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Pulisic stars on Serie A debut with stunning goal to help AC Milan win

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United States standout Christian Pulisic began his AC Milan career in impressive style by scoring one goal and setting up another as Bologna was beaten 2-0 on Monday in their opening match of Serie A.

Pulisic, who joined Milan last month, had a hand in Olivier Giroud’s opener and his former Chelsea teammate returned the favor in the 21st minute, Associated Press reported.

“It was a fantastic start for sure,” Pulisic said. “I’m really excited to be a part of this team. The two early goals really helped us because it was a difficult game after that. And for me just a great start personally as well, nice to get a goal.”

Pulisic is one of several new Rossoneri faces. Milan was the busiest Serie A club in the offseason, bringing in six new players and he said the presence of former teammates played a part in his decision to join the storied Italian club.

“I was just speaking with those guys. With Olivier we had some good experiences together, I played with Fikayo (Tomori), I played with Ruben and the connection is just there, as you can see tonight again,” Pulisic said.

“And it was great to get the assist from Ollie again. It just felt like the perfect step in my career and I feel really, really welcome.”

Pulisic’s U.S. teammate Yunus Musah was suspended for the season opener. But other new buys Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tijjani Reijnders were given starting debuts and the latter also had a hand in the opener in the 11th minute.

Pulisic put in a precise crossfield pass to the back post where Reijnders cut it back for Giroud to slot in at the other side.

Pulisic did even better 10 minutes later when he played a one-two with Giroud before firing into the far side.

“We are very happy with this first match and I am even happier for Christian,” Giroud said. “I know him very well, we played together and had a good relationship on the field.”

With a comfortable lead and the heat nearing 30 degrees — even at night — in Bologna, Milan’s intensity dropped.

Rafael Leão could have made it three in the final minute but his effort came off the inside of the far post.

Claudio Ranieri ’s first match back in Serie A ended in a creditable 0-0 for Cagliari at Torino.

Torino had the better of the chances but — just like last season — struggled to make the most of its opportunities.

The 71-year-old Ranieri was back at the club that effectively launched his coaching career more than 30 years ago.

He achieved another seemingly improbable feat last season when he steered Cagliari to promotion via the playoffs.

 

International Sports

Egyptian Super Cup semi-final settled after 34 penalty kicks

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It took 34 penalty kicks before Modern Future finally beat Pyramids 14-13 in a nerve-shredding shootout in the Egyptian Super Cup semi-final on Monday after the contest had ended in a 0-0 draw.

Modern Future, who will face either Al Ahly or Ceramica Cleopatra in the final, squandered three spot kicks while Pyramids lost the match after missing a fourth penalty kick at Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Reuters reported.

Pyramids defender Osama Galal wasted two penalty shots, including the decisive one that sealed victory for Future.

Even though at times it felt that the shootout was never ending, it was well short of the 54 penalties taken when Washington FC beat Bedlington Terriers 25-24 in a local cup match in England last year.

A 2005 Namibian Cup match between KK Palace and Civics featured 48 penalties.

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India surprised by Wanderers wicket in big win over South Africa

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India were surprised how helpful the Wanderers pitch was for their seamers in their eight-wicket victory in the first One-Day International against South Africa on Sunday, as captain KL Rahul said he thought it was his spinners who would win the day.

India bowled their hosts out for 116, a record low score for South Africa on home soil, and then easily chased down the runs with exactly 200 balls to spare.

The tourists won the final Twenty20 International on the same wicket on Thursday, and Rahul says he believed it would be a game for his spinners, Reuters reported.

Instead seamers Arshdeep Singh (5-37) and Avesh Khan (4-27) both recorded career-best figures.

“It was completely different to what we expected,” Rahul said at the post-match presentation. “We had planned to bring the spinners into the game early after what we saw in the T20 match.

“But there was a lot of help in the wicket and the boys did really well to put the ball into the right areas.

“It is my first ODI win here (South Africa) as a captain. When I was here last time (January 2022) we lost all three, so it is good to get that victory under your belt.”

Both sides have rested players ahead of a two-match Test series starting on Dec. 26. There were several new faces in the Indian team, including debutant opening batter Sai Sudharsan, who took his chance with an unbeaten 55 from 43 balls.

“There is a lot of cricket being played these days. You have to prioritise formats and at the moment it is Test cricket and T20s a little bit,” Rahul said.

“That is the modern-day game, but we believe whoever is here will perform for their country.”

South Africa never got going in the game with bat or ball and have much to think about ahead of the second match in the three-game series in Gqeberha on Tuesday.

“Credit to their bowling attack with the lateral movement,” home captain Aiden Markram said. “We weren’t able to settle and build partnerships. It was a problem right from the start and we couldn’t pull things back.

“We expected it to go around (seam) a little bit. Generally in the day games it does do something for five to seven overs. But today it went on for longer and we couldn’t get in.”

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Greece orders top-flight clubs to play matches without fans for two months

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Greece must play all its top league soccer matches without fans for the next two months following the severe injuring of a police officer in violence during a volleyball match in Athens last week, its government said on Monday.

All Super League 1 matches will be played behind closed doors until Feb. 12, 2024, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis told a weekly briefing on Monday.

The volleyball match was between local teams Olympiacos and Panathinaikos who are both owned by the soccer sides of the same name.

Marinakis said the measure might also apply to some European fixtures at home and could be extended beyond Feb. 12, if top league soccer teams fail by that date to take action, such as installing cameras and systems of electronic identification for their fans at the stadiums.

The announcement followed the critical injuring of a 31-year-old police officer by a flare in violent clashes that broke out on Thursday, during a volleyball match hosted by Olympiacos in Piraeus.

In Greece, fights between football fans and clubs are frequent on and off the pitch before or after a game and the government has been trying to reform soccer.

More than 400 people had been briefly detained over Thursday’s incident which Greek police said was a “murderous attack” of hooligans on riot police, including the officer who remains in hospital in critical condition.

Evidence collected helped police track down a 18-year-old man who confessed to joining the group which attacked the police and to throwing the flare which injured the officer, a police official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The arrested man was expected to testify before a public prosecutor on Thursday, the semi-state Athens News Agency reported on Monday.

“For years, criminals in the guise of fans have been committing serious crimes by critically injuring and killing (people),” Marinakis said.

“Neither athletes, nor fans should they suffer from the murderous behaviour of criminal gangs and the pathetic tolerance of a tiny minority of fans,” he added.

Last August, AEK Athens fan Michalis Katsouris was stabbed to death in violent clashes before a Champions League match between AEK and Dinamo Zagreb.

Following another incident, the death of a 19-year-old fan, Alkis Kampanos, in rival clashes in the northern city of Thessaloniki last year, Greece tightened rules over soccer clubs, imposed heavier penalties and increased police controls.

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