AC Milan looks to stem terrible run in derby against Inter

AC Milan’s Tommaso Pobega celebrates with teammates Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez after scoring his side’s third goal during their Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb, at the San Siro stadium in Milan in Sep. 2022. (AP/File)
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Updated 02 February 2023

AC Milan looks to stem terrible run in derby against Inter

  • Milan have had a terrible start to the year, dropping from second-place and five points behind leader Napoli to fifth place and 15 behind
  • Inter, conversely, have risen to second place — albeit 13 points behind Napoli

MILAN: The dispiriting jeers turned to encouraging cheers, even though the result was still bad for AC Milan.
The fans’ quick change in attitude wasn’t exactly a surprise, however, with a derby against Inter Milan next on the Serie A schedule.
Milan have had a terrible start to the year, dropping from second-place and five points behind leader Napoli to fifth place and 15 behind. Inter, conversely, have risen to second place — albeit 13 points behind Napoli.
Milan’s last match ended up being a disastrous 5-2 loss to 16th-place Sassuolo, sparking the boos from the crowd. The defending champions have now conceded 12 goals in their past three matches, and they were also eliminated from the Italian Cup and lost to Inter in the Italian Super Cup.
The heartening display from the fans at the end of the match on Sunday was followed by a supportive visit from the team’s executives on Wednesday. Milan president Paolo Scaroni and director Paolo Maldini — a former Milan great — went to the training ground with other club directors.
They watched a practice session and then had lunch with the players.
“We have great confidence in you,” Scaroni reportedly told the players. “We feel such a strong bond with you that we want to be on the field with you.”
The Sassuolo match was Milan’s worst home result since a 6-1 loss to Juventus in 1997. It was also the first time Milan have conceded four goals in back-to-back Serie A matches.
“We’ve hit a rough patch both mentally and tactically so I’ll have to work even more on the mindset of my players to understand what they need to get over this difficult period and also try to understand the tactical issues in order to find the right remedy,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said.
The same Milan players who were drawing compliments from around Europe for their style of play and spirit last season now look lost and simply without answers.
“We have to make the most of the fact we have a big game coming up, because big games are certainly very hard but the higher the mountain to climb, the higher the reward,” Pioli said. “We need this sort of mindset.”


Man United into FA Cup semifinals after 3-1 win over Fulham in emotion-laden match

Updated 20 March 2023

Man United into FA Cup semifinals after 3-1 win over Fulham in emotion-laden match

  • Game turned upside down as the visitors were reduced to nine players and had their manager sent off 
  • Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic faces 3-game ban for barging into referee, a move that also earned him a red card

