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Despite wins, Wisconsin still looks to improve

first_imgAfter picking up two victories this past weekend, the Wisconsin men’s tennis team seems pretty aware of where it stands.Singles play continues to dominate. Doubles, however, is something that could still be fixed — and if it does get fixed, the Badgers could become much more lethal come tournament time.“We’ve been, in the last few years, pretty solid at the top of the lineup (in singles) and we’re getting some wins down low now as well,” assistant coach Evan Austin said. “If we can get our doubles going a little bit it’s going to give us a chance to beat some of those higher ranked teams.”Though the Badgers (14-6, 4-2) did come away from the weekend unscathed against Purdue and No. 48 Northwestern, it was evident that doubles could still be retooled a bit.Against a lackluster Boilermaker team on Saturday, the Badgers showed brute force early when senior Michael Dierberger and sophomore Patrick Pohlmann pulled off an easy 8-1 win.The rest of doubles, however, was not quite as breezy. Senior Luke Rassow-Kantor and freshman Chris Freeman lost their match, and suddenly the doubles point rested on No. 15 Moritz Baumann and Marek Michalicka, who struggled against the Boilermakers.Purdue’s Branko Kuzmanovic and Slavko Bjelica frustrated the Wisconsin duo with limited mistakes at the net. Kuzmanovic mastered the net points with careful touches that frightened the Badgers with a 5-4 lead. However, the scare passed and Wisconsin was able to claim the pivotal doubles point.Against Northwestern on Friday, Wisconsin sported a different doubles lineup and saw its lone victory come from Michalicka and Pohlmann, as the doubles point was lost.Following the doubles in both matches, Wisconsin’s singles played consistently well, winning 9 of 12 matches on the weekend as they secured a 5-2 team victory in both contests.Wisconsin has won four of its last five matches despite going 2-3 in the doubles point. With all the extra weight placed on singles, Wisconsin is fortunate to have come away so clean.“We’ve got to work on doubles,” Baumann said. “We’re really confident in singles, but improvement in doubles is what we’ll work on a lot in practice this week. It’s always tough to come back if you lose the doubles point — it makes it so much easier when you win it.”According to Austin, the team is still looking for the best overall pairing of teammates, which might explain why Baumann and Michalicka played alongside different teammates against Northwestern. Nevertheless, Austin believes some improvements were made on Saturday after seeing Dierberger and Pohlmann produce an 8-1 stomping.“I think we played better down there with Pat and Dierberger,” Austin said. “They played a little bit together in the fall and did pretty well together, so that was good to see.”“We’re continuing to look for combinations that give us a spark and play with a lot of energy because, really, in doubles that’s the difference.”Even though singles has been there to bail out the Badgers as of late, the team has not neglected further improvements to singles play. The weekend saw all three of Wisconsin’s freshmen — Billy Bertha, Ricardo Martin and Freeman — receive an increased amount of playing time. As the Badgers now sit in the middle of the Big Ten season, the cultivation of their more inexperienced players will be vital as tournament season approaches.“Going through matches, it’s kind of an emotional rollercoaster, and so to be able to get out there and play at a high intensity and to be able to shut them down, it just really adds to your experience,” Freeman said. “For the tougher matches you can rely on that and it’ll get you through.”With the three freshmen, Wisconsin saw varying degrees of improvement. Freeman won both of his singles matches, while Martin went 1-1 and Bertha 0-2.Both Austin and Baumann noted Freeman’s significant development after his dominating performance on Saturday in which he won his singles match 6-0, 6-2.“I think Chris is playing really well right now,” Austin said. “He kind of had an up and down start… he’s kind of gotten over the hump a little bit and is starting to get some wins and confidence.”As difficult as it may be to win a tennis match without the doubles point, Michalicka is confident in his team’s play at singles. And at that, it doesn’t matter how the team wins, as long as they keep doing it.“All these guys can win any day against basically, I feel like, anybody,” he said. “It’s always hard when you lose the doubles to win (the match), but it’s not impossible for us. It’s worked out a couple times.”last_img read more

