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Verona beats AC Milan 2-1 in Italian opener

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ROME (AP) - Luca Toni scored twice and Hellas Verona beat AC Milan 2-1 Saturday to celebrate its return to Serie A after an 11-year absence as the Italian league opened with a major upset.

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Two-time champion Juventus avoided a similar surprise as it kicked off its bid for a third consecutive title with a 1-0 win over Sampdoria after new striker Carlos Tevez scored in the 58th minute.

After Andrea Poli put Milan ahead in the 14th minute following a pass from Mario Balotelli, the 6-foot-5 Toni struck back with headers in the 30th and 53rd.

``There's no better way to start the season,'' Verona midfielder Massimo Donati said.

It was a disturbing result for Milan ahead of Wednesday's return-leg match with PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League qualifying playoffs. Milan also gave up a lead in the opening leg, drawing 1-1.

Last season, Milan never lost in Serie A after establishing a lead, winning 21 matches and drawing four.

``The explanation is simple: we played bad football and we played poorly as a squad,'' Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. ``We needed to control the ball better. We played poorly and they deserved the victory.''

Juventus didn't quite dominate like in its 4-0 rout of Lazio in last weekend's Super Cup but Antonio Conte's men showed the same poise and discipline of the past two seasons.

Tevez, Juve's big offseason acquisition from Manchester City, only had to tap in after taking a pass from Paul Pogba at the edge of the box on a rainy night at the Juventus Stadium.

The other eight matches of the opening weekend will be played Sunday, with last year's runner-up Napoli hosting Bologna and Inter Milan facing Genoa at the San Siro. Also, Lazio opens against Udinese with one end of its stadium closed as punishment for fan racism in last weekend's Super Cup loss.

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BERLIN (AP) - Defending champion Bayern Munich ground out a hard-fought 2-0 win over Nuremberg to maintain its winning start to the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Franck Ribery met Philipp Lahm's cross with a fine header to break the deadlock in the 69th, and Arjen Robben sealed the result when he eluded three defenders and scored through the goalkeeper's legs in the 78th.

Bayern toiled to break down the Nuremberg defense, however, in what was the 187th derby between the sides.

``Nine points from three games. Everything's wonderful,'' Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Schalke's poor season start continued with a 2-1 loss at Hannover, where the visitors finished with nine players and the hosts 10.

Bayer Leverkusen beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 4-2 to win eight Bundesliga games in a row for the first time. Freiburg drew 3-3 at Hoffenheim, where three players and the Freiburg coach were sent off.

Wolfsburg midfielder Luiz Gustavo was sent off in a 2-0 defeat at Mainz, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Nicolai Mueller scoring for the home side.

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LONDON (AP) - Liverpool maintained its perfect start to the Premier League season as Daniel Sturridge scored a superb goal to give the Reds a 1-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday and Arsenal brushed off talk of crisis with a 3-1 win at London rivals Fulham.

Sturridge showed his technical finesse in the 21st minute after Philippe Coutinho let Jose Enrique's low cross run past him to the England striker, who skipped around two Villa defenders and goalkeeper Brad Guzan before poking the ball into the roof of the net with the outside of his left foot.

Sturridge's eighth goal in his last seven Premier League appearances gave Brendan Rodgers' team a second consecutive 1-0 to opened the campaign. Liverpool hosts bitter rival and defending champion Manchester United next weekend.

Liverpool weathered the home side's attacks in the second half and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made sure the team returned to Merseyside with three points by denying Christian Benteke's shot from the right side of the box with a great save in the 86th minute.

``I think we deserved the win, they put us under some pressure in the second half but we deserved it,'' Sturridge said. ``The manager's philosophy is that we play well as a team and that's what we did. It's nice to score, but it's more important we win.''

Arsenal eased its angry fans' concerns about their lack of signings by earning its first points in the Premier League this season with their win at a rain-soaked Craven Cottage.

Germany striker Lukas Podolski scored a brace and Olivier Giroud grabbed his third goal in as many games as Arsenal bounced back from a home defeat against Villa in a convincing manner, looking in total control most of the time.

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Carlos Vela scored a 75th-minute equalizer Saturday to give Real Sociedad a 1-1 draw at Elche in Spain, keeping the Basque side undefeated before it completes a critical playoff to reach the Champions League group stage.

Also, Espanyol fought back to beat Valencia 3-1 at Cornella-El Prat Stadium for its first victory of the Spanish league season.

Elche struck two minutes in when Ferran ``Coro'' Corominas tapped in a corner kick earned from the hosts' pressure that continued to cause Sociedad problems through the first half.

Early at Martinez Valero Stadium, Sociedad appeared to be looking ahead to Wednesday when it hosts Lyon with a 2-0 advantage heading into their second leg with Europe's top tier club competition at stake.

But Sociedad slowly pushed Elche onto its back foot, and Vela was left unmarked to volley in Xabi Prieto's cross for his second goal in as many league games.

Espanyol created three clear scoring opportunities before Valencia's Helder Postiga snatched the 10th-minute opener.

The goal, however, didn't change the flow of the match, and Espanyol defender David Lopez headed in Simao Sabrosa's corner kick in the 31st.

Christian Stuani headed Espanyol in front two minutes after the break, and forward Thievy Bifouma sealed the result in the 89th with his second goal in two games.

Barcelona visits Malaga on Sunday with Lionel Messi sidelined after injuring his leg midweek in a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Real Madrid visits Granada on Monday.

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PARIS (AP) - Andre-Pierre Gignac's late winner gave Marseille a 1-0 win at Valenciennes on Saturday as last year's runner-up maintained its perfect start to the French league season.

Marseille is provisionally top of the table after Lyon dropped its first points of the season in a surprise 1-0 home loss to Reims, which also saw it miss a penalty. Saint-Etienne will join Marseille if it beats Lille on Sunday.

``At the beginning of the season, points are important but it's also a way to prepare ourselves for what will be a difficult September with a lot of matches in a row,'' Marseille coach Elie Baup said. ``The fact that we have nine points allows us to approach well our first big match against Monaco next weekend.''

Gignac scored with little more than five minutes remaining. Andre Ayew headed a corner toward goal and Valenciennes goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau could only palm the effort down for the onrushing Gignac to score his third goal in as many games.

The rain poured down in Lyon the conditions were so sodden that there was a delay of more than a 30 minutes at the start of the second half as groundsmen worked on the waterlogged pitch.

Play eventually resumed Reims scored a somewhat fortunate winnerr when Odair Fortes' cross took a huge deflection off Milan Bisevac and the ball looped over Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and into the back of the net.

``We're really disappointed,'' Lyon coach Remi Garde said. ``We did what we needed to do to win. We just couldn't finish it off. We had our chances.''

Newly-promoted Guingamp picked up its first points of the campaign with a 2-0 win over Lorient, while Montpellier scored a late winner to beat 10-man Sochaux 2-1.

Bordeaux also won its first match of the season, beating Bastia 1-0, while Rennes won 2-1 at Evian.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
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