Monthly Archives: January 2017

Serie A: Roma gives chase as Fiorentina trumps Juventus

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Roma shortened the gap on top of the Serie A table, as Fiorentina defeated Juventus in an ill-tempered match.

Roma, who defeated Udinese by 1-0 a few hours before the Italian Champions started their match at Stadio Artemio Franchi, shortened the gap on top of the league table to a single point.

Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan scored the only goal in the match with a half-volley, scoring on the turn after being fed by Kevin Strootman.

Roma’s striker and top scorer Edin Dzeko then fired a penalty over the crossbar, and was spared the embarrassment by his teammate Wojciech Szczesny. The keeper produced two vital saves to keep out Felipe dal Belo’s close range header and turn away Rodrigo de Paul’s shot, ensuring Roma’s victory and three points in the Italian top flight.

Another notable moment in Roma’s match was the introduction of Francesco Totti as a substitute, meaning that he has now played in 25 calendar years for Roma since his debut for the club in 1993.

On the other hand, Juventus suffered a small setback in their bid to retain the Serie A trophy after losing to Fiorentina by 2-1 on the road.

Juventus had been typically clinical this season, and had produced performances that often threatened to elevate them to a runaway victory for the Scudetto – a sixth consecutive Serie A title.

But Fiorentina, troubled by inconsistent performances this season, took a surprise lead at the 37th minute when forward Nikola Kalinic found the far corner of the net after being set-up by Federico Bernardeschi – who won possession off Alex Sandro.

Milan Badelj added to Fiorentina’s lead in the 54th minute with a cross that found the net, as the Juve defence were caught distracted by Federico Chiesa’s lunge at the ball.

Juventus’s top signing, Gonzalo Higuain managed to pull one back with a typically opportunistic strike four minutes later. His goal lead to tense final thirty minutes – play was repeatedly interrupted by late tackles and at the final whistle, the match finished with 38 fouls and eight yellow cards.

Regardless, Juve, looking to rally from their defeat could face a stern test ahead of them as they host fourth-placed Lazio next week – who are also just five points behind the champions. Roma, meanwhile, hosts mid-table club Caligari.

Stevan Jovetic’s late strike ends Real Madrid unbeaten run

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A late strike from Stevan Jovetic for Sevilla saw Real Madrid’s unbeaten run in all competitions ended, with the goal sealing a late 2-1 comeback in La Liga for the Europa League winners.

Time was almost out when Jovetic clinched victory for the home team with a curling shot from outside the area. Madrid keeper Keylor Navas got a hand to the ball but failed to keep it out, and the goal would go on to mark Real’s first defeat after 40 games.

Real looked to be on a clear course for their 13th domestic league win of the season after Cristiano Ronaldo scored a joint-record 56th La Liga penalty in the 67th-minute.

But later on with minutes left in the game, a lifeline was inadvertently handed to Sevilla after their former player Sergio Ramos headed in to his own net, levelling the scores.

Afterwards, Jovetic’s fine strike after Real had lost the ball from a throw-in was celebrated wildly by the home fans in the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Sevilla’s manager, Jorge Sampaoli, praised his players’ determination after the match.

“After the [Real] penalty the team continued playing with conviction and courage,” he said. “The players won a very important game for the club.”

“We were able to beat an undefeated team. I feel a lot of emotion, every game is important here at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.”

Sampaoli himself proved to be a revelation since taking over at Sevilla last summer, since guiding Chile to Copa America success in 2015. His team has been notably imbued with traits of dedication and determination, as they gathered 12 wins from a total of 18 league matches.

It was also the first defeat for Zinedine Zidane and his team since 6 April. Their lead at the top of La Liga is down to just one point (also against Sevilla), although the Galacticos still possess a game in hand.

Dimitri Payet won’t play for West Ham United – Slaven Billic

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West Ham United manager Slaven Billic says that forward Dimitri Payet no longer wants to play for the club – although the Hammers will not sell him.

It is understood that the Hammers had recently turned down a £19.1m bid for Payet from his former side Marseille.

Payet, who joined West Ham from the Ligue club for £10.7m in June 2015, had signed a new contract in February 2016 to tie him to the Hammers to the summer of 2021.

However, he held emotional talks with Bilic on Tuesday in which he conveyed to the manager of his wish to leave West Ham United and rejoin Marseille during the January transfer window, partly because of his family’s unhappiness with life in London.

The French International had also reportedly refused to train or play for the Hammers, and while West Ham is set to fine him for the indiscipline they acknowledged that such actions could further complicate the situation at hand.

Bilic felt feeling “angry” and “let down” by Payet and outlined the club’s position, which is to dig in for the rest of January, refuse to sell and hope the player can be reintegrated after the closure of the transfer window.

“We have said we don’t want to sell our best players but Payet does not want to play for us; he wants to leave,” Bilic said. “He’s definitely our best player and that’s why we gave him a long contract. We are not going to sell him. This team, the staff – we gave him everything, we were always there for him. I feel let down. I feel angry.”

“I spoke to the chairman and this is not a money issue. We gave him a long contract because we want him to stay. We aren’t going to sell him, not whatsoever. It’s not a money issue or anything. We want to keep our best players.”

West Ham are currently 13th in the Premier League, seven points above the relegation zone. They will host Crystal Palace this Saturday – with Payet excluded from the squad.

Prediction:

West Ham United 1-1 Crystal Palace

Messi contract extension hindered by La Liga spending caps

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FC Barcelona’s effort to offer star player Lionel Messi a contract extension is hindered by spending caps imposed by La Liga, says club chief executive Oscar Grau.

La Liga has budgetary limits agreement with each club at the start of every season and its regulations ensure its clubs only spend a certain proportion of their budget on wages.

For this season, Barca’s budget is €695m. They pay the highest wages in Spain and the second-highest in world football behind Manchester United.

Messi currently earns a reported €22m (£19m) a year after tax from Barça, whereas his fellow forwards, Neymar’s and Luis Suarez’s salaries are believed to be about €25m after their latest contract renewals.

“Barcelona has to analyse this situation with a cold head and common sense,” Grau said on Wednesday. “Barca can’t exceed 70% of its budget on wages and therefore we have to make the numbers add up.”

“One option is to increase our revenues, as our economic strategy forecasts. We want to have the best players around, but perhaps we have to prioritise.”

“The club wants the best player in the world to stay at Barça. I would like to ease the concerns of club members and supporters but we have to use common sense.”

Grau also said that any new deal for Barcelona’s all-time top scorer would put considerable pressure on the club’s finances. He hinted that Barcelona may need to raise funds by selling players, as well as strengthening the club’s commercial income.

The Argentinian’s contract is set to expire on 30 June 2018, leaving Barcelona with 18 months to do something until he would be able leave the club for free.