Sarri Tempted To Field Under-23 Team As Juve Crash To Humiliating Defeat

Juventus’ Italian coach Maurizio Sarri looks on during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Sampdoria played behind closed doors on July 26, 2020 at the Allianz Stadium in Turin.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Juventus crashed to a humiliating 2-0 defeat at Cagliari on Wednesday, days after sealing their ninth consecutive Serie A title, prompting coach Maurizio Sarri to consider fielding his Under-23 team in Saturday’s finale to conserve resources ahead of their Champions League challenge.

Cagliari’s 20-year-old forward Luca Gagliano tapped in the opener eight minutes into his first Serie A match, beating veteran Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon to score his first top division goal.

And the young Italian then teed up Giovanni Simeone in first half stoppage time to give Cagliari their first win over Juventus in 11 years.

“The 40 goals conceded (this season) may be a concern, but tonight’s game is not,” said Sarri.

“We had nine injured and we came from a championship won 68 hours ago, so it was an atypical game that should be taken for what it is.

“We are the only ones in Europe who have played five games in 12 days, the League has created big problems for us.

“Let’s see how we are tomorrow and if it is appropriate to line up the Under-23 team on Saturday against Roma to recover better.”

Cristiano Ronaldo missed the chance to keep pace with Serie A’s leading scorer Ciro Immobile, the Portuguese now four goals behind the Lazio forward’s tally of 35 with one match remaining.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner had a goal ruled offside after 16 minutes and was denied twice by Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno as the 13th-placed Sardinians ended their eight-match winless run.

It was a worrying performance for Sarri’s side, who have won just two of their last seven games, with key forwards Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa fighting for fitness ahead of the Champions League showdown with Lyon on August 7 in Turin, when they need to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit.

Immobile on target

In Rome, Immobile moved to within one goal of equalling the Serie A single season scoring record as Lazio beat relegated Brescia 2-0 to stay in the race for second place.

Immobile struck eight minutes from time to close in on Gonzalo Higuain’s record of 36 goals, scored for Napoli in 2015-16.

Lazio are fourth, equal on 78 points with third-placed Atalanta, who beat Parma 2-1 on Tuesday, and one adrift of Inter Milan who are second following their 2-0 win over Napoli.

Inter and Atalanta will go head-to-head this weekend with Lazio’s last game at seventh-placed Napoli.

Immobile helped Joaquin Correa open the scoring after 16 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico, with Correa returning the favour late on.

Behind the top four, who are assured of Champions League football next season, Roma sealed their Europa League group stage berth with a 3-2 win at Torino.

Napoli have already secured their place as a result of their Italian Cup win while AC Milan, who will finish sixth, must go through the Europa League qualifying rounds despite beating Sampdoria 4-1.

Zlatan AKA ‘Benjamin Button’

Stefano Pioli’s side remain four points behind Roma after Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice and set up a third in a dominating display against Samp.

The 38-year-old got his head to an Ante Rebic cross within four minutes in Genoa for his fastest goal in the Italian top flight, before nodding the ball across for Hakan Calhanoglu to add the second six minutes after the break.

Turkish winger Calhanoglu provided the cross which allowed Ibrahimovic to add his second of the night.

Leao added a fourth in injury time as Milan extended their unbeaten run to 11 games.

Ibrahimovic has scored nine league goals since rejoining Milan in January.

The veteran brings his club tally to 51 goals for the club, combined with his previous stint between 2010 and 2012.

He also becomes the first player to have scored 50 goals for both Milan clubs, with 57 netted during his time at city rivals Inter from 2006 to 2009.

“Like Benjamin Button, I’ve always been young, never old,” said Ibrahimovic of the film of a man who ages in reverse.

“They tell me I’m old and tired but I’m just warming up.”

Lecce’s bid for survival will go down to the final day after they came from behind to beat Udinese 2-1.

The southern club occupy the final relegation position but are now just one point behind 17th-placed Genoa, who were hammered 5-0 at Sassuolo.

Both Lecce and Genoa will face Parma and Hellas Verona respectively at the weekend hoping to avoid joining Brescia and SPAL in Serie B.

I Celebrate God Every Time I Score – Ibrahimovic

AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic reacts at the end of the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Sampdoria on January 6, 2020, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

 

Veteran Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he “felt alive” as he marked his first start back at AC Milan by scoring in a 2-0 Serie A win over Cagliari on Saturday, but will wait to “celebrate like a God” until he nets at the San Siro again.

The 38-year-old had come on as a substitute in the goalless draw against Sampdoria last weekend, days after his return to Italy.

Ibrahimovic met a Theo Hernandez cross after 64 minutes in Sardinia with a low shot into the far corner. It was his first Milan goal since leaving the club for Paris Saint-Germain eight years ago.

“I’ll celebrate like a God at San Siro, not here,” he said. “I celebrate God every time I score, that way I feel alive!”

Portuguese forward Rafael Leao, 20, had struck the opener just after the break as Milan got their first win since a 3-2 victory over Bologna on December 8.

Since then Stefano Pioli’s side have settled for two goalless draws and suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat by Atalanta.

