AC Milan Win First Serie A Title Since 2011


AC Milan players celebrate after AC Milan won the Italian Serie A football match between Sassuolo and AC Milan, securing the “Scudetto” championship on May 22, 2022 at the Mapei – Citta del Tricolore stadium in Sassuolo. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

AC Milan won their first Serie A title in 11 years on Sunday after beating Sassuolo 3-0 to snatch the crown from local rivals Inter Milan.

Needing just a point to claim the Scudetto Milan swept their hosts aside thanks to an Olivier Giroud brace and another from Franck Kessie in the first half in front of an army of away fans at the Mapei Stadium.

Stefano Pioli’s Milan finished two points ahead of Inter, who beat Sampdoria 3-0 in the San Siro.

Fans partied in Milan and poured onto the pitch in Reggio Emilia as the ‘Rossoneri’ returned to the top of the Italian game after years of poor teams and financial problems since their last league crown in 2011.

READ ALSO: Arsenal Miss Out On Champions League For Fifth Season In A Row

Pioli’s side were imperious in winning their sixth match on the bounce and securing a title which for long tracts of the season locked like Inter’s to lose.

They were helped by a hat-trick of assists from exciting winger Rafale Leao, who has come of age this season and is reportedly a summer target for Paris Saint-Germain.

Giroud has struck some of the most important goals of Milan’s charge to the title and again showed why he is the man for the big occasion in the 17th minute.

Milan had already gone close through the France forward, Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers when Giroud was in the right place at the right time to sweep Leao’s low pass through Andrea Consigli’s legs and send the massed ranks of Milan fans wild.

Sassuolo immediately wilted in the face of a Milan onslaught and practically handed Giroud the chance to net an almost identical second just after the half-hour mark.

Leao was again the provider, this time robbing the ball from Gian Marco Ferrari before rolling another low pass over for Giroud, who lashed in his 12th of the season and made it party time in the stands.

And it was another poor mistake from a Sassuolo player four minutes later which allowed Milan to relax and enjoy the celebrations kicking off around them.

This time it was Maxime Lopez who was robbed by Rade Krunic, with Leao bursting this time down the right and cutting back for Kessie, who smashed in the third to sign off in perfect fashion ahead of his move to Barcelona as a free agent in the close season.

The second half was dedicated to the Milan celebrations and despite some spirited Sassuolo play it was only a matter of time before the away side sealed the title for a 19th time.

AFFP

Inter Outclass Roma To Return Top Of Serie A

Inter Milan's Argentinian forward Lautaro Martinez celebrates after scoring a goal during the Italian Serie A football match between Inter Milan and AS Roma on April 23, 2022 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP
Inter Milan’s Argentinian forward Lautaro Martinez celebrates after scoring a goal during the Italian Serie A football match between Inter Milan and AS Roma on April 23, 2022 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Reigning Serie A champions Inter Milan reclaimed top spot on Saturday after beating Roma 3-1 at home to move one point clear of AC Milan.

Denzel Dumfries and Marcelo Brozovic scored first-half goals at San Siro before Lautaro Martinez headed in a third shortly after the break to earn Inter a fourth consecutive win.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan drilled in a late consolation as Inter capped off a successful week that began with a 3-0 victory Tuesday over Milan in the second leg of their Italian Cup semi-final.

“We were really worried about this match a few days after using up a lot of energy in the derby,” said Inter coach Simone Inzaghi.

READ ALSO: Bayern Munich Win 10th Straight Bundesliga Title

“We played a great match against an opponent in good shape, strong physically and tactically. It’s an important signal.”

Milan could regain first place by winning at Lazio on Sunday, but Inter have a game in hand away to Bologna in midweek.

Third-placed Napoli on Sunday play an Empoli side who are winless in 16 matches since they defeated Luciano Spalletti’s title challengers 1-0 in Naples on December 12.

Jose Mourinho’s Roma arrived in Milan unbeaten in 12 games, a run which had given them an outside shot of qualifying for the Champions League.

They dampened Napoli’s Scudetto hopes at the start of the week by snatching a last-gasp equaliser in a 1-1 draw, but Inter ensured there was no such slip-up against the man who led them to the treble in 2010.

Moments after Roma defender Gianluca Mancini powered a header narrowly wide, Hakan Calhanoglu played Dumfries through and the Dutchman finished past Rui Patricio to put Inter in front.

