Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 5th 2017 Contents A36 sports
guardian.co.tt Sunday, March 5, 2017
Napoli beats Roma 2-1 to close in
MILAN---Napoli got back on track
by beating nearest rival Roma 2-1,
leaving Serie A leader Juventus
with the biggest smile yesterday.
Napoli remained third but closed
the gap to second-placed Roma to
Juventus can stretch its advantage
to 10 points with a win at struggling
Udinese on Sunday.
"We must be realistic, the title
race was very difficult before, now
it's almost impossible," Roma coach
Luciano Spalletti said. "It will depend
what Juventus do, but it's very hard.
"When you lose these head-to-
head games, your spirit also sinks."
Napoli was all but out of the Cham-
pions League and Italian Cup after
3-1 defeats to Real Madrid and Juven-
tus in the first legs. Alongside a home
loss to Atalanta last weekend, Na-
poli's season threatened to implode.
The match with Roma was billed
not only as a fight for an automatic
Champions League spot, but also a
fight between two contenders for
league top-scorer: Dries Mertens
and Edin Dzeko.
Mertens came out on top with two
He broke the deadlock in the first
half, springing the offside trap to run
onto a delightful through ball from
Marek Hamsik and dink it over Roma
goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Mertens celebrated in unusual
fashion, by getting down on all fours,
cocking his leg, and pretending to
urinate on the corner flag.
A second score before halftime was
ruled out for his push on Federico
Fazio. His second came five minutes
after the break, when he rushed in
at the back post to tap in Lorenzo
His 18th league goal moved him
within one of Dzeko, Torino's An-
drea Belotti, and Juventus forward---
and former Napoli star---Gonzalo
It was almost worse for Roma as
Daniele de Rossi was lucky not to re-
ceive a second yellow card 20 minutes
from time when he kicked Pepe Reina
in the back of the leg from the ground
following a collision with the Napoli
It was not spotted by officials but
Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri was sent
to the stands for dissent.
Mohamed Salah hit the left post
and Roma finally scored in the 89th
as Diego Perotti burst down the left
and pulled back for Kevin Strootman
to drive into the bottom right corner.
In five minutes of stoppage time,
Roma was denied an equalizer by
Reina's incredible save of Perotti's
deflected loop, which he somehow
finger-tipped onto the crossbar. (AP)
AC MILAN 3, CHIEVO VERONA 1
SAMPDORIA 3 PESCARA 1
Messi, Barca send
warning to PSG that
4 goals not enough
BARCELONA, Spain---Lionel Messi
and Neymar scored three spec-
tacular goals to keep Barcelona
atop the Spanish league after
routing Celta Vigo 5-0 yesterday.
The flashes of brilliance from Bar-
celona's best may give pause to any-
one who thinks that Paris Saint-Ger-
main's 4-0 cushion is surely insur-
mountable come Wednesday in
the second leg of their Champions
League round-of-16 tie.
The intimidating display also
comes in the first match since coach
Luis Enrique announced he would
leave the club at the end of the sea-
Besides two goals, Messi also con-
tributed to setting up second-half
strikes by Ivan Rakitic and Samuel
Umtiti, dealing a stinging win to
a good Celta side which has beat-
en Barcelona and Real Madrid this
Messi had already hit the post be-
fore he opened the scoring at Camp
Nou with a masterful solo effort.
He received the ball near midfield
with Celta apparently positioned
to keep him in check. But he curled
around his marker, sped toward the
goal, cut back around a second man,
and finished it off with a vicious
Messi then assisted Neymar by
threading a precise pass to meet his
strike partner's run into the box,
where Neymar added his own exqui-
site touch by popping the ball into
a perfect tight arc over the helpless
Messi got another great goal in the
second half when he ghosted around
two Celta players before firing be-
tween the legs of the second one.
Messi's goals took his league-lead-
ing tally to 23, including 14 in his last
12 league matches. They were also
his 37th and 38th goal in as many
appearances this season.