AC Milan move up to eighth in the Serie A table, 10 points off the Champions League berths.

“The important thing is that I feel good,” continued Ibrahimovic, who left MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy last October.

“I missed a few balls at the beginning of the game, but I need to play games to get back in shape.”

“I feel good, the coach just wanted to think about my age and see if I needed a rest, but there’s no problem,” continued Ibrahimovic, who did not want to be substituted and played the entire game.

“My brain is always the same and the body has to follow.”

It was his 57th goal for the club and 123rd in Serie A, having also played for Inter Milan and Juventus.

Cagliari, who unveiled the club’s new jersey to mark their 100th anniversary this year, fell to their fourth consecutive defeat, but remain sixth.

– ‘The real Ibra’ –

Ibrahimovic started up front alongside Leao, who had described the towering Swede “as a big brother” during the week.

Cagliari goalkeeper Robin Olsen stopped an Ibrahimovic header early with Milan counterpart Gianluigi Donnarumma avoiding an embarrassing goalkeeping blunder.

With the Italy international off his line, Cagliari’s Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez hit a lob but Donnarumma raced back to clear.

After the break Leao latched onto a Samuel Castillejo free-kick with his shot taking a deflection over Olsen.

Ibrahimovic sealed victory with his first goal in the Milan jersey since May 2012.

He was denied a second with eight minutes to go by the linesman’s flag.

“Ibra is an important point of reference, but it will still take time to perfect,” said Pioli.

“He’s not yet the real Ibra, which we will see in a few games.”

Ibrahimovic has a six-month contract with an option for another season. He helped the club win their 18th and most recent Serie A title in 2011.

“I’ve felt him charged since our first call, we are talking about a champion who still wants to be at the top,” added Pioli.

“His presence and personality are important for the group.

“He wants to prove that he is still up to the situation, working in this way will certainly do everyone good.”

Serie A leaders Inter Milan host Atalanta later Saturday looking to stay ahead of champions Juventus who travel to Roma on Sunday.

Lazio, among the title challengers, three points behind the leaders in third, host struggling Napoli looking to extend their winning league run to 10 games.

AFP

Cagliari Rout Fiorentina 5-2, Climb To Third In Serie A

File: Dalbert of ACF Fiorentina during the Italian championship Serie A football match between AC Milan and AFC Fiorentina on September 29, 2019 at Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy – Photo Fabrizio Carabelli / Sportphoto24 / DPPI
Fabrizio Carabelli / SportPhoto24 / DPPI

 

Radja Nainggolan inspired Cagliari to a 5-2 win over Fiorentina as the Sardinians continued their fine form to move third in Serie A on Sunday.

The Mediterranean outfit have 24 points from 12 games — seven points behind leaders Inter Milan, who moved top after beating Verona 2-1 on Saturday.

Defending champions Juventus are second and can reclaim the number one spot when they host 13th-placed AC Milan later on Sunday.

“Not even in the most optimistic forecasts could we have imagined being here,” said Cagliari coach Rolando Maran.

“Radja is capable of extraordinary things and you just have to stand back and applaud.”

READ ALSO: How Messi’s Dead-Ball Hat-Trick Put Barca Back On Top

Fiorentina are struggling without Franck Ribery who has been given a three-match ban for pushing an official.

But Cagliari, who battled relegation last season, have been in superb form since Nainggolan returned after five years away, including a difficult season at Inter Milan last term.

The Belgian contributed three assists and capped a stellar performance with the fifth goal of the game after 65 minutes.

Serb Dusan Vlahovic pulled two late goals back for Fiorentina in the final quarter of an hour but the Tuscans are eighth.

The game was halted at the 13th minute, as both teams paid tribute to former Fiorentina captain Davide Astori who also played for Cagliari.

Four minutes later Nainggolan set up Mark Rog for the opener, with Fabio Pisacane nodding in the second less than ten minutes later.

The 31-year-old Nainggolan was involved again in Giovanni Simeone’s third goal against the Spanish forward’s parent club, as well as Joao Pedro’s effort ten minutes after the break, before blasting in his second goal of the campaign from a distance.

He was given a standing ovation when substituted after 78 minutes.

“There is little to comment, it was an ordeal,” said Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella.

“They were clearly superior to us. We need to draw lessons from this.”

Cagliari extended their winning run to a third consecutive game and are unbeaten in ten games, which includes seven victories and three draws.

Roma travel to Parma later on Sunday where a win would put them back ahead of Cagliari.

Atalanta and Lazio will bid to move level on points with the Sardinians against Sampdoria and Lecce respectively.

AFP

Cagliari Escape Punishment After Lukaku Monkey Chants

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs US Lecce on August 26, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Cagliari have escaped punishment for the racist chanting their fans aimed at Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku in a Serie A match earlier this month, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) announced Tuesday.

Belgian Lukaku, 26, was targeted by monkey chants before scoring the winning penalty that earned Inter Milan a 2-1 triumph in Sardinia on September 1.

But the FIGC’s sports judges ruled that reports of “chants, shouts, whistles and screams” from the home fans’ ‘Curva Nord’ (North Stand) just before Lukaku’s penalty could not be considered discriminatory in terms of “size and real perception”.