Croatia international Brozovic then slammed into the top corner after skipping past several defenders inside the Roma box.

Martinez rose unmarked at a corner to nod in his team-leading 16th goal this term seven minutes into the second half.

Mkhitaryan rifled in from Eldor Shomurodov’s cutback five minutes from time but Roma remain five points back of Juventus in the race for fourth place.

Mourinho backs Inter for title

“They’re the strongest team in the league,” said Mourinho, whose team have lost all three meetings with Inter this season.

“Now that we no longer play against Inter, AC Milan, Juventus or Napoli, I can say that I would like Inter to win the Scudetto. But before the match I wanted to win.”

Atalanta ended a run of three consecutive losses earlier in the day by beating Venezia 3-1 as Colombia striker Duvan Zapata scored his first goal in four months.

Mario Pasalic broke the deadlock for Atalanta just before half-time in Venice and Zapata doubled the lead moments after the interval after being set up by compatriot Luis Muriel.

Zapata had not scored in the league since late November and missed the first three months of the year because of injury, coinciding with Atalanta’s downward spiral out of the top four.

“I was waiting for this goal since my return, but especially this win which we needed,” Zapata told DAZN after notching his 10th Serie A goal this term.

Muriel headed in a third for Atalanta shortly past the hour before Domen Crnigoj grabbed a consolation for Venezia, who dropped to the foot of the table after an eighth straight loss.

Atalanta stayed eighth but pulled to within two points of the European places. Venezia are level with Salernitana and Genoa, all of whom are six points from safety.

Giroud Brace Gives AC Milan Derby Win Over Inter

AC Milan's French goalkeeper Mike Maignan (L), AC Milan's French forward Olivier Giroud (C) and AC Milan's Italian defender Alessio Romagnoli (R) celebrate their victory at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Inter Milan and AC Milan at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan on February 5, 2022. Isabella BONOTTO / AFP
AC Milan’s French goalkeeper Mike Maignan (L), AC Milan’s French forward Olivier Giroud (C) and AC Milan’s Italian defender Alessio Romagnoli (R) celebrate their victory at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Inter Milan and AC Milan at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan on February 5, 2022. Isabella BONOTTO / AFP

 

Olivier Giroud bust the Serie A title race wide open on Saturday with a quick-fire derby double in a 2-1 win which moves AC Milan to within one point of leaders Inter.

France international Giroud poked Milan level with 15 minutes remaining after Ivan Perisic had given champions Inter a deserved first-half lead, and three minutes later sent the Milan fans at the San Siro wild with a neat low finish to win the match.

The 35-year-old was only playing because Zlatan Ibrahimovic was out with an Achilles tendon injury but pounced just as Inter looked to be headed for what up to that point would have been a deserved win.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Survive FA Cup Scare Against Plymouth

Milan had hardly created anything until Giroud pushed Brahim Diaz’s mishit and deflected shot past Samir Handanovic but now are right back in a title race which seemed to be heading in Inter’s favour.

Napoli can pile even more pressure on Simone Inzaghi’s Inter, who have a game in hand, when they face Venezia with the chance to pull level on 52 points with Milan.

Inter travel to Napoli next weekend in a huge fortnight which also includes the visit of Liverpool for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

AFP

Ibrahimovic Undergoes Knee Surgery But Eyes Start Of New Season

File photo of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

 

Sweden international Zlatan Ibrahimovic has undergone successful surgery on a knee injury which ruled him out of Euro 2020, club side AC Milan confirmed on Friday.

“Ibrahimovic underwent an arthroscopic (procedure) to his left knee in Rome,” AC Milan said in a statement, adding that “the procedure was a success.”

“Zlatan is doing well and will start his rehabilitation immediately.”

The 39-year-old pulled up in Milan’s 3-0 league win over Juventus on May 9.

He is expected to be sidelined for another two months, according to reports in Italy.

READ ALSO: FG Appoints Mikel Obi As Youth Ambassador

Recovery times after this type of procedure are estimated at one month to get back running and a further month to be able to play.

Ibrahimovic could be back on the pitch just in time for the start of the new season on August 21-22.

The forward had returned to his national side last March nearly five years after his international farewell.

AFP

Europa League: Ibra Set To Return In Milan’s Clash With United 

File photo: AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic gestures during the UEFA Europa League first round day three Group H football match between AC Milan and Lille (LOSC) at the Meazza stadium in Milan on November 5, 2020. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set to face Manchester United in AC Milan’s Europa League showdown with the English giants on Thursday as the resurgent ‘Rossoneri’ aim to announce their return to the big stage.

