Osimhen fires Serie A leaders Napoli past spirited Bologna

Napoli forward Victor Osimhen scores his side's third goal during their Italian Serie A football match against Bologna on Oct. 16, 2022 at the Diego-Maradona stadium in Naples. (AFP)
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Updated 17 October 2022

Osimhen fires Serie A leaders Napoli past spirited Bologna

  • The Nigerian striker struck in the 69th minute to secure the win for unbeaten Napoli
  • It was his first league goal since August after helping his team to secure qualification to the Champions League last 16 

MILAN, Italy: Victor Osimhen made sure that Napoli kept hold of their Serie A lead on Sunday with the winning goal in a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Bologna which took their all-competitions winning streak to 10 matches.

Nigeria striker Osimhen struck in the 69th minute to secure the win for unbeaten Napoli, who maintained their two-point lead on Atalanta at the top of the pile.

It was his first league goal since August after helping his team to secure qualification to the Champions League last 16 with a midweek strike in Naples against Ajax.

“It’s always important for me to get a goal in this stadium because the atmosphere is really amazing,” said Osimhen to DAZN.

“I’m happy to be able to help the team with this goal and the victory, and I believe we will continue to push with this momentum.”

However Sunday’s win was far from the swashbuckling display expected against Bologna, who will drop into the bottom three if Verona beat AC Milan in the day’s final game.

Thiago Motta’s side sit 17th but come away from the Stadio Maradona with credit after a fine performance without star man Marko Arnautovic.

The hosts looked to be heading for a routine win once Hirving Lozano put them back ahead three minutes after halftime following a goalmouth scramble.

They had gone into the break level thanks to Juan Jesus bundling in his first goal of the season in final minute of the half, just four minutes after Joshua Zirkzee had give Bologna a shock lead.

However, Alex Meret allowed Musa Barrow to level for Bologna just two minutes after Lozano’s arrowed strike with a howler, letting the Gambian’s long-range shot squeeze under his body.

The home crowd squirmed but Osimhen, who replaced Giacomo Raspadori at halftime, forced his third league goal of the campaign under Lukasz Skorupski from the superb Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s pass to send the fans home drained but happy.

On a high from Wednesday night’s thrilling 3-3 draw at Barcelona, Inter Milan saw off Salernitana 2-0 at the San Siro thanks to goals either side of half-time from Lautaro Martinez and Nicolo Barella.

Simone Inzaghi’s side are up to seventh after their second straight league win and trail Napoli by eight points.

“We’re on the right track, we started the season badly and lost important points, but we’ve turned the page now,” Martinez told Sky Sport Italia.

Three wins from their last four matches, including four points taken from Barca, have got their domestic season back on track and put them one win away from the last 16 of the Champions League.

Martinez had been in a worrying drought until he crashed in his superb strike at the Camp Nou, and he followed up on that strong performance by lashing home his first league goal since August in the 15th minute.

And Barella made sure Inter would collect the points six minutes later, drilling home his third goal of the campaign after collecting Hakan Calhanoglu’s perfect left-footed pass over the top.

Maurizio Sarri said Lazio should “look for another coach” after being outraged by the state of the Stadio Olimpico pitch during his team’s goalless draw with fellow in-form side Udinese.

Sarri said that the pitch, which has also been criticized Jose Mourinho whose team Roma play at the same stadium, was “impossible to play on” despite both teams putting on an engaging spectacle for the 45,000 present in Rome.

“I don’t know what the chairman is planning on doing, but if this is the pitch we have to play on he should get another coach,” Sarri told reporters, adding that playing out from the back “was like throwing a bomb under our feet.”

Sarri also lost Ciro Immobile to a thigh injury on the half-hour mark and third-placed Lazio struggled to create chances without the Italy striker.

Both teams are five points behind Napoli and can be overtaken by champions Milan and Roma, who are at bottom team Sampdoria on Monday.


