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.”

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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

Lautaro Hat-Trick Sends Six-Goal Inter Milan Top Of Serie A

Inter Milan’s Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez kisses the ball after scoring the 3-2 goal during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Crotone on January 3, 2021 at the Giuseppe-Meazza (San Siro) stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Lautaro Martinez scored a hat-trick as Inter Milan kicked off 2021 in blistering form with a 6-2 win over lowly Crotone on Sunday to take top spot in Serie A.

Inter claimed an eighth consecutive league win to move two points ahead of AC Milan who travel to midtable Benevento later on Sunday with champions Juventus hosting Udinese.

Martinez and Romelu Lukaku proved decisive for the northerners, the strike duo being involved in five of Inter’s goals.

Antonio Conte’s side had been pegged back 2-2 at the break with Niccolo Zanellato breaking through with a 12th-minute header for the promoted Calabrians who are second from bottom with the worst attack in the league.

But Martinez picked up a Lukaku cross to pull the hosts level eight minutes later.

Martinez had a role in Inter’s second just after half an hour when Crotone defender Luca Marrone turned the ball into his own net under pressure from Argentina forward.

Vladimir Golemic put the sides level six minutes later after Arturo Vidal fouled Arkadiusz Reca, with Conte replacing the Chilean midfielder after the break.

Martinez pulled Inter ahead before the hour connecting with a Marcelo Brozovic through ball and headed in his third with 12 minutes to go off a rebound.

Lukaku blasted in his 50th goal in the Inter jersey after 64 minutes before going off after taking a knock to his thigh, before Achraf Hakimi sealed the win with three minutes to go.

“There is a great desire and it shows,” said Conte as Inter target their first Serie A title since 2010 with their European campaign over this season.

“It’s important to continue like this, we produce and create a lot, we score a lot of goals, it’s a pity for the goals conceded.”

AFP

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.

Lukaku, Inter Left Frustrated In Shakhtar Draw

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (4 L) in action during the UEFA Champions League football match between Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter Milan at the Olympiyskiy stadium in Kiev on October 27, 2020. Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

 

Romelu Lukaku and Inter Milan endured a frustrating night in Kiev on Tuesday as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.

Six days after stunning Real Madrid in Spain despite missing 10 first-team players due to coronavirus, Shakhtar were fortunate to take a point against the Italians but the result leaves them in a strong position in Group B.

Inter came closest to scoring, twice hitting the woodwork in the first half at the Olympic Stadium.

Nicolo Barella hit the crossbar early on and Lukaku then had a free-kick turned onto the frame of the goal by Shakhtar ‘keeper Anatoliy Trubin as the interval approached.

Lautaro Martinez then contrived to miss the target from an excellent position after the break, as Inter drew again, following a 2-2 stalemate with Borussia Moenchengladbach last week.

Shakhtar top the group with four points, but Madrid can now go up to second with a win away to Gladbach in Germany later on Tuesday.

Lukaku, Hakimi Spark As Five-Goal Inter See Off Benevento

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku reacts during the Italian Serie A football match Benevento vs Inter on September 30, 2020 at the Ciro Vigorito stadium in Benevento. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Romelu Lukaku scored twice, the first within 30 seconds and Achraf Hakimi impressed on his debut start as Inter Milan beat promoted Benevento 5-2 in Serie A on Wednesday.

After their last-gasp 4-3 win over Fiorentina last weekend Antonio Conte’s side maintained the momentum at Filippo Inzaghi’s men who had shocked Sampdoria 3-2 last time out.

Belgium forward Lukaku followed on from his late goal against Fiorentina breaking the deadlock following a speedy Hakimi cross.

 

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) and Benevento’s Italian defender Christian Maggio go for the ball during the Italian Serie A football match Benevento vs Inter on September 30, 2020 at the Ciro Vigorito stadium in Benevento. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Hakimi, who has spent the past two seasons on loan from Real Madrid at Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, unlocked the match with his acceleration down the right finding Lukaku to blast in the opener.