The Swede should be in good spirits after announcing his return to international football after nearly five years away on Tuesday, and appears to be winning the race to face his old club in the second leg of their last-16 clash at the San Siro.

The tie is locked at 1-1, with Milan having the slight advantage thanks to Simon Kjaer’s stoppage-time away goal in the first leg at Old Trafford last week.

Italian media reported on Tuesday that the veteran forward trained with the rest of the Milan squad and should be available for the first time since he left his side’s 2-1 win at Roma with a thigh injury at the end of last month.

Since then he has made headlines on a different kind of stage, co-hosting the Sanremo music festival which is possibly Italy’s biggest pop cultural event.

With 14 goals in 14 league games, the 39-year-old was a major reason behind Milan occupying top spot in Serie A for large periods of this season and his return to Old Trafford for the first leg had been highly anticipated before he picked up his injury.

Coach Stefano Pioli knows that he doesn’t need Ibrahimovic to get past United after a superb display in Manchester last week, and his side could well start the game with their talisman on the bench.

READ ALSO: Tiger Woods Transferred To Los Angeles Hospital For Further Treatment

However to ensure passage to the last eight, Milan will need to turn around a dismal recent record at the San Siro which has contributed to their slipping nine points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan having been top themselves little more than a month ago.

– Milan wobbling –
Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Napoli was their fourth straight match without a win at the San Siro, preceded by draws against Udinese and Red Star Belgrade and a 3-0 derby thumping at the hands of Inter.

Five defeats in 13 league matches in 2021 also has second-placed Milan looking over their shoulders at a series of rivals for a place in the Champions League, a competition in which the seven-time European champions have not played since 2014.

The next few days will also be crucial for United’s chances of silverware this season.

 

AC Milan's Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic centres the ball before feeling pain at his left leg, a thigh muscle strain during the Italian serie A football match Napoli vs AC Milan on November 22, 2020 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP
File photo: AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic centres the ball before feeling pain at his left leg, a thigh muscle strain during the Italian serie A football match Napoli vs AC Milan on November 22, 2020 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples.  ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

 

They follow their trip to Italy with an FA Cup quarter-final at Leicester City on Sunday, putting their season at a crossroads with Manchester City 14 points clear of their local rivals at the top of the Premier League.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has Marcus Rashford back after the England forward played the full 90 minutes of their 1-0 win over West Ham at the weekend.

Of the remaining ties, only Rangers’ with Slavia Prague looks to be in the balance as they will kick off at Ibrox all square at 1-1 following their draw in the Czech Republic last week.

Steven Gerrard’s side have already been crowned Scottish champions, although they will also have one eye on the Old Firm derby with Celtic at the weekend.

Four-time European champions Ajax and Roma are both virtually assured of passage into the next round as they are 3-0 ahead in their ties with Young Boys and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Also strong favourites to go through are Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Villarreal and Granada thanks to their two-goal leads going into their second-leg matches.

Olympiakos head to the Emirates to face Arsenal, who are fresh from a derby triumph over Tottenham, but face a battle at 3-1 down.

AFP

Kjaer’s Late Equaliser Forces United To Disappointing Draw Against AC Milan

Simon Kjaer celebrates scoring the equaliser. Photo: [email protected] Kjaer.

 

Simon Kjaer bagged a late equaliser on Thursday to force Manchester United to a disappointing 1-1 draw in the first leg of a Europa League round of 16 tie against AC Milan.

Although Milan dominated the opening exchanges, United took the lead in the second half after teenager Amad Diallo’s header beat Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal.

It was the 18-year-old’s first goal for the English giants following his £37m switch from Atalanta in January.

The Milan defender’s late intervention spoiled a memorable moment for Ivorian teenager Diallo.

In only his third appearance for United, Diallo gave a glimpse of the potential that persuaded the Premier League club to pay £18 million ($25 million) to sign him from Italian side Atalanta in January.

Just five minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute, the 18-year-old put United in front with a superb header.

Legends including Paolo Maldini, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldinho have all featured in previous clashes between United and Milan.

While it is far too soon to place Diallo in that company, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope that scoring with his first ever effort on goal bodes well for the much-hyped youngster’s future with the club.

