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Overzealous Higuain has nightmare match vs. former club

November 12, 2018
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AC Milan's Gonzalo Higuain, leaves the field of play after he received a red card during a Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Juventus, at Milan's San Siro stadium, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

MILAN (AP) — Gonzalo Higuain was so desperate to make his mark against his former team that it proved to be his downfall.

After missing a first-half penalty, Higuain was sent off late in AC Milan’s 2-0 loss at home to Juventus for arguing with the referee following a booking.

“I want to apologize to the team, the fans and the coach for my reaction,” Higuain said after the game. “The referee knows what I told him, and I think sometimes they have to understand the situations. But he made his decision and I want to apologize again.”

Higuain was excited to prove Juventus wrong when it arranged his departure in the offseason to make room for Cristiano Ronaldo, and his mental state had even been questioned by coach Gennaro Gattuso in the buildup to the match.

“When you play against a team where you used to play, the emotions are different, but I take responsibility and it won’t happen again,” said Higuain, reiterating that it had not been his decision to leave Juventus. “I am a very emotional person and player, and sometimes it’s difficult to control my feelings. Sometimes I should react less, but that’s how I am.

“I’m aware that we (players) are also an example to children, and my reaction wasn’t the right one. But we’re not robots.”

Higuain had just one shot on target and was clearly growing frustrated even before being shown what he thought was a harsh yellow card by the referee.

The Argentina forward was in tears after then being shown a red card and had to be led away by teammates as well as by Juventus players — including Ronaldo, who scored Juve’s second goal.

Higuain apologized to the referee after the match and was also defended by Juventus players, who said they hoped he wouldn’t face a lengthy ban.

“I told Higuain not to go over the top, so as not to risk further punishment,” Ronaldo said. “He was nervous, he was losing. But we absolutely shouldn’t blame him. He didn’t say anything.”

The match highlighted Higuain’s historic weaknesses: missing penalties in big games and losing his temper when things don’t go his way.

SZCZESNY’S SAVE

Higuain wasn’t entirely to blame for his missed penalty.

Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny guessed the direction correctly and managed to tip Higuain’s weak effort onto his right post — even though the spot kick was well angled.

“I was fortunate but I was also focused on Higuain’s shot,” Szczesny said. “And Ronaldo had told me to move earlier.”

Szczesny has had the difficult task of replacing Gianluigi Buffon in Juve’s goal this season, but he has managed to keep the starting job ahead of Mattia Perin.

“It’s important to have continuity and Perin motivates me,” Szczesny said. ”(Replacing) Buffon is always tough, but with this defense, it’s easier to make a mistake than to do well.”

NEVER SAY DIE NAPOLI

Napoli’s has come back from at least one goal down to either win or draw five times this season — four times in Serie A and once in the Champions League.

Its latest turnaround came at Genoa on Saturday, fighting back to win 2-1 after the match was suspended for 15 minutes due to torrential rain.

Napoli has earned 10 points from those comebacks — more than any other club in the league — and remains in second place as it seeks a first Serie A title since Diego Maradona led it to its only two Italian championships in 1987 and 1990.

Napoli’s biggest comeback of the season was a 3-2 win over AC Milan in which it trailed 2-0 in the second half.

COACHING CAROUSEL

Three Serie A clubs have made in-season coaching changes this season and two of them might be about to make further moves.

Former Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura announced he was resigning after guiding last-place Chievo Verona to a 2-2 draw with Bologna, but the club was trying to convince him to stay.

It was Chievo’s first point in four matches since Ventura was hired a month ago to replace Lorenzo D’Anna.

Also, Genoa coach Ivan Juric is at risk ahead of the upcoming derby against Sampdoria.

Juric was hired a month ago to replace Davide Ballardini, but Genoa has since managed only two draws and two losses.

Another firing could be on hand for Julio Velazquez at Udinese, which has lost six and drawn one of its last seven matches.

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Dampf reported from Rome.

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