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Napoli into Italian Cup semi-finals after beating Spezia



Napoli into Italian Cup semi-finals after beating Spezia

… As Champions Liverpool return to EPL top four after whacking Tottenham 3-1***

Title-holders Napoli beat visiting Spezia 4-2 Thursday to advance in the Italian Cup as they wrapped up the event’s quarter-final round.

Kalidou Koulibaly, Hirving Lozano, Matteo Politano and Eljif Elmas struck for the Naples hosts before half-time.

But the dynamic Serie A newcomers kept the game alive through goals from Emmanuel Gyasi and Gennaro Acampora.

Spezia won 2-1 in Naples earlier this month in league action.

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The Neapolitans are to meet Atalanta in the first-leg of the semi-finals next week as the Bergamo side eliminated Lazio 3-2 on Wednesday.

Juventus beat second-division SPAL 4-0 and will meet Inter Milan, who edged AC Milan 2-1 on Tuesday.

In another development, Liverpool returned to winning ways on Thursday with a 3-1 triumph at Tottenham Hotspur to see the English Premier League (EPL) champions move back into the top four.

It was Liverpool’s first victory in their last five league games after playing four of those fixtures without scoring a goal.

Son Heung-Min looked like he had given Spurs the lead with an early goal but the video assistant referee (VAR) took it away for a marginal offside.

However, on the stroke of half-time, Roberto Firmino put Liverpool 1-0 ahead with an unmissable tap in.

Spurs lost striker Harry Kane to injury before the second half, with Trent Alexander-Arnold doubling the visitors’ lead after he followed up the rebound from a Hugo Lloris save.

“What I saw today it’s not about shape or form it’s about who we are,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said, praising his side.

Also read:  Ibrahimovic sent off as Inter Milan beat AC Milan in Italian Cup derby

“That was us. Second half especially it was us, it was a massive fight. We scored the goals in the right moments, the right people scored the goals. So, all good apart from their goal.”

Denmark’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg instantly reduced the deficit as he fired in his first goal for Spurs with a free hit from the edge of the box.

“The second half we had to make changes, we lost Harry, had to change the structure of the team,” explained Mourinho, who revealed Kane had injured both ankles.

“First minute, same mistake, second goal. Good reaction, another mistake and goal. It was a team fighting against its own mistakes.”

Another goal was disallowed by VAR for handball in the build-up to Mohamed Salah’s strike.

But Sadio Mane ensured the third Liverpool goal when he ruthlessly finished off Alexander-Arnold’s cross for a confidence-boosting three points.

Liverpool’s first league win of 2021 sits them fourth on 37 points, four behind leaders Manchester City, while Tottenham remain sixth on 33 points.

Both Liverpool and Spurs were the top two sides in the Premier League when they last met at Anfield in December with Firmino scoring the decider in a 2-1 win.

But six weeks later, they were two teams struggling with form and injuries, scrambling for a top-four position.

There was a lively start to the game as Mane missed a great opportunity to open the scoring and Spurs immediately retaliated to grab what they thought was an early breakthrough.

Kane sent Son on his way to slot a low shot past goalkeeper Alisson but after a check by the VAR, it was ruled that the South Korean was offside by the heel of his boot.

Mane was thwarted three times by Tottenham’s captain goalkeeper Lloris before the Senegal striker switched to provider for Firmino’s opener.

Firmino sprinted through to catch Mane’s low cross to easily convert a goal that ended the Reds’ unusual run of seven-and-a-half hours without scoring.

With Spurs deflated with the loss of Kane to injury in the second half, Liverpool surged forward and were instantly rewarded.

Alexander-Arnold reacted first as Lloris pushed away Mane’s angled drive and the Frenchman could do nothing when the England international full-back pounced on the opportunity.

The two-goal advantage disappeared in a flash.

Steve Bergwijn picked out Hojbjerg lingering around the perimeter before the Norwegian unleashed a mighty strike that gave Alisson no chance of saving.

There was more VAR controversy when a third goal from Salah was disallowed because of a handball by Firmino as he tussled for the ball with Tottenham’s Eric Dier.

That would not matter in the 64th minute when Alexander-Arnold delivered an inviting pass to the far post where Mane was waiting to punch in the final blow.

Liverpool’s schedule will get tougher in the next month as they will play four of the top seven teams by the end of February.






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Djokovic reaches Australian Open semi-finals, Paul also through



Djokovic reaches Australian Open semi-finals, Paul also through

Novak Djokovic equalled the record of former coach Andre Agassi with a 26th consecutive victory at the Australian Open on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals.

The nine-time champion was again in superb form, painting the lines consistently in a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory over fifth seed Andrey Rublev on Rod Laver Arena.

It helped to set up a clash with unseeded American Tommy Paul.

Djokovic has not been beaten at Melbourne Park since 2018 —- part of a 39-match winning run in Australia.

This has now matched the sequence of victories of Agassi between 2000 and 2004.