At 18 years and 243 days, Diallo is the fourth youngest player to score for United in a major European competition, after Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and George Best.

Diallo, yet to start for United, made his debut as a substitute in the Europa League last 32 first leg against Real Sociedad.

 

This was his second home appearance and scoring at Old Trafford’s famous Stretford End was even sweeter for the precocious starlet.

While Diallo’s headline-grabbing act was significant, it wasn’t enough to help United build on the momentum from their 2-0 win at Premier League leaders Manchester City on Sunday.

With United 14 points behind City, the Europa League and FA Cup represent their best hopes of winning the first trophy of Solskjaer’s reign.

The second leg in Italy next Thursday won’t be easy for United on the evidence of a composed and determined performance from injury-hit Milan’s crop of promising youngsters.

Crowned European champions 10 times between them, United and Milan were once feared for their swashbuckling play and financial muscle, but both clubs have lost their lustre in recent years.

– Late drama –
In a sign of the drop in standards at Old Trafford and the San Siro, the first meeting between two of the world’s most historic teams since 2010 was their first outside the Champions League knockout stages.

Milan called the shots early on and Rafael Leao had the ball in the net when he sprinted clear to fire home, only to see his effort ruled offside.

Stefano Pioli’s side were denied an 11th-minute opener after Franck Kessie pounced on a long throw and smashed a superb strike past Dean Henderson from just inside the area.

Kessie’s celebrations were premature as a VAR review showed the ball had glanced off the midfielder’s arm before his shot.

Harry Maguire was guilty of an incredible miss when the United defender, no more than a yard out, somehow shot against the post after Bruno Fernandes flicked on Alex Telles’ corner.

United had moved the ball too slowly and with too little purpose in the first half, so Solskjaer replaced Anthony Martial with Diallo at half-time.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Ease Past RB Leipzig Into Champions League Last Eight

After a brief delay while he had a wristband taped up on the touchline, Diallo’s introduction proved an inspired move as he broke the deadlock in the 50th minute.

Fernandes unfurled a delightful long pass towards Diallo, who made an incisive run behind the Milan defence and looped a clever backwards header over Gianluigi Donnarumma.

But United failed to build on that lead and Milan’s intelligent play was rewarded with just seconds left when Kjaer powered his header past Henderson from a corner.

 

Serie A: Lukaku Scores In Inter’s Thrashing Of AC Milan

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku shoots to score the third goal during the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan beat city rivals AC Milan 3-0 to extend their lead at the top of Serie A on Sunday as Lautaro Martinez scored a double, with Romelu Lukaku also on target.

Inter opened up a four-point lead over their second-placed opponents as Antonio Conte’s side target a first league title since their unprecedented treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010.

Lukaku was on top form, the Belgian playing a role in Martinez’s two goals on five and 57 minutes before scoring his 17th goal in the league this season to move top of the Serie A scorers’ chart.

Milan, chasing a first Scudetto since 2011, fell to back-to-back Serie A losses for the first time this season, with their title push suffering another blow with a fourth defeat in eight league games.

“We’ve suffered a lot this year,” said Martinez.

“Two eliminations in the Italian Cup and the Champions League, this is the only goal we have left and we’re fighting for that.”

 

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (R) celebrates with Inter Milan’s Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez (C), Inter Milan’s Romanian goalkeeper Ionut Andrei Radu (Top R), Inter Milan’s Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal (Top C) and Inter Milan’s Italian goalkeeper Daniele Padelli (2ndL) after scoring the third goal during the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

The match was played behind closed doors at the San Siro because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that did not stop thousands of fans gathering outside the stadium for the final Milan derby of the season.

It was the third derby of the season, with Milan winning the first 2-1 in the league.

Inter won a fiery Italian Cup quarter-final by the same scoreline, a game overshadowed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lukaku squaring off and trading insults, with the Swede later sent off.

The supporters waited for the team buses to arrive, waving flags and singing, dispersing once the teams had entered the stadium grounds.

The game was also preceded by a minute’s silence and applause for former Inter defender Mauro Bellugi who died aged 71 years on Saturday, months after having both his legs amputated because of coronavirus.

– ‘Tough week’ –
Inter were fresher having been eliminated early from European action, with Milan coming off a 2-2 Europa League midweek draw at Red Star Belgrade.

And Conte’s side came out firing with Lukaku powering down the right flank.