Cubs abuse Walker Buehler, Dodgers bullpen for seven-run inning to earn series split

first_imgPreviousChicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers during a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez reacts after teammate Anthony Rizzo (not pictured) hit a bases clearing double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez (9) high fives teammates Albert Almora Jr. (5) along with Jason Heyward (22) after teammate Anthony Rizzo (not pictured) hit a bases clearing double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsLos Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate against he Chicago Cubs in the first inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo hits a bases clearing double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo hits a bases clearing double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor commits an error as Chicago Cubs’ David Bote (not pictured) is safe at first base in the second inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (30) looks on as the Chicago Cubs score 7 runs in the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs’ Jason Heyward rounds first bases on his way to second after hitting a RBI double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, left, removes pitcher Walker Buehler during the seventh inning of Thursday’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium. Buehler came on in relief after flying back from Oklahoma City earlier in the morning. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp throws his bat after lining out against the Chicago Cubs in the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor commits an error as Chicago Cubs’ David Bote (not pictured) is safe at first base in the second inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jose Quintana throws to the plate against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Austin Barnes (15) steals third base ahead of the tag by Chicago Cubs third baseman David Bote (13) in the second inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs third baseman David Bote makes the play on Los Angeles Dodgers’ Logan Forsythe (not pictured) in the third inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tags out Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (44) at second base trying to turn a single into a double in the second inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor (3) forces out Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber (12) at scones base in the third inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy hits a solo home run against the Chicago Cubs in the third inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy (13) high fives third base coach Chris Woodward (45) after hitting a solo hoe run against the Chicago Cubs in the third inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez RBI double against the Chicago Cubs in the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. chase down a RBI double by Los Angeles Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez (not pictured) in the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball gamev at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. (5) rounds third base after hitting a solo home run off Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler (21) in the sixth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw against the Chicago Cubs in the second inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy commits an error as a runs across against the Chicago Cubs in the sixth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo looks on during a Major League Baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner throws out Chicago Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. (not pictured) in the first inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo flips late as Los Angeles Dodgers’ Walker Buehler (not pictured) is safe at first base during a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Baseball fans look on during a Major League Baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jose Quintana throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez watches his RBI-single against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Chris Taylor can’t hold on to a ball hit by Chicago Cubs’ David Bote during the second inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 28: Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers tosses his bat in frustration after making the final out of the fourth inning of the game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy celebrates after his home run against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell watches his RBI-single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez celebrates after scoring on a single by Addison Russell during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo watches his three-RBI double during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 28: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers yells in frustration after he flies out in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez celebrates after scoring on a three-RBI double by Anthony Rizzo during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell celebrates in the dugout after his two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler wipes his face after being taken out of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo fails to throw Los Angeles Dodgers’ Walker Buehler out at first during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Erik Goeddel hangs his head after giving up a three-RBI double to Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell, right, rounds the bases after his two-run home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Erik Goeddel during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy can’t get a glove on a single by Chicago Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Chicago Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. celebrates in the dugout after his home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, left, and center fielder Albert Almora Jr. celebrate their 11-5 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers during a baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy during a Major League Baseball game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers during a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez reacts after teammate Anthony