MANCHESTER, England: It was all set up for a famous FA Cup upset as Fulham led treble-chasing Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
But in the space of seven chaotic second-half minutes, the visitors were reduced to nine players, had their manager sent off and conceded twice.
It was a meltdown of epic proportions and United capitalized on it in ruthless fashion to advance to the semifinals with a 3-1 win that keeps its three-pronged trophy pursuit on track.
There is also the prospect of a mouthwatering FA Cup final against Manchester City after the rivals were kept apart in the draw for the last four.
Thoughts of an all-Manchester showdown at Wembley on June 3, however, looked in serious doubt after Aleksandar Mitrovic fired Fulham ahead in the 50th minute of the quarterfinal match.
That was before the game was turned upside down as Fulham’s players and manager Marco Silva lost control.
Emotions boiled over after Willian blocked Jadon Sancho’s goal-bound shot in the 70th and VAR instructed referee Chris Kavanagh to review the incident on the touchline monitor.
Before the official could even make a decision, he had shown a red card to Silva for remonstrating furiously in the dugout.
Replays showed Willian had clearly used his hand and was sent off as a result. That sparked outrage from Mitrovic, who barged into Kavanagh and was also shown red.
All three dismissals came over a period of 40 seconds.
“Even if I haven’t done something special, I have to control myself,” Silva said afterward. “I didn’t say anything special to the ref, he didn’t listen and showed me the red card. It is a moment to control my emotions. The game was decided in the moment.”
All that was left was for Bruno Fernandes to dispatch his penalty and even the score in the 75th.
Two minutes later Marcel Sabitzer put United in front and nine-man Fulham was on its way out.
Fernandes scored a second to make it 3-1 in the sixth minute of stoppage time and set up a Wembley semifinal game against Brighton.
Manager Erik ten Hag has already led United to victory in the League Cup this season and his team is also into the quarterfinals of the Europa League where it faces Sevilla.
“One thing is important — don’t think too far ahead,” Ten Hag said. “Go from game to game.
“We see the progress in the team, but this team has a strong character, strong belief, strong determination to win games. Today was an example of it. When you have difficult period in a game, stay in the game and turn the game.”
Mitrovic faces ban
Mitrovic will receive at least an automatic three-game ban for his sending off, which had echoes of an infamous incident involving Paulo di Canio from 1998.
The then Sheffield Wednesday striker was banned for 11 games after shoving referee Paul Alcock to the ground during a match.
“I saw the image and I spoke with Mitro, it is a moment for him to control the emotions,” Silva said. “He pushed the referee, but I did not see that in so bad, bad way like you are saying to me. But I hope the people who are going to decide (do so) with fairness.”
Arsenal extend EPL lead
Knocked out of Europe on Thursday, Arsenal’s sights are now solely fixed on winning the Premier League title for the first time in 19 years.
And that elusive prize edged closer as a 4-1 win against Crystal Palace moved Mikel Arteta’s team eight points clear at the top of the table.
There was no sign of a hangover after the penalty shootout loss to Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League as Arsenal underlined its title credentials.
Gabriel Martinelli, who missed the decisive spot kick in that match, quickly put that disappointment behind him by opening the scoring against Palace.
“There is always the question,” Arsenal manager Arteta said. “But I asked him yesterday how he was and he said: ‘I want to be in the team.’
“We were really determined and focused and left Thursday in the past.”
Arsenal still has to play second-place Manchester City and Liverpool before the end of the season. But the London club is in impressive form having won six in a row in the league.
Bukayo Saka provided the pass for Martinelli and became the first player in the league to reach double figures for goals and assists this season. He then went on to score two more himself.
Granit Xhaka got Arsenal’s other goal, while Jeffrey Schlupp scored for Palace, who fired manager Patrick Vieira this week.
Doyle ruled out
Manchester City prospect Tommy Doyle fired Sheffield United into the FA Cup semifinals and then learned he will have to miss out on the biggest game of his young career.
The 21-year-old midfielder is on loan at Sheffield and due to competition rules is ineligible to play against his parent club after the Blades were drawn against Man City in the next round.
It means Doyle will be a spectator for the match at Wembley, when Premier League champions City will be favorites to advance to the final.
Doyle struck in the first minute of second-half stoppage time as Sheffield beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 in a thrilling quarterfinal clash between the two second-tier sides.
Blackburn had twice taken the lead through Ben Brereton and Sammie Szmodics.
Sam Gallagher’s own-goal and Oliver McBurnie evened the score on each occasion before Doyle’s late winner.
But he barely had time to enjoy his celebrations before learning Sheffield had been drawn against City.
Fairy tale ends
Grimsby’s FA Cup fairy tale is over after the fourth-tier team was routed 5-0 by Premier League Brighton.
Grimsby was the lowest-ranked team left in the competition and had reached the quarters for the first time since 1939, having knocked out top-flight Southampton in the last round.
But there was no danger of another upset against Brighton, which scored four goals in the second half at Amex Stadium.
Deniz Undav fired the home side in front after just six minutes. Evan Ferguson scored twice after the break, with Solly March and Kaoru Mitoma completing the rout.

