EUROPEAN FOOTBALL ROUNDUP: Napoli leads Serie A at halfway mark for 1st time since 1990

ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 11, 2016 09:53 AM
Napoli leads Serie A at halfway mark for 1st time since 1990
(AP Photo/Felice Calabro')

The Associated Press

 

Napoli is halfway to its first Serie A title since Diego Maradona led the club to the 1990 championship.

Napoli routed promoted Frosinone 5-1 on Sunday to earn the southern team the Italian league's symbolic "winter title."

There was an FA Cup upset for Premier League side Swansea, which slipped to a humiliating 3-2 defeat to Oxford United of the fourth tier of English football.

Tottenham was also heading out of the competition until Harry Kane converted an 89th minute penalty to earn a 2-2 draw at home to Leicester.

Atletico Madrid remains top of the Spanish league after beating Celta Vigo 2-0, while Nantes moved up to 10th in France with a 2-1 win over Saint-Etienne.

Here is a look at the major action from Europe on Sunday:

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ITALY

Gonzalo Higuain scored twice as Napoli swept to victory in Serie A.

Through 19 rounds of the 38-match season, Napoli holds a two-point lead over four-time defending champion Juventus and Inter Milan.

Paul Pogba and Sami Khedira scored as Juventus won 2-1 at Sampdoria for its ninth consecutive victory, while Inter was beaten 1-0 by Sassuolo with a last-minute penalty to surrender the lead.

The winter champion has gone on to win Serie A nearly seven out of every 10 seasons.

"We're still not sure what we're capable of," Napoli's first-year manager Maurizio Sarri said. "But this was a big step forward."

The last time Napoli earned the mid-term honor came in 1990.

"Being winter champion means nothing. It means something when you're champion in May," Higuain said. "We've got to stay calm now because there are still five months to go and we want to continue this way."

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ENGLAND

Swansea was humbled by fourth-tier Oxford for the first big shock of the FA Cup third round, while Tottenham needed an 89th-minute penalty from Harry Kane to salvage a 2-2 draw against Leicester.

Chelsea endured third-round humiliation at the hands of lower-league opposition in Bradford last season but had no problems 12 months on, with a full-strength team beating third-tier Scunthorpe 2-0 through goals by Diego Costa and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The world's oldest knockout competition was short of upsets on Saturday and an injury-hit Liverpool scrambled to secure a nervy draw at Exeter on Friday. But a surprise finally arrived at Kassam Stadium, where Oxford won 3-2 to leave Swansea to concentrate on its relegation fight in the Premier League.

Fifty-four places separated the teams in the English football pyramid and Ecuador winger Jefferson Montero gave an indication of the supposed difference in class by backheeling the visitors into the lead in the 23rd minute.

However, Oxford scored three goals in 14 minutes either side of the halftime break, and Bafetimbi Gomis' 66th-minute reply proved only a consolation for Swansea.

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SPAIN

Atletico Madrid returned to the top of the Spanish league on Sunday after second-half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco secured a 2-0 win against Celta Vigo.

Griezmann scored from close range in the 49th minute after a nice exchange of passes with Luciano Vietto, and Carrasco sealed the victory in the 80th after getting past a couple of Celta defenders outside the area.

Atletico has 44 points, two more than Barcelona, which beat Granada 4-0 with a hat trick by Lionel Messi on Saturday. Barcelona has a game in hand after playing in the Club World Cup late last year.

Real Madrid, which routed Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 on Saturday in club great Zinedine Zidane's first match as coach, is third with 40 points after 19 rounds.

Villarreal is fourth with 39 points,

Real Sociedad won 2-0 against visiting Valencia with goals by Brazilian striker Jonathas in the 79th and 82nd.

Valencia remains winless in the league since signing former Manchester United defender Gary Neville as its coach. The team has drawn three matches and lost twice since the former England player took over. Valencia's winless streak in the league reached eight matches, and it's only 11th in the 20-team standings.

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FRANCE

Iceland forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson silenced his detractors when he scored with 13 minutes left to give Nantes a 2-1 win over Saint-Etienne in the French league.

Sigthorsson, who joined from Ajax Amsterdam last summer, has been criticized by Nantes coach Michel Der Zakarian for his poor performances and perceived lack of commitment at training, with the possibility of a move during the transfer window being discussed.

But the Icelander came off the bench and took advantage of a poor clearance from Florentin Pogba just seven minutes later to score his second goal of the season with a right-footed volley.

"Some players were below the level we expected," Der Zakarian said. "It's now up to them to show their qualities and ensure we make a better second half of the season."

The win at the Stade de La Beaujoire ended a seven-game winless run in the league and lifted Nantes to 10th place, two points behind Saint-Etienne, which slumped to a sixth consecutive away defeat.

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