Nkunku helps Leipzig defend German Cup title

Updated 03 June 2023

Nkunku helps Leipzig defend German Cup title

  • A year after scoring a second-half goal which sent the 2022 final to penalties, Nkunku broke the deadlock after 71 minutes
  • "When you win something like this, then you just have to celebrate -- and that's what we'll do," Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer told Germany's ZDF network

BERLIN: A Christopher Nkunku-inspired RB Leipzig won their second straight German Cup title on Saturday, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in Berlin.
A year after scoring a second-half goal which sent the 2022 final to penalties, Nkunku broke the deadlock after 71 minutes, his low shot taking a deflection and into the goal against the run of play.
A shellshocked Frankfurt, who had the better of the second half looked to equalize but Leipzig scored again, Dominik Szoboszlai sweeping in an Nkunku pass on the counter.
After featuring in four of the past five German Cup finals, Leipzig’s second title in two years firmly establishes themselves alongside Borussia Dortmund as challengers to Bayern Munich’s throne.
“When you win something like this, then you just have to celebrate — and that’s what we’ll do,” Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer told Germany’s ZDF network.
Frankfurt captain Sebastian Rode said Nkunku’s goal was the turning point, telling ZDF “we just didn’t have the power in behind” after the strike.
The victory spoiled Frankfurt manager Oliver Glasner’s farewell, with the Austrian leaving the club at the end of the season, one year after taking them to the Europa League title.
Despite the victory, the immediate future is uncertain for Leipzig, who could lose several stars including Nkunku, Szoboszlai and Laimer in the summer.
Sporting director Max Eberl confirmed a possible exit for Nkunku, telling German TV “it could be” the France striker’s last match for Leipzig.
Pre-game, the match had been billed as a clash of conflicting ideologies in German football.
In one corner, nouveau riche Leipzig, playing in just their 14th season, against the tradition of Frankfurt, one of only four clubs remaining from the first Bundesliga season in 1963-64 guaranteed to play in next year’s top division.
The Frankfurt stadium announcer played into the conflict just before kickoff, saying “tradition can’t be bought,” a direct jab at the Red Bull-owned Leipzig.
Unbeaten in their last 11 cup games, Leipzig burst out of the blocks, Werner latching onto a Dominik Szoboszlai pass just four minutes in before blasting straight at the ‘keeper.
Leipzig dominated possession but Frankfurt caused problems on the counter, France striker Kolo Muani probing a defense missing the commanding presence of the suspended Josko Gvardiol.
The best chance of the first half fell to Nkunku in the shadows of halftime, the France striker cannoning the ball into the side netting past the outstretched fingers of Frankfurt goalie Kevin Trapp.
Fresh from extending his deal in Frankfurt by one year until 2026 on Friday, 2014 World Cup winner Goetze grabbed control of the game early in the second stanza.
The veteran of four German Cup final wins, two with Dortmund and two with Bayern, put Kolo Muani through on goal with a perfect threaded path before forcing a desperate close range save from Janis Blaswich.
With a Frankfurt opener looking likely, Leipzig scored against the run of play, Nkunku’s shot from the edge of the box taking a sharp deflection of defender Evan Ndicka and into the net.
Frankfurt made multiple changes pushing for an equalizer but Leipzig scored again, Szoboszlai hammering in after a sweeping counterattack with five minutes remaining to seal the win.


Barcelona win Women’s Champions League with stunning comeback against Wolfsburg

Updated 03 June 2023

Barcelona win Women’s Champions League with stunning comeback against Wolfsburg

  • “We didn't make it easy for ourselves,” Barcelona and England defender Lucy Bronze said in a pitchside interview after securing her fourth Champions League crown
  • Fridolina Rolfö capped the fightback by calmly firing the winner into the far corner of the net after a mix-up in the Wolfsburg defense in the 70th minute