PSG beaten at home in French league for first time this season

Updated 20 March 2023

PSG beaten at home in French league for first time this season

  • Marseille  won 2-1 to end Reims’ 19-match unbeaten run and cut PSG’s lead to seven points with 10 matches left

PARIS: Arnaud Kalimuendo scored against his boyhood club as leaders Paris Saint-Germain were beaten 2-0 by Rennes in their first home loss in the French league this season on Sunday.

The win ended PSG’s 35-match unbeaten run in the league at the Parc des Princes.

Marseille later won 2-1 to end Reims’ 19-match unbeaten run and cut PSG’s lead to seven points with 10 matches left.

The 21-year-old Kalimuendo joined PSG’s youth system when he was 9 years old and signed with Rennes last summer looking for more playing time away from the armada of PSG stars. Kalimuendo was under contract with PSG until 2024 but spent the last two seasons on loan at Lens.

Rennes, who had already prevailed in the corresponding fixture in Brittany two months ago, made the most of PSG’s passivity and relied on goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s decisive saves to produce a clean sheet. Karl Toko Ekambi scored Rennes’ first goal.

PSG looked slow and lethargic, relying in vain on the skills of Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.

Mbappe had two good chances to break the deadlock in the first half but the France star was denied twice.

Mandanda stopped Mbappe’s chipped effort in the 26th minute. The former France ‘keeper then blocked Mbappe’s shot from Messi’s deep pass with a superb reflex save in the 40th.

Rennes waited patiently and took their chance at the stroke of halftime when Benjamin Bourigeaud picked out Toko Ekambi behind the defense. The Cameroon forward controlled the ball with a delicate touch and beat Gianluigi Donnarumma with an angled shot.

PSG players were whistled off the field by some fans, and things got worse when they returned from the locker room.

Kalimuendo made it 2-0 in the 48th after PSG clumsily gave the ball away in midfield. He did not celebrate his goal.

PSG pressed harder as it tried to pull one back but made too many technical mistakes and was vulnerable to counterattacks, with Rennes having the best chances after the interval.

Mandanda was decisive again 10 minutes from time to firmly parry away Marco Verratti’s shot that looked bound for the goal.

PSG are out of the Champions League and the French Cup, meaning they have just the league title left to focus on. Chasing a European spot, Rennes moved up to fifth place in the standings.

Marseille in the hunt

Second-place Marseille’s hard-fought victory in the Champagne town marked their eighth straight away win.

Marseille forward Alexis Sanchez scored twice against Reims, including a superb curled free kick, after Folarin Balogun put the hosts in the driving seat.

Reims pushed hard for an equalizer in the second half and Marseille goalkeeper Pau Lopez made several decisive saves to keep his team ahead. Marseille was lucky not to concede again as the hosts hit the woodwork twice.

Ben Yedder hits 80 mark

Wissam Ben Yedder scored his 80th career league goal for Monaco in a 2-0 win at 10-man Ajaccio as the Principality side got back to winning ways in the top flight.

It was Ben Yedder’s 17th league goal this season. The France striker put the hosts ahead in the 26th minute before Krepin Diatta sealed Monaco’s win with seven minutes left.

Ajaccio was forced to play with 10 players for most of the second half after Cyrille Bayala was sent off for a reckless tackle on Caio Henrique in the 51st minute.

Fourth-place Monaco had picked up only one point from its previous three matches.

Ben Yedder became the third player in Monaco’s history to score 80 league goals for the club after Delio Onnis (157) and Lucien Cossou (97).

He scored from a rebound from close range following a free kick from Henrique. Monaco was then in control against a poor Ajaccio side that was punished by Diatta on the counter and remained in the relegation zone.

Wahi's double

Montpellier’s revival under coach Michel Der Zakarian continued as the Mediterranean club came from behind to beat Clermont 2-1 and moved to 11th place.

Montpellier are now unbeaten in six matches, including five wins, since Der Zakarian returned in February.