The Morocco international then set up Roberto Gagliardini to volley in after 25 minutes and Lukaku for Belgian’s second just before the half hour.

Hakimi got on the scoresheet himself three minutes before the break, catching the Benevento defence napping with Argentine Lautaro Martinez making in five with 20 minutes to play.

Arthur Vidal and Christian Eriksen also came close to scoring for last season’s runners-up, the Dane rattling the crossbar late.

Gianluca Caprari scored for Benevento after 34 and 76 minutes.

“I’m very happy with how I have adapted to the team even if I still have to learn certain mechanisms,” said Hakimi.

“Some moves are similar to those I did in Dortmund, I have the skills to play in this team.

“The team mates helped me a lot, and I’m learning quickly.

“The Scudetto? We are working towards this, we have a great team to fight for this goal.”

The match was one of three postponed from the opening weekend of Serie A because of teams’ European commitments.

Atalanta travel to Lazio later on Wednesday after promoted La Spezia getting their first-ever top-flight win 2-0 against Udinese.

Andrey Galabinov scored in either half with the Ligurians holding on despite playing the last half an hour a man down after Claudio Terzi was sent off for two yellow cards.

Messi, Inter, Camavinga – What To Look Out For In Europe This Weekend

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) challenges Nastic´s defense during a friendly football match between FC Barcelona and Nastic at the Johan Cruyff stadium in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on September 12, 2020. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

 

Lionel Messi will be back in a Barcelona shirt in La Liga, while Inter Milan begin their bid to end Juventus’ grip on the Serie A title and potential challengers face off in Germany and France.

AFP Sport picks out some of the standout action in Europe this weekend:

– Eyes on Messi on Koeman debut -Barcelona v Villarreal, Sunday 1900 GMT

Lionel Messi is staying at Barcelona for at least one more year and on Sunday he will be the centre of attention as the Catalans belatedly kick off their campaign in La Liga.

The game, behind closed doors, against Unai Emery’s Villarreal is also new coach Ronald Koeman’s first competitive outing in charge after one of the most turbulent summers in Barcelona’s history.

While Messi stayed against his will, Luis Suarez has departed for Atletico Madrid, following Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Nelson Semedo out of the door. Miralem Pjanic and the Portuguese international Trincao have come in.

Barcelona are a team in transition but there is no doubt that, as long as Messi is still there, anything is possible.

“Barca are a great side. I’m pleased that Messi has stayed and that we will continue to enjoy having him in La Liga,” said Emery, whose own team has already played twice, winning one and drawing one.

– Inter with point to prove -Inter Milan v Fiorentina, Saturday 1845 GMT

Antonio Conte’s Inter get their Serie A campaign underway against Fiorentina at San Siro having been given the opening weekend off due to their run to the Europa League final last month.

The Nerazzurri lost that game to Sevilla and also finished a point behind Juventus in the Serie A title race, so now their aim is to end the Turin side’s long domination of Italian football.

With Juve having beaten Sampdoria 3-0 in Andrea Pirlo’s first game as a coach, Inter need to get off to a good start and there will be plenty of focus on the new arrivals: Vidal but also Achraf Hakimi, the Moroccan full-back signed from Real Madrid for 40 million euros ($44.9m) after impressing on loan at Borussia Dortmund.

– Bayern’s rivals left to rebuild -Bayer Leverkusen v RB Leipzig, Saturday 1330 GMT

The Bundesliga is a hugely entertaining league but once again there are doubts as to whether any team can seriously threaten Bayern Munich’s hegemony.

Dortmund are the most likely contenders, while it remains to be seen if Leverkusen or Leipzig can mount a real challenge this time.

Leipzig finished third last season and reached the Champions League semi-finals. Leverkusen were fifth, just behind Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Julian Nagelsmann’s Leipzig remain the last team to hold Bayern while Peter Bosz’s Leverkusen are the last side to beat the Bavarians in Munich. But both teams lost their star player over the summer, with Leipzig’s Timo Werner and Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz moving to Chelsea.