Djokovic said: “I cannot be happier with my tennis. I’ve been playing very solid. I love playing in these conditions, on this court.

“Overall I think the scoreline in the first two sets doesn’t speak the truth of the match.

“Andrey is a great player. With all the important moments and the important shots, I found my best tennis. So, that’s what I’m most pleased about tonight.”

The fifth seed at times did again appear bothered by his left hamstring.

But it did not affect his ability to hare around the court, repelling everything big-hitting Russian Rublev threw at him.

He was more affected by a heckler who called out “Come on Andrey, send him home” during the first set.

It drew loud boos from the largely pro-Djokovic crowd and prompted the Serbian to complain to British umpire James Keothavong.

It was Rublev’s turn to appeal to Keothavong in the second set when he felt Djokovic should have received a time violation.

But the Russian, bidding to reach his first slam semi-final at the seventh attempt, was mostly frustrated by the man down the other end of the court.

Djokovic, who has never lost once he has reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park, was virtually flawless in the big moments.

He saved all five break points he faced and wrapped up victory in two hours and three minutes.

Earlier, Paul got the better of fellow American Ben Shelton to reach his first grand slam semi-final.

The run of 20-year-old Shelton, in just his second grand slam and on his first trip outside the U.S., has been one of the stories of the tournament.

But Paul used his greater experience to secure a 7-6 (6) 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory.

The 25-year-old said: “I’m really excited. It wasn’t the prettiest match ever today but it was how I needed to play the match.

“He’s a great server. I had to just put in as many returns as I could.”

Paul, who will break into the top 20 for the first time after the tournament, becomes the first American man to reach the semi-finals here since Andy Roddick in 2009.

With Sebastian Korda also in the last eight, this was the best display by American men at a grand slam for nearly 20 years.

It appears to herald an exciting era for the country, which has been searching for a successor to Roddick for the last decade.

There is a lot of excitement about Shelton, who has not yet left college, and he might turn out to be the best of the lot, but this was Paul’s day.

Paul was cheered on by his mother, who hopped on a plane after his fourth-round win and arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I was actually, when I first heard, pretty nervous because we’ve had a good thing going here and I didn’t really want to change anything.

“After a little bit of thinking, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m in the quarter-finals of a slam. She’s sacrificed a ton to get me here. She deserves to be here and deserves to see me win big matches”.

“I was really excited to see her and have her here.”

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Lions of Teranga roar into CHAN knockout stage



Lions of Teranga roar into CHAN knockout stage

Senegal powered into the quarter-finals of the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) after an emphatic 3-0 victory over DR Congo on Sunday.

The Lions of Teranga defeated the two-time winners in their final Group B match played at the 19 May 1956 Stadium in Annaba to secure their place in the knock-out stage of the ongoing tournament in Algeria.

A first half goal by Osmane Diouf, along with a Pape Diallo strike which was coupled by an unfortunate own goal by Siadi Baggio, ensured the west Africans top the group.

They subsequently advanced to the last eight.

Looking at redeeming themselves from the loss to Uganda, Senegal were the first to ask questions as early as the 6th minute.

This was when Ousmane Kane thought he had beaten the offside trap with his goal, but was judged to be offside by VAR.

Papa Diallo, who was a nuisance to the DR Congo defence, should have put his side ahead in the 11th minute after a through ball from Elimane Cisse found the forward free on goal.

But he dragged his shot wide off target with the goalkeeper at his mercy.

Minutes later, it was DR Congo’s Elie Mpanzu who squandered a glorious opportunity to grab the lead after doing well to control a cross from the left.

But with just the goalkeeper to beat, the forward opted for a cross which went wayward as Senegal survived the threat.

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Nketiah Strikes late as Leaders Arsenal edge Manchester United in thriller



Nketiah Strikes late as Leaders Arsenal edge Manchester United in thriller

Arsenal restored their five-point lead at the top of the 2022/2023 English Premier League (EPL) on Sunday, with Eddie Nketiah scoring twice in a 3-2 defeat of Manchester United.

His goals included a 90th-minute winner, in a rip-roaring clash at The Emirates.

It had looked as though it would end honours even after Manchester United withstood a late siege.

But Nketiah tapped in from close range to send the home fans into raptures.

A game that fully lived up to expectations saw Marcus Rashford give Manchester United the lead with a stunning early opener.

But Nketiah headed Arsenal level in a frantic first half.

Bukayo Saka’s flashing drive gave Arsenal the lead in the 53rd minute but Lisandro Martinez’s header levelled it up before the hour mark to set up an absorbing finale.

Saka struck the post and Nketiah was denied by David de Gea.

But the hosts were relentless as they avenged their loss to Manchester United earlier in the season — their sole defeat.

Mikel Arteta’s side has 50 points from 19 games, with Manchester City on 45 and Manchester United in fourth place on 39, below Newcastle United on goal difference.

– Reuters

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