Monthly Archives: February 2017

Napoli title challenge over with Atalanta defeat

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It’s a bridge too far for Napoli after the Serie A title challengers were handed a 2-0 defeat by Atalanta.

Napoli, who were also runners-up in the Italian top-flight last season, are now just 3 points above the fourth-place team.

More importantly, it is now clear that their campaign for the title this season is essentially over — as they fell 12 points behind table leaders Juventus.

But they simply had no reply as Atalanta defender Mattia Caldara stole the show with a goal in each half.

Although Napoli started well and hit the crossbar twice in the first half, and Atalanta reached half-time up 1-0 after a corner bounced through to Caldara and he nodded it in.

Atalanta continued to press, though their chances of getting a second appeared to diminish when their midfield player Franck Kessie was sent off following two bookings in quick succession.

However, Napoli landed a solid advantage through Caldara, who doubled his tally three minutes later by volleying in Leonardo Spinazzola’s dinked cross into the bottom left corner.

Napoli fought to get back into the match and Jose Callejon should have scored but headed wide instead from point-blank range.

The result ended Napoli’s run of 14 league matches without defeat, as both Roma and Juventus continue to surge ahead in the Serie A table after both won their respective weekend fixtures.

Manchester United wins EFL Cup with Zlatan header

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Manchester United won their first major trophy of the season by beating Southampton 3-2 through a Zlatan Ibrahimovic header in a thrilling final.

The Saints were the better team throughout the match in Wembley. Manolo Gabbiadiani saw a goal ruled out by a controversial offside decision before United took an undeserved two-goal lead in the first-half.

Ibrahimovic’s spearing free-kick managed to deceived Fraser Forster to bring United ahead, while Jesse Lingard’s precise finish went through the legs of Maya Yoshida to double the advantage and seemingly set the course of the match to a straightforward United win.

However, Gabbiadiani, a £14m signing from Napoli, proved his credentials to be as the game’s outstanding performer.
Despite the almost unfair offside ruling against what could have been the first goal of the match, he kept going for the Saints and was ultimately rewarded with a quick tap-in in first-half injury time, before hitting another on the turn 3 minutes into the second-half.

The game looked destined for extra-time from there, but the Saints could only blame themselves as loopy defending afforded Ibrahimovic too much space in the 87th minute, allowing the talismanic striker to score from a header and spare United the embarrassment of losing a game they lead 2-0.

“This is a team effort,” Ibrahimovic said in the post-game interview. “This is what I came for — to win, and I am winning. The more I win the more satisfied I get.”

“You appreciate it more the older you get. Wherever I have gone I have won. I think this is trophy number 32 for me. This is what I predicted. My friend, I keep doing it. I’m enjoying it in England.”

It also justified Jose Mourinho’s intentions to sign the Swede on free, as their unique partnership won the Portuguese his first trophy as United boss and indeed making Mourinho the first manager in Manchester United’s history to win a major trophy in his first season.

Leicester City in managerial limbo after Ranieri dismissal

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Leicester City is danger of going forward without a manager after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri.

The managerless club, who sits in the relegation zone with 21 points, would host Liverpool later today led by caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare, who took charge after Ranieri’s sacking.

The Foxes had dismissed the Italian despite his leadership of the club to their first ever Premier League title against odds numbering from 5,000 to 1.

Some players were summoned to meet Leicester’s chairman after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Sevilla in the Champions League and Ranieri’s fate was sealed by the negative reaction.

As a result, at least one manager had already ruled himself out of being a possible candidate for the job.

Martin O’Neill, coach of the Republic of Ireland and a former Leicester coach, also criticised that Premier League footballers are “really powerful”.

“Even in this day and age, why should they go to the owners of the football club?” He asked. “I am really enjoying being an international manager and we have a job to do. I wouldn’t be going. I am enjoying this at the moment.”

Guus Hiddink was another candidate reluctant to take the job at Leicester despite reports that his representatives have been approached over the weekend by Leicester officials.

The Dutchman indicated several times during his second spell at Chelsea that he was intent on retiring after nearly three decades in management, which mean that the Premier League champions would turn to caretaker Craig Shakespeare to take charge on a permanent basis.

Prediction:
Leicester City 0 — 2 Liverpool

Tottenham exits Europa League as Alli sees red

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Tottenham Hotspur failed to chase their aggregate deficit against Gent, and will exit the Europa League second round after falling to a 2-2 draw (losing 3-2 on aggregate) as midfielder Dele Alli saw red.

Spurs were trailing 1-0 after the first leg of the last-32 tie, but looked prepared to right their failings as Christian Eriksen slipped an angled shot under Gent keeper Lovre Kalinic.

The visitors equalised through Harry Kane’s own goal, which left Spurs needing to score at least twice as the match approached half-time. However, few would have written off Spurs — but they would do so when the London was club reduced to 10 men after Alli was sent off for a recklessly high tackle.

Victor Wanyama curled one into the top-left corner to revive Spurs hopes briefly, only for substitute Jeremy Perbet to poke Gent into the last 16 with less than 10 minutes left.

The result meant Spurs’ elimination — and also that they have only reached the Europa League quarter-finals once in the past six seasons.

The only England team left in the tournament is Manchester United, who defeated French side Saint-Etienne 4-0 on aggregate, and will be in the last-16 draw.

As for Tottenham, who remain without a trophy since 2008, they will host Stoke City in the Premier League and focus their attention on trying to catch leaders Chelsea, even as their London rivals holds an insurmountable gap of ten league points against them.