Milan defender Simon Kjaer blocked his initial cross, but the ball returned to the Belgian for a perfect delivery for Martinez to nod home.

Ibrahimovic threated with a back-heel flick after quarter of an hour following a scramble in the box but Inter keeper Samir Handanovic kept it out.

Milan Skriniar headed wide before the break from a Christian Eriksen free-kick.

Inter players celebrate winning at the end of the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma got his hand to the ball to deny Ivan Perisic, with Handanovic pulling off a double save from Ibrahimovic after the break.

But Martinez broke through again, finishing off a Perisic pull-back from the by-line in a move started by Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.

Donnarumma denied Lukaku minutes later but the former Manchester United striker then burst through to score the third, becoming the first Inter player to score in four straight Serie A derbies since Benito Lorenzi in 1950.

Ibrahimovic asked to be substituted with a quarter of an hour to go complaining of calf cramps.

“A striker depends on the team’s performance,” said Pioli.

“The goal after five minutes weighed heavy.

“In the first half we could have done more. In the second half we had many scoring chances, but Handanovic hasn’t saved so well for a long time.”

“If we had been told months ago that we would now be second, everyone would have jumped for joy, but this would not be us.

“We didn’t do our best in the last three games and we know we can do something more.

“It was a tough week, the worst one of the season.”

READ ALSO: Osaka Aims To Inspire New Generation But Says Williams Is Still The Queen

Inter next host 11th-placed Genoa with Milan travelling to Roma, with the capital side third before they play Benevento later on Sunday.

“Ragazzi!!!!!! With full heart and great work we will never stop,” Chinese-owned Inter’s club president Steven Zhang wrote on Instagram.

Defending champions Juventus, in fifth, 11 points behind Inter, play catch-up at home against lowly Crotone on Monday.

AFP

AC Milan Stay Top Despite Atalanta Defeat As Rivals Inter Held

AC Milan’s Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie (C) is tackled during the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Atalanta Bergamo on January 23, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

 

AC Milan held top spot in Serie A on Saturday despite falling 3-0 at home against Atalanta after nearest rivals Inter were held to a goalless draw at Udinese.

Stefano Pioli’s Milan saw their lead on second-placed Inter cut to two points but hold pole position at the half-way stage of the season for the first time since they last won the title in 2011.

“Being winter champions means nothing to me, now we have to react,” said Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“Now comes the most difficult phase. We have to think positively and get back up.”

Milan were outplayed at home with Atalanta’s Cristian Romero heading in the first goal after 26 minutes in the San Siro.

Josip Ilicic added a second from the penalty spot eight minutes after the break after receiving a Franck Kessie elbow in the face.

 

AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic shoots on goal during the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Atalanta Bergamo on January 23, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

 

Ibrahimovic missed a chance to equalise just before half time with the veteran Swede sending side.

Milan’s new signing Mario Mandzukic came off the bench for the final 20 minutes but could not find the net on his debut despite testing Atalanta keeper Pierluigi Gollini.

Colombian striker Duvan Zapata connected with a Romero cross to seal the three points with quarter of an hour to go in the San Siro.

For the first time this season Milan failed to score a goal, falling to their second defeat this campaign after losing to Juventus earlier this month.

Atalanta move fourth into the Champions League places, seven points behind the leaders, and two points adrift of Roma who went third after a 4-3 win over Spezia.

Coach Gian Piero Gasperini hailed “one of our best performances in recent years”.

“Tonight we were a bit superior on everything, a great satisfaction to play like this in the San Siro.”

Antonio Conte’s Inter failed to follow on from their win over Juventus last weekend, and the chance to go top with a victory in Udine.

Chances were few for Inter with Lautaro Martinez having a goal ruled offside and Nicolo Barella volleying wide in the rain.

Frustrations boiled over with Conte banished from the sidelines at the end of the game for arguing with the referee.

– Roma calm after storm –
In Rome, Lorenzo Pellegrini scored a last-gasp winner as Roma bounced back after their Italian Cup defeat by Spezia with a 4-3 win over the promoted side.

Pellegrini blasted home in injury time, minutes after Daniele Verde had pulled Spezia level, with relieved Roma coach Paulo Fonseca racing to hug the midfielder.

“It was an incredible moment,” said Fonseca.

“It showed the team spirit. We needed to win this game and it would have been incredibly unfair not to after how we played.”

The capital side have been in turmoil since their chaotic 4-2 extra-time loss to Spezia on Tuesday.