Rizzo (not pictured) hit a bases clearing double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)NextShow Caption1 of 48Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez reacts after teammate Anthony Rizzo (not pictured) hit a bases clearing double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)ExpandLOS ANGELES — Earlier this week, pitcher Ross Stripling called the Chicago Cubs a “good benchmark” for the Dodgers. The two teams were good enough to play each other in the last two National League Championship Series. Had the regular season ended Wednesday, they were good enough to play each other in the wild card game.The four-game series between the Dodgers and Cubs this week was predictably even. Chicago’s 11-5 win Thursday before an announced crowd of 52,187 at Dodger Stadium forged a series split.If one series is an accurate measuring stick, this one exposed a major shortcoming with the Dodgers’ roster: Their bullpen allowed 18 runs in the two losses combined.Sign up for our Inside the Dodgers newsletter. Be the best Dodger fan you can be by getting daily intel on your favorite team. Subscribe here.The Cubs scored six runs against Edward Paredes and Yimi Garcia in the sixth inning Tuesday night. They scored seven runs against Walker Buehler and Erik Goeddel in the seventh inning Thursday afternoon. Each time, one crooked inning unraveled an otherwise close game. Buehler began the day Thursday by boarding an early-morning flight for Los Angeles. In the afternoon, he faced nine Cubs hitters in relief of Kershaw. Five of them scored, raising Buehler’s earned-run average from 2.63 to 3.44, leaving him with his second loss of the season.“We asked a lot out of Walker today,” Kershaw said. “That was tough for him, to fly back and have to pitch out of the bullpen; first time back out. It was a lot. Walker can handle a lot. We’re not worried about him. He’ll be just fine.”After Buehler walked Kyle Schwarber in the seventh inning, Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes visited the mound for a long meeting, his right arm wrapped around the rookie pitcher’s shoulder.“I know he was frustrated,” Barnes said. “He knows how good he is. He didn’t start the way he wanted to. I wanted to make sure he was relaxed, just realize the big picture: had to get out of this, continue to make pitches.”“I made some bad pitches to good hitters,” Buehler said. “Those guys are good. You can’t make pitches like that to them.”In the seventh inning, Goeddel took over with runners on second and third base and the Dodgers trailing 4-3. The first batter he faced, Albert Almora Jr., hit a pop-up to first baseman Max Muncy. In an omen of things to come, Muncy lost sight of the baseball in the afternoon sun, and Schwarber trotted home with the Cubs’ fifth run.The carnage continued. Javier Baez singled, loading the bases. Anthony Rizzo doubled, clearing the bases. Addison Russell homered, giving the Cubs a 10-3 lead. Left-hander Caleb Ferguson relieved Goeddel and allowed one run over the final two innings.The Dodgers collected nine hits against left-hander Jose Quintana and three relievers.Muncy hit a solo home run –  his team-leading 17th of the season – singled, and drew two walks. Chris Taylor made his first start since injuring his left hamstring June 20. He led off the game with a double and finished 1 for 5, showing no signs of the injury.Kiké Hernandez and Austin Barnes each had two hits; Hernandez used a single and a double to drive in Barnes.Kershaw saw his fastball velocity rebound to its pre-injury range of 92-93 mph. He did not walk a batter and struck out six. The Cubs got their only run against him on a double by Baez and an RBI single by Russell in the fourth inning.“Clayton was efficient, got up and down five times,” Roberts said. “I thought the fastball had life, good command. The curveball was sharp and the slider was good. I think it’s only going to get better.”Kershaw said his pitch and innings-limit restrictions “should pretty much be off” now.“There’s definitely some things to be encouraged with today,” he said.The Dodgers (43-36) trail the Arizona Diamondbacks (47-34) by 3-1/2 games for first place in the National League West. They begin a three-game series against the fourth-place Rockies here Friday.For Buehler, the future is brighter than the immediate past. Roberts said Buehler will continue to build up his arm strength and return to the starting rotation. The Dodgers have a stretch of 10 games in 10 days prior to the All-Star break, and could conceivably insert Buehler into the rotation then.Thursday marked the second time this month the Dodgers have allowed an injured pitcher to go straight from the DL to their major league roster. Kershaw missed 22 days with a back injury before he was activated from the disabled list last week. He did not appear in a game at any level during that time.Prior to the game, Roberts expressed no reservations about using Buehler in an unexpected situation against a deep lineup.“Every injury’s different,” Roberts said. “When you’re seeing the way (Buehler) is throwing the ball and is pain-free, I think it was pretty clear that – with the pitching that we had, the health, it made sense at the point in time.“You get the comfort level and confidence in the player, in Walker, it was pretty easy for us to make that decision.” “We match up very well with those guys. They match up very well with us,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said. “I think that we’re very comparable clubs. You give away outs by walks; we both can slug. You’ve got to play good baseball. Look at a couple of these games, they broke it open on our guys, but by and large our bullpen’s been pretty good for quite some time.”Thursday’s outcome was particularly brutal for Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw.In his second start since returning from a back injury, Kershaw needed only 68 of his allotted 75 pitches to get through five innings. The left-hander allowed one run and exited in line for his first win since April 15 with the Dodgers leading 3-1.The lead quickly fizzled in the hands of Buehler.On Wednesday, the rookie right-hander flew into Oklahoma City, where he was scheduled to make a three-inning rehab start for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. Instead, Buehler was summoned to the majors for his first game action since a rib microfracture sent him to the disabled list June 8.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

