinks Lukaku is as good as it gets in front of goal, but feels the 23-year-old can still improve his all-round game.

He added: "Improving always starts with yourself. He is really a world-class finisher but in other detail, in other qualities, he can and must improve."He knows and that is the most important thing."
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02-10-2017, 08:47 AM

Rooney: Mourinho has rebooted Man Utd's winning mentality



Wayne Rooney believes Jose Mourinho has helped Manchester United reboot their winning mentality.Rooney led United to the last of their 20 English titles in Sir Alex Ferguson's final season in 2012-13, yet the subsequent years under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have been jarringly barren by comparison.

Van Gaal did win the FA Cup as a swansong at the end of last season before making way for Mourinho, who oversaw an indifferent start to the current campaign.

However, United head into Saturday's game against Watford with a 15-match unbeaten Premier League run to their name, as well as the EFL Cup final to come against Southampton at Wembley later this month.

During this period Rooney has become United's record goalscorer – netting a last-minute equaliser at Stoke City to usurp Bobby Charlton's tally – and he feels the positive impact of Mourinho is there for all to see."He's obviously a top manager – all of the clubs he's been at shows that," the England captain told GQ.

"He knows what he wants from the players and the players know what the manager wants from them."He's strong in that sense but as long as you're doing what he wants, then I'm sure you'll be fine.

"You can see he's got a winning mentality. Not that we didn’t have that already, but he certainly reminded us of it."Along with the EFL Cup, United are still in the hunt for honours in the FA Cup and the Europa League.

Rooney believes the cups can provide a triumphant end to United's season, with Champions League qualification also firmly within their reach even if the 14-point gap to runaway leaders Chelsea makes the Premier League title a bridge too far.

"I think it's going okay," said Rooney when asked about the club's performance under Mourinho. "We're in a good position in terms of making the top four."Obviously our ambition was to try and be champions, which will be difficult now. We know that."But we're right there in terms of trying to place ourselves in the top four.

"We're still in the Europa League, in the final of the League Cup and still in the FA Cup, so they're trophies we believe we've got a strong enough squad to go and win."Then obviously now probably we have to look at trying to finish in the top four."
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02-10-2017, 08:48 AM

Dortmund slap €70 million price tag on Real Madrid target Aubameyang



Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will cost Real Madrid at least €70 million if they decide to replace Karim Benzema this summer, Goal understands.And while the 27-year-old has gone public with his desire to depart, that does not necessarily mean that a transfer in the coming window is a foregone conclusion.

"If I want to move forward, I should go this summer," Aubameyang told RMC last month, and the impact of his words was felt at Dortmund. Michael Zorc, their sporting director, even had to clarify that the club had asked their star to stop talking and focus on their Champions League campaign.

Goal understands, however, that the situation has now settled somewhat at Dortmund a week after all hell broke loose. Club sources insist that Aubameyang was misquoted, and the player himself has refrained from repeating his desire to leave. This gives Dortmund the upper hand when it comes to deciding his future.

"We are not under any pressure to sell Aubameyang," director Hans-Joaquim Watzke told Kicker. "He has a long contract [until 2020]. If an offer comes, we will talk. But he will not go cheap."

Indeed, the figures disclosed are daunting: the price tag on the forward, while not completely prohibitive, rules out all but Europe's biggest financial hitters. Recent enquiries from Liverpool and Manchester City, for example, have fallen on deaf ears.

But what of Madrid? The European champions, whom Aubameyang has said on multiple occasions it would be his dream to join, are constantly on the horizon when his future is discussed. And with 85 goals in the last three seasons, it is no wonder that he is seen as the top-class forward to add to Zinedine Zidane's ranks.

While sources at the club have never indicated more than a general interest in the Gabon international, Benzema's poor season may cause them to seriously consider a bid. He has scored 23 goals fewer than Aubameyang during the current campaign, and his position has never before been under such threat.The Frenchman's deal is up in 2019, one year prior to Aubameyang's in Dortmund, and there is no sign of talks over a possible renewal.

If Benzema is let go, convincing Dortmund to let Aubameyang replace him will be a major undertaking for Florentino Perez and his staff at the Santiago Bernabeu.
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02-10-2017, 08:49 AM

'Everyone loves him for it' - Mendy praises prolific Falcao for not playing nice



Benjamin Mendy has praised the upturn in fortunes of Monaco talisman Radamel Falcao, hailing the striker for "not playing nice in front of goal".

Colombia international Falcao initially failed to settle at Monaco following his big-money move from Atletico Madrid in 2013, and a knee injury suffered in January 2014 prevented him from playing in the World Cup that year.Unsuccessful loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea followed, with Falcao returning to the Ligue 1 club after the end of his stint at Stamford Bridge last season.

But he has been rejuvenated under Leonardo Jardim this term, his 14 league goals helping give Monaco a three-point lead over defending champions Paris Saint-Germain at the top.

And Mendy, who joined from Marseille in June, has been impressed with the attitude displayed by Falcao.
Mendy told a media conference ahead of Saturday's game with Metz: "As soon as he came I felt that he was a great character. He's very humble and full of respect.Being the person he is, he could feel [like he is] better than the others but no.

"Everyone loves him for it. He's fully a part of the squad. He speaks to everyone.
"I never doubted his work. As we say he's 'El Tigre'. He's not playing nice in front of the goal."
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02-10-2017, 08:50 AM

OFFICIAL: Brazil to meet Argentina in Australia



Brazil will face Argentina on June 9 as the Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour hits Australia.The five-time world champions will meet their old rivals at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Victoria.

The official announcement was made by the Victorian Government, who confirmed the two South American giants' clash at the famous old sporting ground in a friendly contest.

The clash with Argentina will be the first official Brasil Global Tour fixture under new coach Tite, who has led his side to six consecutive victories in World Cup qualifying since his June 2016 appointment.

Brazil last faced Argentina in a qualifier back in November, when goals from Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Paulinho saw the Selecao run out 3-0 winners in Belo Horizonte.

Their most recent Brasil Global Tour meeting arrived in October 2014, when Brazil claimed the Superclasico de las Americas title with a 2-0 win in Beijing, China.

June's match in Australia will not carry the Superclasico title.Brasil Global Tour can also confirm that the Selecao will play a second friendly in June 2017, the details of which will be announced at a later date.

Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour

Brazil vs. Argentina
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Victoria
Friday 9 June 2017

Kick-Off:
20:05 (AEST) Local Time
07:05 (BRT) Brazilian Time
07:05 (ART) Argentinian Time
11:05 (BST) London Time
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