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SERIE A

It goes from bad to worse for 10-point docked Juventus, slump to 4-1 defeat at Empoli

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Serie A - Empoli v Juventus - Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli, Italy - May 22, 2023 Empoli coach Paolo Zanetti celebrates their fourth goal scored by Roberto Piccoli REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

Juventus were handed a crushing 4-1 defeat at lowly Empoli in Serie A on Monday after they were docked 10 points in a new ruling over their transfer dealings, which makes it unlikely they will qualify for the Champions League.

Two goals by Francesco Caputo and a strike from Sebastiano Luperto made it 3-0 for Empoli just after halftime before Federico Chiesa pulled a goal back for Juve five minutes from time and Roberto Piccoli sealed Empoli’s win in stoppage time.

Juve, who learned about the new verdict shortly before kick-off, dropped from second to seventh following the points deduction.

They are on 59 points, one behind AS Roma who occupy the final European qualifying place in sixth and five adrift of fourth-placed AC Milan with two games left.

“Summing up a season in an evening like this is an understatement,” said Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri. “It was a strange situation, 10 minutes before the match the sentence came out.

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“Juventus are used to winning, we have to close ranks. There are six points up for grabs and Milan arrive on Sunday.”

Arkadiusz Milik hit the crossbar following a corner in Juve’s intense start to the game and Federico Gatti had a goal ruled out in a follow-up due to a foul in the build-up.

But things went downhill from there for Juventus as Empoli were awarded a penalty for Milik’s foul on Nicolo Cambiaghi and striker Caputo converted from the spot to put the hosts in front in the 18th minute.

It was 2-0 three minutes later when defender Luperto doubled Empoli’s lead following a corner as he struck into the roof of the net on a rebound.

While first-half chances from Dusan Vlahovic and Gleison Bremer did not cut the deficit for Juve, Empoli continued to show greater determination after the break and added another goal two minutes into the second period.

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Midfielder Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro went on a solo run and squared the ball to Caputo who made it 3-0 with a chipped finish.

Juventus put an end to their failings in front of goal when halftime substitute Chiesa pulled a goal back with a low strike five minutes from time in his 200th appearance in Serie A.

But it was too little too late for powerless Juventus who conceded again in stoppage time when forward Piccoli moved easily past three Juve defenders to seal the win.

Juventus, who were knocked out in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday by Sevilla following a 3-2 aggregate loss, previously won all five away matches against Empoli under Allegri.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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SERIE A

Ademola Lookman wins Atalanta’s ‘Player of The Season Award

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles winger and silver medal winner with the country at the last AFCON 2023 tournament in Cote D’Ivoire, Ademola Lookman, has emerged as the Atalanta Player of the Season.

The pint-size forward has won the converted award Back-to-back with the Bergamo-based side after his exploit in the domestic and European matches for the side.

Atalanta qualified for two finals with the Nigerian International playing an active role in the campaign.

He was instrumental to Atalanta winning the UEFA Europa League beating Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the final with the Nigerian scoring all the goals.

The club announced on its official website on Thursday saying, “It’s him again, Ademola Lookman! The reigning champion defends his title and is crowned straight-a student for the second year in a row after staving off an unsparing competition, to the point of both bringing the contest to an overtime runoff and stepping the pose down up to the Instagram profile after the regular session ended in a tie. Kudos to Mola for his back-to-back Player of the Season!” it noted.
It went further that,” building on his 17 goals and 11 key passes in all competitions (making him the team’s second-best seasonal scorer and wingman) and with the hat-trick scored in the magical Dublin final as his main leg-up, Lookman tips the ItalianOptic branded crown once again,” the web remarked.

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Aside from Ademola, the second and third-best positions were also announced as the midfield duo of Jose dos Santo Éderson and Teun Koopmeiners.

The Nigerian had a brilliant AFCON experience with Nigeria where he scored three goals and his exploits so far have put him in strong contention to win the next ‘African Footballer of the Year’ award which will come up before the end of the year at a venue yet to be announced by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen is the reigning winner of the award alongside Asissat Oshoola who retained the version.

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SERIE A

Napoli reduces Victor Osimhen’s value

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Former Serie A champions Napoli are reportedly ready to drop their asking price for Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen as his future grows ever more uncertain.

The 25-year-old is looking for a move away from Serie A but Napoli’s initial €150M release clause has warned off any potential suitors.

Quoting from another Italian outlet, Calciomercato, Getfootballnewsitaly reports that Napoli are ready to lower the initial valuation to €100M, in the hope that they can free up much needed transfer funds for new boss Antonio Conte, who is understood to be desperate to land Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku this summer.

It is also stated that the English Premier League sides, Chelsea who were understood to be in pole-position to sign the Nigerian international, has never opened any negotiation with the 2023 Serie A champions.

The only avenues open at this time seem to be the Saudi Pro-League, where a reported salary of €40M a season has been offered, or Paris Saint-Germain, with Osimhen not keen on either option, preferring a move to the English Premier League.

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SERIE A

Osimhen’s Napoli European hopes end with 0-0 draw against Lecce

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If Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen remains in Napoli in the next season, he will not have any action in UEFA competitions.

Napoli lost their slim chances to participate in European competitions next season when they were held to a 0-0 home draw by Lecce in their last Serie A game of the campaign on Sunday.

Last season’s champions Napoli finished 10th on 53 points, level with ninth-placed Torino who were beaten 3-0 at Atalanta in a simultaneous kick off on Sunday.

Despite their loss, Torino can now still earn a Europa Conference League playoffs spot if eighth-placed Fiorentina, who have a game in hand, win the Europa Conference League.

Fiorentina face Greece’s Olympiacos for the title on Wednesday.

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Napoli needed a win to maintain their European hopes but despite 24 shots, five of them on target, they ended their disappointing campaign winless in their last seven games.

Substitute Cyril Ngonge had a good chance to give Napoli the lead just after the break but his shot from the edge of the box was saved by Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone.

Jens Cajuste hit the far post with a low strike shortly before Ngonge hit the bar in the 64th minute.

Europa League winners Atalanta, meanwhile, secured at least fourth spot after Gianluca Scamacca, Ademola Lookman and Mario Pasalic were all on target in a 3-0 win against Torino.

They sit fourth on 69 points but can still leapfrog third-placed Juventus, on 71 points, if they beat Fiorentina in their last remaining game next Sunday.

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-Reuters

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