Black Day for Juventus with Points Penalty and Loss at Empoli 

Juventus' players, Adrien Rabiot, from left, Moise Kean, and Leandro Paredes, are disappointed after Empoli's goal of 4-1, during the Italian Serie A match between Empoli and Juventus, at the Carlo Castellani stadium in Empoli, Italy, Monday, May 22, 2023. (AP)
Juventus' players, Adrien Rabiot, from left, Moise Kean, and Leandro Paredes, are disappointed after Empoli's goal of 4-1, during the Italian Serie A match between Empoli and Juventus, at the Carlo Castellani stadium in Empoli, Italy, Monday, May 22, 2023. (AP)
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Black Day for Juventus with Points Penalty and Loss at Empoli 

Juventus' players, Adrien Rabiot, from left, Moise Kean, and Leandro Paredes, are disappointed after Empoli's goal of 4-1, during the Italian Serie A match between Empoli and Juventus, at the Carlo Castellani stadium in Empoli, Italy, Monday, May 22, 2023. (AP)
Juventus' players, Adrien Rabiot, from left, Moise Kean, and Leandro Paredes, are disappointed after Empoli's goal of 4-1, during the Italian Serie A match between Empoli and Juventus, at the Carlo Castellani stadium in Empoli, Italy, Monday, May 22, 2023. (AP)

A bad day for Juventus turned worse when a 4-1 loss at Empoli on Monday saw its hopes of qualifying for the Champions League implode.

Before kickoff, Juventus was hit by a 10-point penalty for false accounting. That dropped the club to seventh in Serie A, five points behind fourth-placed AC Milan. Juve hosts Milan next weekend in one of its final two matches.

“It was a mental collapse which is normal after a surreal season,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At this point it’s enough, it’s one thing after the other. They (league organizers) need to decide once and for all where we are.

“The guys did their best. It’s not an excuse, but finding yourself with 10 points less, a quarter of an hour before the match is at least mitigating circumstances. It’s been a really tiring year, always going back and forth. And on the field, we’re second.”

Another route into the Champions League ended last week in a loss to Sevilla after extra time in their Europa League semifinal.

Despite the points penalty — which it could still appeal — Juventus knew a win at Empoli would still leave its chances of a Serie A top-four finish in its own hands.

Juventus thought it took an early lead when Arkadiusz Milik headed a corner off the crossbar and Federico Gatti bundled in the rebound but it was ruled out for a foul by Bremer on the goalkeeper.

Instead, Empoli went in front from a Francesco Caputo penalty in the 18th minute after Milik had fouled Nicolò Cambiaghi.

Sebastiano Luperto doubled Empoli’s lead three minutes later, tapping in the rebound after Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny brilliantly parried Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro at close range.

After the break, Akpa Akpro stole the ball off Bianconeri defender Alex Sandro and bore down on goal before rolling across for Caputo to dink it over Szczęsny.

The only good news for Juventus came late when Federico Chiesa scored his first league goal in more than a year. Chiesa was out for 10 months last year with a knee injury.

There was still time for Roberto Piccoli to cap a brilliant night for Empoli.

Roma held

Roma was held at home by Salernitana to 2-2 but had its Champions League hopes boosted.

Salernitana twice took the lead through Antonio Candreva and Boulaye Dia but was twice pegged back by goals from Stephan El Shaarawy and Nemanja Matić.

Roma started the day seven points off then fourth-placed Inter Milan but, despite dropping points, moved to within four points of the top four following Juve’s punishment.

Roma can also qualify for the Champions League if it beats Sevilla in the Europa League final on May 31.

Roma was on a five-match winless run and got off to a miserable start at the Stadio Olimpico when Salernitana took the lead in impressive fashion in the 12th minute. Lassana Coulibaly floated a long ball over the top and Candreva sprung the offside trap, waited for it to dip, before sticking his leg out to volley it into the top right corner.

José Mourinho made a triple change at the break and had an immediate impact. Two minutes after the restart, one of those substitutes, Lorenzo Pellegrini, saw his free kick saved and El Shaarawy fire home the rebound.

Salernitana restored its advantage seven minutes later with another classy finish. Krzysztof Piątek’s shot came off Roma defender Chris Smalling and into the path of Dia, who flicked it in with the back of his heel.

Matić — another one of the halftime substitutes — rescued a point for Roma seven minutes from time.



Licking Their Wounds, Croatia and Albania Prepare for Group B Dogfight

 Croatia's midfielder #10 Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Croatia at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 15, 2024. (AFP)
Croatia's midfielder #10 Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Croatia at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 15, 2024. (AFP)
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Licking Their Wounds, Croatia and Albania Prepare for Group B Dogfight

 Croatia's midfielder #10 Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Croatia at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 15, 2024. (AFP)
Croatia's midfielder #10 Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Croatia at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 15, 2024. (AFP)

Chastened by defeats to the heavyweights of Group B, Croatia and Albania both need a win in their clash on Wednesday to ignite their Euro 2024 campaign and give them hope of progressing.

Croatia have a rich World Cup history but have never replicated that at the Euros and began their latest attempt with a disappointing 3-0 defeat against Spain.

Albania are at only their second major tournament and performed creditably against defending champions Italy in their opening match, taking an early lead before succumbing 2-1.

Both teams urgently need points in their second game at Hamburg's Volksparkstadion, either to compete for the two qualifying spots or to bolster their chances of being one of the four best third-placed teams who will progress to the knockouts.

Croatia's coach Zlatko Dalic wants more aggression and speed from a team oozing quality -- from veteran midfielder Luka Modric, 38, at probably his last big tournament, to classy defender Josko Gvardiol, 22, at the other end of his career.

"We know what we're up against. We have two difficult matches. It's not over, keep your heads up. Our goal is to advance from the group and we will do our best to achieve that," Dalic said of a game Croatian media have billed as do-or-die.

"Everything is still in our hands, still under our control. We need to be better... It's up to me to turn things around, point out the flaws and not dwell too much on the Spain match."

Despite being viewed as minnows, Albania topped their qualifying group over teams such as the Czech Republic and Poland and are not at the tournament to make up the numbers.

Their Brazilian coach Sylvinho will try to keep his team disciplined before hitting Croatia on the break -- as they did against Italy with a goal after 23 seconds and so nearly again at the end when they narrowly failed to equalize.

"I have seen other sides in this tournament. If you try and go toe-to-toe with them, they will score five or six against you," he said. "It's only our second time here in the Euros. We have young players, very good players, but it's not easy."

Right winger Jasir Asani is Albania's main threat in what is the nation's first game against Croatia.