The official scoreline was changed to 3-0 on Friday, as Roma made six substitutions, with just five allowed, during the last-16 clash which they finished with nine men.

Captain Edin Dzeko was left out of the team on Saturday, officially because of a muscular injury, but amid reports of a fall-out with Fonseca.

Borja Mayoral scored a double for the hosts, netting the first after quarter of an hour, only for Roberto Piccoli to pull 14th-placed Spezia level seven minutes later by pouncing on a mistake by home goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

Real Madrid loanee Mayoral slotted home his second on 52 minutes, before Rick Karsdorp tapped in to make it 3-1 three minutes later.

Diego Farias again responded for the visitors just before the hour, scoring the third goal of a dramatic six-minute spell at the Stadio Olimpico.

An error from Chris Smalling allowed former Roma winger Verde to equalise in the 90th minute, firing home left-footed after the England defender missed his attempted clearance.

Pellegrini had the final say, though, drilling the ball into the roof of the net from close range after Bruno Peres’ unselfish cutback.

It was a first league win in three games for Roma, after last week’s defeat by Lazio in the Rome derby and a draw with title rivals Inter Milan.

“The team has come through a really tough week where we lost two games that we shouldn’t have,” Pellegrini said.

“This should bring a bit of calm,” added the Italian international.

Italian Cup: Lukaku Books Inter Clash With AC Milan, Holders Napoli Advance

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) celebrates after scoring a header during the Italian Cup (Coppa Italia) round of sixteen football match Fiorentina vs Inter Milan on January 13, 2021 at the Artemio-Franchi stadium in Florence. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Romelu Lukaku headed in an extra-time winner as Inter Milan set up an Italian Cup quarter-final clash with city rivals AC Milan on Wednesday with a 2-1 last-16 win over Fiorentina.

Belgian Lukaku connected with Nicolo Barella’s cross in the 119th minute to beat Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano and snatch a late triumph.

Chilean Arturo Vidal had given Inter the advantage five minutes before the break-in normal time after a VAR review judged Terracciano to have fouled Alexis Sanchez.

But Christian Kouame blasted in a superb equaliser 12 minutes after half-time to take the match to extra-time.

Lukaku came off the bench on 69 minutes and with a minute to go ensured Inter avoided going to a penalty shootout with his 17th goal this season in all competitions.

“It was important to qualify, there will be time to recover,” said coach Antonio Conte days before Inter host champions Juventus in Serie A.

“This results will give us a boost. We’ll now measure our ambitions against Juventus.”

AC Milan won 5-4 on penalties on Tuesday after their match against Torino ended 0-0 after extra time.

Holders Napoli advanced with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Empoli.

The Tuscany side had a Covid-19 scare hours before kick-off with several team members forced to isolate after contact with a positive case. All tested negative.

Andrea Petagna scored the winner off a rebound with a quarter of an hour to go after Nedim Bajrami had twice pulled Empoli level.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo headed in a Hirving Lozano cross after 18 minutes, with the Mexican scoring the second seven minutes before the break.

Napoli next play either Roma or Spezia in the quarter-finals.

Record 13-time winners Juventus taking on Genoa in Turin later Wednesday.

AFP

AC Milan’s Leao Scores Fastest-Ever Serie A Goal After Six Seconds

AC Milan’s Portuguese forward Rafael Leao (R) celebrates after opening the scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Sassuolo vs AC Milan on December 20, 2020 at the Mapei stadium in Sassuolo. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

AC Milan forward Rafael Leao scored after just six seconds for the fastest-ever goal in Serie A history on Sunday at Sassuolo.

Milan launched straight into an attack from kick-off, with Turkish midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu setting up Leao to slot home.

The previous fastest goal had been Paolo Poggi’s for Piacenza against Fiorentina in December 2001 after eight seconds of play.

Portuguese Leao, who usually plays on the left wing, started at centre-forward with star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic still out with a leg muscle problem and his replacement Ante Rebic also injured.

It was the 21-year-old’s third league goal this season and fourth in all competitions.

 

Inter Close Gap On Leaders AC Milan, Ronaldo Penalty Miss Stalls Juve

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) passes the ball under pressure from Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian defender Vitao during the UEFA Champions League Group B football match Inter Milan vs Shakhtar Donetsk on December 9, 2020 at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

 

Romelu Lukaku scored from the penalty spot as Inter Milan battled past title rivals Napoli 1-0 on Wednesday to move one point behind Serie A leaders and city rivals AC Milan who were held at Genoa.