So can they successfully replace them and compete again?

Leipzig this week paid Crystal Palace 20 million euros ($23m) for Alexander Sorloth, who is a direct Werner replacement. Meanwhile, Leverkusen recently signed Czech forward Patrik Schick from Roma. He was on loan at Leipzig last season.

Nagelsmann’s side were 3-1 winners against Mainz on the opening weekend but Leverkusen were held 0-0 at Wolfsburg. Saturday’s clash, before a limited crowd, will provide a measure of where both sides currently stand.

– Can somebody new challenge in France? -Saint-Etienne v Rennes, Saturday 1500 GMT

While Paris Saint-Germain have endured a slow start to their French title defence having been handicapped by a coronavirus outbreak, suspensions, and injuries, there is a fresh look for now at the top of Ligue 1.

Saint-Etienne and Rennes are level on points at the summit and they meet on Saturday amid hope that this campaign does not simply turn into another PSG procession.

Nobody realistically believes Saint-Etienne can add to their record tally of 10 titles though, even if manager Claude Puel is so far enjoying some success after overhauling his squad and promoting youth.

Rennes are a more interesting case, and not just because in 17-year-old midfielder Eduardo Camavinga they have possibly the hottest young property in world football.

The Brittany side finished third in the last, curtailed season and have been busy investing ahead of a first appearance in the Champions League. They have just sold goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to Chelsea, but they are certainly going to be worth watching this season.

 

 

-AFP

Uruguay Skipper Godin Leaves Inter For Cagliari

godin
Godin joins Cagliari from Inter. Photo: [email protected] Calcio.

 

 

Uruguay captain Diego Godin has signed for Cagliari from Serie A rivals Inter Milan on a three-year deal, both clubs announced on Thursday.

“Cagliari Calcio are pleased to announce the signing of Diego Godin from Inter,” the Sardinian club said in a statement.

“The Uruguayan defender has signed an agreement that ties him to the Rossoblu until June 30, 2023.”

Godin, 34, joined Inter Milan in 2019 after nine seasons with Atletico Madrid where he was captain and won La Liga in 2014 and two Europa League titles in 2012 and 2018.

“Inter Milan can confirm that defender Diego Godin has signed for Cagliari Calcio on a permanent basis,” Inter said in a statement.

“The Club would like to thank the player for the professionalism and commitment he displayed during his time with the Nerazzurri and wishes him all the best as he begins the next stage of his professional career.”

Godlin played 36 games for Inter last season helping the team reach the Europa League final, where he scored a goal.

He has played 135 times for Uruguay and scored eight goals.

AFP

Barcelona’s Vidal Joins Inter Milan For One Million Euros

Barcelona Agree Vidal Switch In '€30m Deal'
Chile’s midfielder Arturo Vidal gestures during the international friendly football match Sweden vs Chile at the Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden on March 24, 2018, in preparation of the 2018 Fifa World Cup. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

 

Inter Milan have completed a deal to sign Arturo Vidal from Barcelona for 1 million euros ($1.17 million), the clubs announced on Tuesday.

“Barcelona and Inter Milan have reached an agreement for the transfer of the player Arturo Vidal,” Barca said in a statement.

“The Italian team will pay FC Barcelona 1 million euros in variables.”

After joining in 2018, Vidal played 96 games for the Catalans and scored 11 goals, helping them win La Liga in his first year in Spain.

But the 33-year-old was seen as expendable by the club after their dreadful end to last season, with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu admitting players would have to leave before new ones could come in.

Vidal will be reunited with Antonio Conte at Inter, the coach he played for at Juventus between 2011 and 2015, before joining Bayern Munich and then Barca.

Inter described the Chilean midfielder as a “warrior”. “From today, Vidal will be on the front line for the Nerazzurri, with the same objectives as ever: fighting, giving it his all, and winning,” the Italian club added.