“The sport judge has decided not to apply sanctions against Cagliari,” the sports judges ruled.

After scoring the penalty, Lukaku made a post-match plea for football authorities to unite against the blight of racism.

Everton’s Moise Kean suffered similar taunts while playing for Juventus at Cagliari’s Sardegna Arena, alongside teammate Blaise Matuidi, after he scored a goal there for his former team Juventus last April.

Cagliari, who issued a statement after the match condemning the abuse, were however fined 5,000 euros ($5,500) for fans throwing plastic bottles at officials onto the pitch.

AFP

Cagliari Apologise To Matuidi For Fan Racism

Cagliari Apologise To Matuidi For Fan Racism
Juventus’ midfielder Blaise Matuidi (R) talks with referee Gianpaolo Calvarese during the Serie A match between Cagliari Calcio and Juventus at the Sardegna Arena stadium in Cagliari, on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, on January 6, 2018. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Serie A club Cagliari apologised on Sunday to Blaise Matuidi for the racist abuse fans directed at the Juventus winger during the Italian champions 1-0 win in Sardinia on Saturday, the second time he has received such abuse in as many weeks.

Writing in French on their Twitter account, Cagliari apologised for the abuse, which took place late in the first half of a tense encounter at the Sardegna Arena following a clash between Matuidi and a Cagliari defender.

“You are a fantastic player and an example to young people. We want to apologise to you if you were insulted for the colour of your skin at the Sardegna Arena,” said the club.

“The Sardinian people want nothing to do with racism. Only ignorance can explain certain behaviour. Respect.”

After hearing the abuse from the stands Matuidi rushed to referee Giampaolo Calvarese but the official ignored the French international’s pleas to intervene and Medhi Benatia and Paulo Dybala had to calm their teammate down.

“Today I experienced racism during the match. Weak people try to intimidate with hate, I am not a hater and can only be sorry for those who set bad examples,” Matuidi said in a statement to AFP.

“Football is a way to spread equality, passion and inspiration and this is what I am here for. Peace.”

On Sunday Matuidi’s old club expressed their support for their former player, saying on Twitter that “The Paris Saint-Germain family is with you”.

The abuse Matuidi received at Cagliari came after similar racist chants directed at him during Juve’s 3-1 win at Hellas Verona late last month, for which Verona were fined 20,000 euros ($24,000) by the Italian league.

AFP

 Juventus Lose Dybala For A Month

Juventus’ Argentinian forward Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring a goal during the Italian Serie A football match Sassuolo versus Juventus on September 17, 2017 at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia. PHOTO: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala could be out for over a month after picking up a thigh injury in his side’s 1-0 win at Cagliari on Saturday, putting his chances of facing Tottenham in the Champions League at risk.

The Italian champions revealed Sunday that the Argentine international had suffered a “light-medium” injury to his right thigh, and said that how long he would have to spend on the sidelines would become clear in the coming days.

The Corriere dello Sport writes that he will be out for between 30 to 40 days, while the Gazzetta dello Sport says that Dybala is hoping for a layoff of “no more than a month”.

Juve host Tottenham for the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie at the Allianz Stadium on February 13.

AFP

Cagliari Sack Coach Massimo Rastelli

Cagliari’s Italian coach Massimo Rastelli. GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

Cagliari’s Massimo Rastelli on Tuesday became the first Serie A coach to be sacked this season after the Sardinian club made a poor start to the campaign.

The 48-year-old took over in the 2015-2016 season, guiding Cagliari into the Italian top flight after winning Serie B in 2016.

Last season the club finished 11th but this term are trailing in 14th position with just two wins in eight games, against relegation rivals Crotone and SPAL.

“We thank Rastelli for over two years of work with professionalism and passion,” Cagliari said in a statement.

“He was a protagonist in winning Serie B and in reaching 11th place last season, and we wish him good luck for the rest of his career.”

Coaching assistants Nicola Legrottaglie and Dario Rossi were also sacked in the clearout.

Cagliari are on a run of four straight losses, the most recent a 3-2 defeat at home against Genoa.

Former Pescara coach Massimo Oddo and Giuseppe Iachini, who last season managed Palermo and Udinese, are being touted as possible replacements.

AFP

Leicester City Sack Claudio Ranieri

lecister-cityLeicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has been sacked, nine months after leading them to the Premier League Title.

The Foxes are one point above the relegation zone with 13 matches left.

His remarkable achievement with a squad worth £55million saw him named as FIFA coach of the year.

But the Italian was unable to replicate his success this season.

Managerial Career

Ranieri began his managerial career in the lower leagues in Italy during the late 1980s, and made his name at Cagliari, whom he took from Serie C1 up to Serie A in successive seasons.

He later went on to manage Napoli, where he led the team to qualify for the UEFA Cup, only to be sacked the following season.

In 1993, he joined Fiorentina, and immediately led them to Serie A promotion, also winning the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana in 1996, before moving to Spain in 1997, to manage Valencia and then Atlético Madrid.