Defending champions Juventus sit three points behind Inter after Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty in a 1-1 home draw with Atalanta.

Napoli — who played the final quarter of an hour a man down after captain Lorenzo Insigne was sent off — drop to fourth, a further point adrift.

Insigne saw red for arguing with the referee after goalkeeper David Ospina fouled Inter’s Matteo Darmian to concede the crucial spot-kick.

“Only in Italy players are thrown out for this stuff,” fumed Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso, blasting “a dubious penalty”.

Napoli also saw club record scorer Dries Mertens limp off with an ankle injury in the first half.

Lukaku stepped up to slot in on 73 minutes for his 10th league goal this season, joining Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the top of the Serie A goalscoring chart.

Inter could also thank goalkeeper Samir Handanovic for their clean sheet, denying Insigne and Giovanni Di Lorenzo late on.

 

(From L) Inter Milan’s Slovak defender Milan Skriniar, Inter Milan’s Croatian midfielder Ivan Perisic, Inter Milan’s Italian defender Danilo D’Ambrosio, Inter Milan’s Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen and Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (R) react next to Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic at the end of the UEFA Champions League Group B football match Inter Milan vs Shakhtar Donetsk on December 9, 2020 at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

For Antonio Conte’s Inter it was a fifth consecutive league win as they target a first Scudetto since 2010, with their European hopes now over.

“It was a painful victory that can do us good,” said Conte. “These are three important points because against a rival and a great team like Napoli they are worth double.”

AC Milan, playing a fourth consecutive league game without the injured Ibrahimovic, came from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw as Mattia Destro scored a double for Genoa.

The Italian striker tapped in a rebound after Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Eldor Shomurodov just after the break.

Five minutes later, Davide Calabria’s long-range effort pulled Milan level before Destro headed in a second on the hour.

But French defender Pierre Kalulu nodded in from close range to rescue a second consecutive draw for Milan, who stay unbeaten in Serie A since March and are looking to deny Juventus a 10th straight league triumph this season.

“We had six players out and had to grit our teeth but those who played proved to be up to par,” said coach Stefano Pioli.

“Our club has not been in the Champions League for many years and that is our goal.”

 

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) and Inter Milan’s Slovak defender Milan Skriniar (3rdL) reacts after Inter missed a goal opportunity as Shakhtar Donetsk’s Ukrainian defender Valeriy Bondar (2ndL) and teammates protest as the referee (R) grants a corner kick to Inter during the UEFA Champions League Group B football match Inter Milan vs Shakhtar Donetsk on December 9, 2020 at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

 

Sixth Juventus stalemate

In Turin, unbeaten Juventus were held for the sixth time in Serie A this term.

Federico Chiesa curled in a powerful shot to put Juventus ahead before the half-hour mark.

But Atalanta hit back with Remo Freuler grabbing the equaliser 12 minutes into the second half, shortly after captain Papu Gomez came off the bench.

The build-up to the game had been overshadowed by tensions between coach Gian Piero Gasperini and Gomez, left out of their last two league games amid speculation he could leave the Bergamo club in January.

Ronaldo, who had fired over the target in the fifth minute, had a rare penalty miss after an hour following a Hans Hateboer foul on Chiesa.

The Portuguese striker’s weak effort was easily saved by Atalanta keeper Pierluigi Gollini.

Spaniard Alvaro Morata had missed a golden chance after 12 minutes, sending a weak back-heel flick wide in front of an open goal.

At the other end of the pitch, Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved a Cristian Romero header with a quarter of an hour to go.

“You have to take these games home,” said Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo.

“We had many opportunities and we weren’t able to close it. When you leave the game in the balance anything can happen.”

Atalanta, who also held Juventus the last time they played in Turin last July, are eighth, 10 points behind AC Milan, after a slow start to the campaign.

“It’s a great result,” said Gasperini. “We were very good, at one point we were convinced of winning it.

“We played with personality against a team that are one of the favourites for the Scudetto.”

Fifth-placed Sassuolo drew 1-1 at Fiorentina, whose winless run stretched to seven games.