AFP

Inter Milan Have No Plans To Sign Messi – Club Official

 In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.  JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Inter Milan have no plans to try and sign Lionel Messi nor the financial means to engineer a deal for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, a club official said Tuesday. 

“I don’t know where some ideas can come from,” Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio told Sky Sport Italia. The Serie A runners-up have been linked with a move for Messi along with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain if he leaves Barcelona.

“No coach, no president wouldn’t want Messi in their team. But the reality is very different,” he added, as the Italian transfer window officially opened on Tuesday.

“Our reality is a sensible transfer market.”

Ausilio also said the club was in negotiations with Roma to sign Serbian defender Aleksandar Kolarov while insisting Lautaro Martinez will stay put despite longstanding interest from Barcelona.

 

AFP

Antonio Conte Commits Future To Inter Milan

File photo: Inter Milan’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte gives instructions during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match Inter Milan vs Slavia Prague on September 17, 2019, at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

Antonio Conte will continue at the helm of Inter Milan next season, the club confirmed on Tuesday, only days after the fiery Italian hinted he was ready to quit after just one campaign.

Conte held a “constructive meeting focused on continuity and strategy” with the club’s Chinese president Steven Zhang and team management which lasted just over three hours in a villa outside Milan.

“The two parties laid the foundations to continue working together on the club’s project,” the club said in a statement.

Inter opted for continuity after finishing second just one point behind champions Juventus, with the Chinese owners also confirming confidence in the entire management team.

Conte will now lead the club’s bid to topple Juventus with coaching novice Andrea Pirlo having replaced Maurizio Sarri as coach at the nine-time reigning Serie A champions.

The 51-year-old Conte’s departure was being heralded following an outburst after Inter Milan’s 3-2 Europa League final defeat to Sevilla last week.

 

Sevilla’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the UEFA Europa League final football match against Inter Milan on August 21, 2020, in Cologne, western Germany. Lars Baron / POOL / AFP

 

“Now we’ll return to Milan, we’ll take a couple of days off. We will try to plan the future of Inter with or without me,” said Conte, after the team missed out on a first trophy since 2011.

“It has been a very tough season from all points of view, the best decision must be taken for the good of Inter, with the utmost cordiality.”

“I didn’t like some situations.”

The former Chelsea and Juventus boss took over in May 2019 on a three-year contract worth a reported 12 million euros ($14 million) a season.

But his relationship with club management and CEO Giuseppe Marotta, in particular, was reported to be tense.

On the final day of the domestic season, Conte slammed the fact that players had been offered “little protection from the club”.

“I don’t want another year like that.”

Marotta, however, insisted last week that “everything was forgotten” after Conte’s heated criticism.

It was not the first time Conte has publicly complained about the club.

Conte was also critical after the club’s Champions League group-stage exit which he blamed on a lack of investment despite the signing of Romelu Lukaku for 75 million euros.

But he still managed to build a competitive team around strikers Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, which Zhang said made the club “optimistic for the future”.

“Conte and his technical staff are doing a great job,” said Zhang.

Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri had been ready to succeed Conte, whom he also replaced in Turin in 2014, should the former Italy boss quit, according to reports.

Allegri parted company with Juventus in 2019 and has also been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, but preferred to stay in Italy.

AFP

 

Lukaku On Song As Inter Spank Shakhtar To Reach Europa League Final


Inter Milan’s Argentinian forward Lautaro Martinez (hidden) score the 3-0 past Shakhtar Donetsk’s Ukrainian goalkeeper Andrey Pyatov during the UEFA Europa League semi-final football match Inter Milan v Shakhtar Donetsk on August 17, 2020 in Duesseldorf, western Germany. Lars Baron / POOL / AFP

 

 

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez both scored twice as Inter Milan stormed into a first European final in 10 years with a 5-0 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk in Dusseldorf.

Danilo D’Ambrosio was also on target for Antonio Conte’s men, who will face Sevilla in Friday’s final in Cologne.