After their first-half goals, both
strikers contributed to Rakitic's
After passing for Umtiti to get
his first goal for Barcelona, Messi
capped the victory before adding
some flourishes in late attacks that
went close to producing even more
Barcelona stayed one point ahead
of Madrid, which won 4-1 at Eibar
and has a game in hand. (AP)
Ibrahimovic at centre of
controversy as Man U draws
MANCHESTER, England ---Man-
chester United striker Zlatan Ibra-
himovic had a penalty saved and
was fortunate to avoid a red card in
an incident-filled 1-1 draw against
10-man Bournemouth yesterday,
the latest English Premier League
setback at Old Trafford for Jose
A week after winning the League
Cup for United with a double against
Southampton at Wembley Stadium,
Ibrahimovic endured a frustrating
return to league action by seeing his
72nd-minute penalty clawed away by
Ibrahimovic was involved in many
of the flashpoints in a thrilling game,
notably when he elbowed Tyrone
Mings in the head moments after the
defender appeared to tread on the face
of Ibrahimovic late in the first half.
The referee missed both incidents
and the players could face retrospec-
tive action by the English Football
"I jump up and jump high and he
jumps into my elbow," Ibrahimovic
said of the incident with Mings, who
denied he intended to hurt Ibrahimovic
with his apparent stamp.
As part of the same incident, An-
drew Surman was sent off for collect-
ing a second yellow card for pushing
Ibrahimovic in an angry reaction to the
striker's challenge on Mings.
Earlier, Marcos Rojo's first league
goal, was canceled out by former
United player Josh King's penalty after
Phil Jones fouled Marc Pugh. That was
Bournemouth's only shot on target.
It was a 10th league draw of the sea-
son for United, which was seeking a
victory to climb from sixth place ---
the position where Mourinho's team
has been for the past few months as
it recovers from a poor start to the
United has drawn at home to Stoke,
Burnley, Hull and Bournemouth.
"What happened was that we played
phenomenal in the first half and should
have been winning 3-0 or 4-0 --- then
it ended up 1-1," Mourinho said.
"In the second half, we played differ-
ent team with a man less. I understand
their need for one point in the survival
battle and they just defended to make
it difficult for us. ... We felt pressure of
the clock running down and lost the
quality of our attacking football."
United is on 49 points, the same as
fifth-placed Liverpool, which hosts
fourth-placed Arsenal later Saturday.
PSG wins 1-0 against Nancy
needed a late penalty from top
scorer Edinson Cavani to scrape
home against struggling Nancy
1-0 in the French league yesterday.
PSG moved level with leader Mo-
naco, which has a vastly better goal
difference and can restore its three-
point lead against Nantes on Sunday.
It was a poor performance from
PSG, which seemed to be heading
for a second consecutive home draw
when right back Serge Aurier won a
penalty and Cavani tucked it away
with 10 minutes left. Video replays
suggested Aurier went to ground too
easily, although at full speed it would
have been hard to tell.
Cavani's penalty was almost saved
by goalkeeper Sergey Chernik, who
stood up until the last moment and
guessed the right way.
Just before the goal, Nancy came
close to scoring when substitute
Alexis Busin's shot hit the left post
and rolled onto the right post.
It was a lucky reprieve for a PSG side
playing with none of the flair and pa-
nache it showed when winning 5-1 at
Marseille last Sunday.
That was also because of Nancy's
resolute and organized defending,
much in the same way as Toulouse
when it drew 0-0 at Parc des Princes
two weeks ago.
"It's difficult to play well against
teams that deny you space," Cavani
said. "If you don't score early on in
these games, these teams become
Cavani's goal was his 27th in the
league, but otherwise he played
poorly, heading wide from point-
blank range early in the second half
after rolling a shot wide in the first.
With a return match at Barcelona in
the Champions League on Wednes-
day, PSG coach Unai Emery rested
winger Julian Draxler and midfielder
Among later matches, third-place
Nice was away to Dijon. (AP)
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho gestures during their English
Premier League soccer match against AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford,
Manchester, England, yesterday. AP PHOTO
Real Madrid's James Rodriguez, celebrates after scoring his team's third
goal of the game with teammates Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, left,
during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Eibar, at
Ipurua stadium, in Eibar, northern Spain, yesterday. AP PHOTO
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