Napoli keeping pressure on Ronaldo-dependent Juventus

ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 29, 2018 04:46 PM
Napoli keeping pressure on Ronaldo-dependent Juventus
Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo gestures at the end of the Champions League group H soccer match between Manchester United and Juventus at Old Trafford, Manchester, England, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

By Daniella Mata and Andrew Dampf, Associated Press

MILAN (AP) — Last season Napoli pushed Juventus all the way in the Italian league before ultimately finishing second as the Bianconeri clinched a record-extending seventh Serie A title.

This campaign, second-place Napoli is already six points behind Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Juventus.

But the destination of the title is far from a foregone conclusion.

Juventus proved it is not infallible when it dropped its first points of the season against Genoa last week. It also appeared lethargic in the first half at relegation-threatened Empoli on Saturday before rallying to win 2-1 — with two goals from Ronaldo.

And the Bianconeri are arguably becoming too reliant on the Portugal superstar to rescue them when things aren't going their way.

The 33-year-old Ronaldo has scored Juve's past four league goals as he shows little sign of being affected by a rape allegation in the United States.

Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada last month claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. Ronaldo denies any wrongdoing.

Ronaldo's two goals at Empoli — one a penalty and the other a 20-yard strike — maintained Juve's unbeaten start to the season.

Napoli dropped vital points on Saturday as it needed a last-minute goal from Dries Mertens to snatch a 1-1 draw against Roma.

However, coach Carlo Ancelotti believes his Napoli team is showing increasing signs of maturity.

"I'm happy and proud," Ancelotti said. "We had a constant pressure despite conceding early, we created so many opportunities."

FULLY FIT

Just a few months after he thought he might have to quit football, Josip Ilicic is back to his best.

Ilicic netted a hat trick in his first start of the season for Atalanta last week and did everything but score in his team's 3-0 victory over Parma on Saturday.

The 30-year-old Ilicic spent most of the summer in and out of hospital with a bacterial infection.

"As a man, the illness changed me a great deal," Ilicic said. "I want to thank everyone who stood by me during this difficult time. I look at the world differently now. I thought many times that I might have to give up football."

SERIE B CHAOS

A stay of execution has again upended a verdict in the lengthy saga over deciding which clubs belong in Serie B.

On Wednesday, a regional appeals court overturned an Italian football federation decision from August that had reduced Serie B from 22 to 19 clubs.

The earlier decision by the federation's emergency commissioner Roberto Fabbricini was made following the bankruptcies of Avellino, Bari and Cesena.

Virtus Entella, Novara, Pro Vercelli and Ternana — the four clubs relegated at the end of last season — plus Catania and Siena, which lost in the Serie C playoffs, are all arguing for a place in the second division.

However, on Saturday an appeal by the Serie B league temporarily overturned the decision from the regional appeals court.

A final decision could be made at an Italian football federation board meeting on Tuesday.

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Dampf reported from Rome.

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