The Italian giants have endured a lean decade since winning the Champions League in 2010, but closed the gap on Juventus at the top of Serie A to just one point in Conte’s first season in charge and are now one win away from a first trophy in nine years.

Martinez and Lukaku’s prolific partnership has been the source of much of Inter’s success and they took their tally to a combined 54 for the season.

 


Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring the 5-0 goal during the UEFA Europa League semi-final football match Inter Milan v Shakhtar Donetsk on August 17, 2020, in Duesseldorf, western Germany. Lars Baron / POOL / AFP

 

After a slow start, Martinez rose highest to power home Nicolo Barella’s cross to open the scoring on 19 minutes.

Shakhtar are one of European football’s great survivors as the Ukrainian champions continue to thrive despite not playing a match in their home city of Donetsk for six years due to a war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

 


Inter Milan’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte shakes hands with Shakhtar Donetsk’s Portuguese coach Luis Castro after the UEFA Europa League semi-final football match Inter Milan v Shakhtar Donetsk on August 17, 2020 in Duesseldorf, western Germany. Sascha Steinbach / POOL / AFP

 

Luis Castro’s men had scored 14 goals in five Europa League games since dropping into the competition form the Champions League, but their talented array of Brazilian forwards barely laid a glove on a characteristically well-organised Conte defence.

At the other end, Martinez was always lively and only a brilliant save from 36-year-old Andriy Pyatov denied him a classy second as he won the ball 30 yards from goal and immediately lobbed the ball goalwards early in the second half.

Shakhtar had one golden chance to level when Mykola Matviyenko’s cross picked out Junior Moraes, but the Brazilian-born Ukrainian international’s header was too close to Samir Handanovic.

Two minutes later, Inter landed the killer blow when D’Ambrosio met Marcelo Brozovic’s corner with a powerful header.

Lukaku extended his run of scoring in now 10 straight Europa League games, but the Belgian was made to wait as Pyatov got down well to save his first big sight of goal.

Martinez showed the way with by finding the bottom corner with a brilliant quick hit that gave Pyatov no time to set himself after Shakhtar were caught in possession inside their own half for his 21st goal of the season.


Shakhtar Donetsk’s Portuguese coach Luis Castro follows from the sidelines during the UEFA Europa League semi-final football match Inter Milan v Shakhtar Donetsk on August 17, 2020, in Duesseldorf, western Germany. Sascha Steinbach / POOL / AFP

 

Lukaku then got in on the act 12 minutes from time as this time Martinez played provider before his strike partner slotted low into the far corner.

Five minutes later the former Manchester United striker had his 33rd goal of the campaign by accelerating away from a slow Shakhtar backline before firing through Pyatov’s legs.

AFP

Lukaku Leads Inter Milan Into Europa League Semi-Finals

lukaku
Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku shoots on goal during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final football match Inter Milan v Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the Duesseldorf Arena on August 10, 2020 in Duesseldorf, western Germany. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / POOL / AFP

 

 

Romelu Lukaku scored as Inter Milan defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in Monday’s Europa League quarter-final in Dusseldorf, becoming the first team through to the last four of a mini-tournament behind closed doors in Germany.

Three-time former winners Inter struck first through Nicolo Barella as he guided in from the edge of the area on 15 minutes, with Lukaku bundling in a second six minutes later.

 

Leverkusen’s German midfielder Kai Havertz (C) and his teammates react after the UEFA Europa League quarter-final football match Inter Milan v Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the Duesseldorf Arena on August 10, 2020 in Duesseldorf, western Germany. Martin Meissner / POOL / AFP

 

Kai Havertz reduced the deficit in possibly his final game for Leverkusen with a well-worked goal on 25 minutes after exchanging passes with fellow Germany international Kevin Volland, but Inter held on to seal their place in the semi-finals.

Antonio Conte’s side will take on Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk or Swiss club Basel next Monday in Dusseldorf for a place in the final on August 21.

AFP