Soccer — Italian LeagueTuesday, March 18, 2014
Late Higuaín goal gives Napoli 1-0 win at Torino
Totti makes instant impact on Roma return
Napoli survived two shots against the woodwork before Gonzalo Higuaín scored a controversial last-gasp goal to give them a 1-0 win at Torino, while Francesco Totti scored one goal and helped set up another in AS Roma’s 3-2 win over Udinese.
ROME — Gonzalo Higuaín scored a controversial goal in the 90th minute to give Napoli a 1-0 win at Torino yesterday and boost its chances of qualifying directly for the Champions League.
Francesco Totti scored the opener and Roma went on to beat Udinese 3-2 to maintain its three-point lead over Napoli in the race for Italy’s last direct Champions League spot.
The top two finishers in Italy gain direct entry to the Champions League, while the third-place finisher goes into the last playoff round.
“We’ve gotten three very important points,” Higuaín said. “We wanted to draw closer to Roma.”
Napoli beat Roma 1-0 last weekend, although Roma beat its southern rival 2-0 in October and so holds the head-to-head edge.
Higuaín appeared to foul Torino defender Kamil Glik with a push outside the area after collecting a long pass from Marek Hamsik then dribbled in to score with an angled shot that Torino goalkeeper Daniele Padelli got his hands on and could have done better to stop.
“I don’t know if it was a foul,” Higuaín said. “It was a quick play.”
It was Higuaín’s 14th goal this season, after transferring from Real Madrid in July, moving him one behind Juventus’ Carlos Tevez for the Serie A scoring lead.
Napoli had rarely threatened for most of the match, and Torino’s Cesare Bovo and Riccardo Meggiorini hit the post either side of halftime.
It was Totti’s sixth goal in 16 appearances this season and the 233rd of his Serie A career, second only to record-holder Silvio Piola’s 274. The 37-year-old Roma Totti had been out for a month due to a minor injury.
Mattia Destro added another for Roma in the 30th, dribbling by the goalkeeper and shooting into an empty net after collecting a pass from Gervinho.
Giampaolo Pinzi pulled one back for Udinese in the 51st with a long, angled shot and then Roma’s Greece defender Vasilis Torosidis restored the two-goal lead in the 69th with a long left-footed effort that appeared to surprise the defence — perhaps because Torosidis usually favours his right foot, and is not known for his shooting skills.
Udinese’s Dusan Basta cut the deficit back to one in the 80th from a rebound.
SPANISH LEAGUE. Athletic Bilbao missed a chance to tighten its grip on Spain’s fourth Champions League qualification place when it had to come from behind to rescue a 1-1 draw at 10-man Villarreal in La Liga yesterday.
Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo saved Aritz Aduriz’s 40th-minute penalty at the Madrigal before teenager Oliver Torres slipped the ball across goal for Tomás Pina to fire the home side ahead two minutes into the second half.
The match turned when Villarreal defender Gabriel earned a second yellow card and was sent off in the 66th minute and Aduriz atoned for his penalty miss with a fine headed equalizer seven minutes from time.