Ibrahimovic Scores Brace As AC Milan Stay Top Of Serie A

AC Milan's Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic centres the ball before feeling pain at his left leg, a thigh muscle strain during the Italian serie A football match Napoli vs AC Milan on November 22, 2020 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP
AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic centres the ball before feeling pain at his left leg, a thigh muscle strain during the Italian serie A football match Napoli vs AC Milan on November 22, 2020 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to bring his tally to 10 league goals this season before limping off with a muscle strain as AC Milan stayed top in Serie A on Sunday with a 3-1 win at 10-man Napoli.

Milan move back two points ahead of Sassuolo — 2-0 winners earlier at Hellas Verona — with Roma third after Henrikh Mkhitaryan netted a brace in a dominant 3-0 win over Parma.

“For me Zlatan is stronger now than 10-12 years ago,” said Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso of his former Milan teammate.

“Milan strongly believes in Ibra, his teammates trust him 100 percent.

“In my opinion, their team is not the strongest but they have the mentality.

“We play well but lose as soon as it gets difficult.”

Ibrahimovic continued his fine form, heading in a Theo Hernandez cross after 20 minutes, sending in the second with his knee nine minutes after the break.

But the 39-year-old pulled up clutching his left hamstring and was substituted after 79 minutes.

The Swede has scored in all six games he has played this season, having missed two after contracting coronavirus.

Coach Stefano Pioli missed the trip south with Covid-19, but his side got their first league win in Naples since October 2010, the season they last won the Scudetto, with Ibrahimovic also on the scoresheet that time.

Napoli played the final half an hour a man down after Tiemoue Bakayoko was sent off for two yellow cards, just after Dries Mertens had pulled a goal back for the hosts.

Norwegian Jens Petter Hauge completed the scoring five minutes into injury time, the 21-year-old getting his first Serie A goal.

Champions Juventus are fourth — four points off top spot — after winning 2-0 at Cagliari on Saturday.

Last season’s runners-up Inter Milan are just behind in fifth, after a Romelu Lukaku double inspired a 4-2 comeback win over Torino, with Napoli dropping from third to sixth — six points off top spot.

Inter ‘lack ferocity’

In Milan, Torino got off to a strong start despite playing without top striker Andrea Belotti who pulled up during the warm-up.

Simone Zaza took the skipper’s place and scored the opener just before the break with Cristian Ansaldi adding a second from the penalty spot after an hour.

Inter reacted in the 64th minute, with Alexis Sanchez bundling the ball in after Lukaku’s initial effort was tipped onto the crossbar, before the Chilean set up his fellow former Manchester United forward for the equaliser three minutes later.

Lukaku pulled Inter ahead from the penalty spot six minutes from time and then provided the cross for substitute Lautaro Martinez to score the fourth on 90 minutes.

“I didn’t like what I saw,” said Inter coach Antonio Conte three days before his side host Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Inter Milan's Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) and Inter Milan's Italian coach Antonio Conte tap hands at the end of the Italian Serie A football match Inter vs Torino on November 22, 2020 at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) and Inter Milan’s Italian coach Antonio Conte tap hands at the end of the Italian Serie A football match Inter vs Torino on November 22, 2020 at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

“We lack the ferocity of last season.

“But we showed character as being 2-0 down could have destroyed us.”

Torino drop into the relegation zone after their fifth defeat.

In Verona, Sassuolo continued their impressive run thanks to goals in either half from Jeremie Boga and Domenico Berardi.

The side from Emilia Romagna are unbeaten this season and are the joint top scorers with 20 goals.

Roma meanwhile stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 matches, cementing victory with three first-half goals.

Borja Mayoral got his first Serie A goal just before the half-hour mark, with Mkhitaryan adding two more before the break to bring his tally to five in two games after scoring a hat-trick last time out against Genoa.

In Tuscany, Cesare Prandelli had a nightmare start as coach of struggling Fiorentina with a 1-0 home defeat by Benevento.

Former Italy coach Prandelli returned to the ‘Viola’ a decade after leaving for the Azzurri job in 2010, but the team fell to their fourth defeat.

To add to Prandelli’s woes, French midfielder Franck Ribery went off injured.

“The fragility worries me most,” said Prandelli.

“Perhaps the team succumbed to their fears and negative thoughts when Franck came off.”

Riccardo Improta scored his first Serie A goal for Benevento on 52 minutes, slotting in a Gabriele Moncini cross after a Cristiano Biraghi defensive error.

Fiorentina slip to 15th in the Serie A table, just behind Benevento.

 

 

AFP