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands: Midfielder Patricia Guijarro ignited a stunning second-half comeback as Barcelona overturned a 2-0 deficit to beat Wolfsburg 3-2 and win their second Women’s Champions League title on Saturday.
“We didn’t make it easy for ourselves,” Barcelona and England defender Lucy Bronze said in a pitchside interview after securing her fourth Champions League crown.
She won it three years in a row with Lyon.
Fridolina Rolfö capped the fightback by calmly firing the winner into the far corner of the net after a mix-up in the Wolfsburg defense in the 70th minute.
Guijarro is one of 15 Spanish players, including Bonmati and four other Barcelona teammates, who renounced playing for Spain last year, citing differences with their coach. They have not played since their participation in this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand are in serious doubt.
Wolfsburg led 2-0 at the break thanks to goals from Ewa Pajor and Alexandra Popp.
But Barcelona kept believing they could win, easing the pain of last year’s final when the Catalan team never recovered after Lyon scored three times in the first 35 minutes. Barcelona lost 3-1.
“We have grown up. We didn’t break down,” Guijarro. “We have improved from last year.”
Bronze added: “We were never worried about scoring three goals.”
Barcelona earned their second league crown — the first was in 2021 — from their fourth final since 2019 in front of 33,147 fans at PSV Stadium, a record crowd for a women’s game in the Netherlands.
Guijarro’s double in the 48th and 50th minutes swiftly overturned a first half in which Wolfsburg’s pressing play and clinical counterattacking earned two goals.
First, the Barcelona midfielder slammed the ball into the roof of the net in the 48th. Aitana Bonmatí then made room for herself on the right before crossing for Guijarro to head past Merle Frohms for the equalizer. Guijarro was named player of the match but wasn’t satisfied until Rolfö sealed the win.
“I thought, two goals, we needed more. We needed to keep going,” she said.
It was a remarkable turnaround for coach Jonatan Giráldez’s Barcelona in a thrilling match.
Wolfsburg took the lead inside three minutes when tournament top scorer Ewa Pajor robbed Bronze of the ball close to the Barcelona penalty area and fired a powerful shot that goalkeeper Sandra Paños touched but could not stop from flying in. The goal improved Pajor’s tally in the competition to nine.
It was a rocky start for Bronze, who returned to the Barcelona lineup for the first time since she was injured in the semifinal first leg against Chelsea and underwent knee surgery.
Wolfsburg doubled their lead when veteran forward Alexandra Popp ran into space between two defenders and headed a cross from the left by Pajor past Paños from close range in the 37th. Popp equaled Ada Hegerberg’s record of scoring in four finals.
Wolfsburg goalkeeper Merle Frohms made sure her team went into the break without conceding by racing off her line in stoppage time to smother an effort by Salma Paralluelo.
But she couldn’t stop Barcelona’s onslaught after the break.
“It really hurt,” Wolfsburg coach Tommy Stroot said. “We did so many things right. We were so close to have a big sensation here tonight, to win the title.”
With Barcelona leading and the minutes ticking down, Giráldez brought on two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who has recently recovered from an ACL injury. Barcelona’s vocal fans in Eindhoven roared as Putellas replaced Bonmatí.
It was Putellas who accepted the trophy from England coach Sarina Wiegman after Wolfsburg players formed a guard of honor for their opponents as they walked up to collect their medals.

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Ageing hero Ibrahimovic to leave Milan at season’s end

Updated 03 June 2023

Ageing hero Ibrahimovic to leave Milan at season’s end

  • "Tomorrow (Sunday) evening after the final game of the season... AC Milan will say goodbye to Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a brief ceremony," Milan said in a statement
  • The veteran striker's representatives would not comment when asked by AFP if he would retire once leaving Milan

MILAN: Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s time at AC Milan is coming to an end after the Serie A club announced on Saturday that he would say his farewells following their last match of the season against Verona.
“Tomorrow (Sunday) evening after the final game of the season... AC Milan will say goodbye to Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a brief ceremony,” Milan said in a statement.
“AC Milan would like to thank Zlatan for the magnificent time that we have spent together.”
The veteran striker’s representatives would not comment when asked by AFP if he would retire once leaving Milan.
However Italian media report that Ibrahimovic could join Monza next season, which would reunite him with former Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi and his right-hand man Adriano Galliani.
Former Italian prime minister Berlusconi, who sold Milan for 740 million euros in 2017 after three decades of glory and bought Monza for a relative pittance the following year, took Ibrahimovic to Milan on loan from Barcelona in 2010.
The Swede won Serie A that campaign, which had been Milan’s most recent league title until pipping local rivals Inter Milan on the final day of last season.
Ibrahimovic was a key figure in Milan’s resurgence to the top of Italian football after his return to the club as a free agent in late 2019, helping to bring them back from the doldrums and eventually win the Scudetto last season.
He has hardly featured for Stefano Pioli’s side this term after being plagued with injuries, returning in February following surgery on his left knee in May.
In July he signed a deal which netted him around one million euros ($1.02 million) in fixed salary, with large bonuses linked to appearances and achievements.
But the 41-year-old has only started one match and netted once for Milan this season, a 3-1 win at Udinese in March in which he became the oldest goal scorer in Serie A history.
He then picked up a calf injury in a pre-match warm up in April and will end his Milan career sidelined due to the knock.
Milan sit fourth in Serie A ahead of Sunday night’s match at the San Siro and are assured of Champions League football next season.
They lost to Inter Milan in the Champions League semifinal last month.