Browns’ Chad Thomas carted off field, ‘day-to-day’ with neck sprain

first_imgA scary scene unfolded Monday at Cleveland’s practice.Browns defensive end Chad Thomas was carted off the field with a neck injury after being immobilized on a stretcher out of caution. Redskins to make QB decisions after third preseason game, Jay Gruden says According to reports, Thomas was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation but had feeling and movement in all his extremities.#Browns Chad Thomas immobilized on a stretcher and then carted off. Disturbing scene at practice pic.twitter.com/9fYlx7uev0— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 12, 2019NFL Media reported later Monday that Thomas had returned to the team’s facility and is considered day-to-day with a neck sprain.  Tom Brady: Don’t read anything into Boston-area home being for sale Related News NFL: Antonio Brown could be in ‘breach of contract’ if he won’t play in new helmet Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry told reporters he was just happy his teammate was all right.#Browns Jarvis Landry grateful that Chad Thomas has feeling in all of his extremities after being immobilized and carted off pic.twitter.com/CcxHBASD6a— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 12, 2019Cleveland selected Thomas, 23, out of Miami in the third round of the 2018 draft. He played in four games as a rookie and made one tackle in the Browns’ preseason opener against the Redskins last week.last_img read more

Ronaldo brace seals new record for Juventus

first_imgRonaldo-powered Juventus have achieved a record number of points before the three-week winter break with 53 from 19 games.Napoli are nine points behind in second, with Inter Milan a further five adrift in third, days after their clash at the San Siro was overshadowed by the death of a supporter with Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly targetted by racist chanting.Koulibaly was suspended for Saturday’s game but fans showed their support in his San Paolo stadium by wearing masks with the defender’s face and holding up banners saying: “We are all Koulibaly”.Dries Mertens sealed victory two minutes from time after Bologna battled back twice to level Milik’s goals on 15 and 51 minutes.“It was important to end the year on a high and it wasn’t at all easy,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri after a game in which the video assistant referee played a key role.Napoli fans hold pictures of Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly who was a victim of racist chants during the week in Milan. © AFP / Carlo HermannTwo penalties were decided by VAR with Sampordia also having a late equaliser ruled out.Ronaldo curled in the opener after just two minutes in Turin, adding a second from the spot on 65 minutes, to go top of Serie A’s scoring charts on 14 goals.Fabio Quagliarella pulled the Genoa outfit level with a penalty on 33 minutes, before Riccardo Saponara’s late equaliser was ruled offside.Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo, dismissing Ronaldo’s penalty as “a gift,” adding “that Saponara goal should never have been cancelled”.“For me, morally, the game was 2-2.”The seven-time reigning champions have dropped points just twice, against Genoa in October and Atalanta midweek, and are firmly on track for an eighth consecutive Scudetto.“Records are meaningless, if not to improve and raise the bar,” said Allegri.“We do have the perception that with Cristiano Ronaldo there’s a better chance of winning the Champions League. However, we’re not even in January yet and there’s a very long way to go.”– Higuain rescues AC Milan –The Portuguese striker found a way through early, picking up a Paulo Dybala cross to fire in past Sampdoria’s on-loan Juventus goalkeeper Emil Audero.Sampdoria pulled level following a penalty awarded following an Emre Can handball with Quagliarella making no mistake.Napoli’s Polish forward Arkadiusz Milik scored his third hat-trick in Serie A this season. © AFP / Carlo HermannThe 35-year-old became the first player to score in nine consecutive Serie A games since David Trezeguet for Juventus in 2005.Audero deflected over a Ronaldo header on the hour but the hosts went ahead when the referee pointed to the spot for an Alex Ferrari handball.Substitute Saponara looked to have grabbed a point deep into injury time but VAR ruled he was in an offside position.Napoli got back to winning ways after last week’s defeat in Milan, despite missing Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne, who were both suspended, and injured captain Marek Hamsik.Bologna’s Federico Santander and Danilo levelled twice with headers before Mertens secured the win with a powerful drive from a distance.“We’re on track with expectations,” said Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti.“We had some good results that have only been watered down by an extraordinary Juventus run.”Earlier Inter Milan earned back-to-back wins with Senegalese winger Keita Balde scoring on 72 minutes in a game played without their fans after the racist abuse aimed at Koulibaly in the San Siro.Roma profitted from Sampdoria’s defeat to move up to sixth just two points off the Champions League places, thanks to second half goals for Bryan Cristante (58) and Cengiz Under (75) in a 2-0 win over Parma.Senegalese forward Keita Balde scored his fourth Serie A goal this season for Inter Milan © AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTELazio were held 1-1 by Torino in the Stadio Olimpico, as Atalanta beat Sassuolo 6-2 with Slovenian Josip Ilicic scoring a second-half hat-trick.At the San Siro, Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain got back scoring after a two-month drought firing in the winner in a 2-1 victory for AC Milan over struggling SPAL.Gennaro Gattuso’s side move up to fifth, one point behind Lazio, to end their four-game winless run.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Cristiano Ronaldo went top of the Serie A scorers chart with 14 goals this season. © AFP / Marco BERTORELLOMILAN, Italy, Dec 30 – Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Juventus closed out 2018 on a high with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria to set a new points record in Serie A before the winter break on Saturday.Not to be outdone, however, Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik also bagged a brace with a 3-2 home win against Bologna to keep the pressure on the champions.last_img read more