Ilkay Gundogan double secures FA Cup for Manchester City over United at Wembley

Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan lifts the trophy as he celebrates with his teammates after winning the FA Cup. (Reuters)
Updated 03 June 2023

Ilkay Gundogan double secures FA Cup for Manchester City over United at Wembley

  • Pep Guardiola’s men completed a domestic double at Wembley
  • Only Inter in Istanbul in a week’s time now stand between City and historic treble

LONDON: Manchester City are one game away from a historic treble after Ilkay Gundogan scored twice to beat Manchester United 2-1 in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s men completed a domestic double at Wembley and can become just the second side, after United in 1998/99, to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season should they beat Inter Milan to become European champions for the first time on June 10.
Gundogan scored the fastest goal in FA Cup final history after just 12 seconds.
United levelled on 33 minutes through Bruno Fernandes’ penalty after Jack Grealish was harshly penalized for handball.
But the City captain, in what could be his final game for the club on English soil with his contract expiring at the end of the season, volleyed home the winner six minutes into the second-half.
“Everyone knows the FA Cup is the most beautiful domestic club competition in the world, so to win this trophy again and complete the double is amazing for us,” said Gundogan.
“We have a chance to do something special and win the treble and we do not want to let this opportunity pass us by.”
The first ever major final between the Manchester giants had the most explosive of starts.
Most of the 83,000 crowd were still taking their seats from the pre-match festivities when Victor Lindelof’s headed clearance sat up perfectly for Gundogan to volley home a stunning strike after just 12 seconds.
That appeared to set the tone for the Premier League champions.
Rodri headed into the side-netting moments later before Erling Haaland failed to get a clean connection on Gundogan’s enticing cross.
United were barely able to get across the halfway line in the first half hour, but got the break they needed to get back into the game.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s header back across the City box brushed the arm of Grealish and referee Paul Tierney was instructed to review the incident by VAR.
Despite City’s protestations, Tierney pointed to the spot and Fernandes coolly sent Stefan Ortega the wrong way.
The Portuguese’s celebrations in front of the City fans were met with a flurry of objects thrown from the stands, one of which struck Lindelof.
City boss Pep Guardiola was also showing his fury at the officiating as VAR did not intervene seven minutes before half-time when Kevin De Bruyne was wiped out by Fred inside the area and no penalty was awarded.
At the other end, United passed up a great chance to turn the game around before half-time when Raphael Varane fired high and wide at the back post from a corner.
Having fought so hard to gain a foothold, United were made to pay for another slow start in the second-half.
Gundogan was the goalscorer again as he fired home from De Bruyne’s free-kick.
But more questions will be asked of whether David De Gea remains the right man to be United’s number one goalkeeper after the 32-year-old Spaniard’s sluggish attempt to keep it out.
De Gea did at least make a big saves to keep United in the game from De Bruyne and Haaland, while Gundogan was denied a rare FA Cup final hat-trick by the offside flag.
United rallied in a tense finale as Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho flashed efforts inches off target.
The ball came back off the City bar in a goalmouth scramble deep into stoppage time.
However, the Red Devils could not find the goal to deny Guardiola an 11th major trophy as City boss and protect the unique legacy of Alex Ferguson’s great side 24 years ago.
Only Inter in Istanbul in a week’s time now stand between City and matching the greatest achievement English club football has ever seen.


Verstappen takes pole for Spanish Grand Prix

Updated 03 June 2023

Verstappen takes pole for Spanish Grand Prix

  • The championship leader took his fifth pole of a season already dominated by Red Bull to start ahead of Ferrari's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz
  • "Not bad," said Verstappen, with his customary understatement

MONTMELO, Spain: World champion Max Verstappen claimed his maiden pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix after leading qualifying Saturday on the Montmelo circuit outside Barcelona.
The championship leader took his fifth pole of a season already dominated by Red Bull to start ahead of Ferrari’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz with Britain’s Lando Norris of McLaren in third.
“Not bad,” said Verstappen, with his customary understatement. “It’s very nice to come here and get my first pole. I like the circuit and I have a lot of good memories here.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took fifth place on the grid, ahead of Canadian Lance Stroll of Aston Martin.
Local hero Fernando Alonso could only set the ninth fastest time after damaging his car when going off the track in the second qualifying period.
Frenchman Esteban Ocon of Alpine, who took third place in Monaco last weekend, will start in seventh, ahead of German Nico Huelkenberg of Haas, while Australian Oscar Piastri will complete the top 10 in a McLaren.
Qualifying was contested on a slippery track at the start of the session and it featured several big surprises.
First it was Monaco’s Charles Leclerc who was eliminated in Q1 and he will only start in 19th and penultimate place.
Then Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate, Mexican Sergio Pérez, who made a mistake and took a lap in the gravel, was taken out in Q2 and will start in 11th, ahead of Briton George Russell, who also disappointed with the other Mercedes.