Montpellier had a chance to take the lead in the 13th minute but Stephy Mavididi hit the post. Saïf-Eddine Khaoui then gave Clermont the lead before the up-and-coming Wahi turned things round, first with a header then a precise shot. Wahi has 12 league goals, his best tally over a single season.

Nice stay unbeaten

Seventh-place Nice extended their 11-game unbeaten run but were held to a 1-1 draw by Lorient.

Bamo Meite scored the first goal of his professional career to give the visitors the lead before Gaetan Laborde put the teams level.

Strasbourg beat Auxerre 2-0 to end a three-game winless run and Brest drew 2-2 at Troyes.

Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia dazzle in Napoli’s 4-0 victory at Torino

Updated 20 March 2023

Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia dazzle in Napoli’s 4-0 victory at Torino

  • The win left the runaway leaders 19 points ahead of second-place Lazio, who beat Roma 1-0 in a derby 

ROME: Victor Osimhen combines the characteristics of a classic No. 9 with the talents of a modern striker.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s dribbling wizardry and passing abilities befuddle defenders in Italy and beyond.

Individually, Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia are devastating enough. Together, they are leading Napoli to new heights game after game.

The latest demonstration came when Osimhen scored a brace of headers and Kvaratskhelia earned and converted a penalty and set up two goals in Napoli’s 4-0 win at Torino in Serie A on Sunday.

The victory left the runaway leaders 19 points ahead of second-place Lazio, who beat Roma 1-0 in a derby, and a step closer to Napoli’s first Serie A title since Diego Maradona led the club to their only two Italian league championships back in 1987 and 1990.

“Once again when I talked to the team before the game I had the feeling that there could be a sense of fulfillment, and once again they responded by showing that they’re made of different stuff, that they know how to handle the Napoli shirt,” coach Luciano Spalletti said. “There’s a Neopolitan saying that goes, ‘Whoever is hungry doesn’t feel sleepy,’ and that fits perfectly.”

Osimhen started it off midway through the first half when he leaped above the defense to redirect in a corner with a towering header.

After a couple of key saves from Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret — who is also quietly having a standout season — Kvaratskhelia doubled the advantage with a penalty.

But that was just the warmup.

The main act was Napoli’s third goal, a full team move with Kvaratskhelia providing a backheel flick to Mathias Olivera, who floated in a cross for Osimhen to head in at the far post.

“Napoli isn’t just (Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia). You’ve got to expand the discussion to the entire squad,” Spalletti said. “The third goal wasn’t just about Kvaratskhelia’s backheel pass, Olivera’s cross and Osimhen’s header. Before that (Napoli captain Giovanni) Di Lorenzo cut inside to create the conditions for the play to develop on the other side.”

Osimhen became the first player to score two headed braces in the same Serie A season since former Italy striker Alberto Gilardino accomplished the feat in 2009-10 with Fiorentina.

Osimhen has a league-best 21 goals in 27 matches, while Kvaratskhelia has 12 goals and 10 assists — the first player with such production in their first season in Europe’s big five leagues since Diego scored 13 and provided 13 assists for Werder Bremen 16 years ago.

Kvaratskhelia also set up Tanguy Ndombole’s first Serie A goal midway through the second half.

Osimhen also scored twice when Napoli beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 on Wednesday to secure a 5-0 aggregate victory and reach the Champions League quarterfinals.

Juventus win at Inter

Inter Milan dropped to third place following a 1-0 loss at home to Juventus, who are approaching the European spots despite a 15-point penalty for false accounting.

Filip Kostic scored with a long, angled shot to finish off a counterattack early on at the San Siro.

Rome derby

Mattia Zaccagni scored for Lazio midway through the second half with a precise shot after Roma was reduced to 10 men in the first half when Roger Ibanez picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Roma thought they had equalized two minutes after Zaccagni’s goal following a free kick but the score was waved off by the VAR for offside.

Before kickoff, fans clashed with police outside the Stadio Olimpico.

Having also beaten Roma 1-0 in November, it marked the first time that Lazio won both season league derbies in 11 years.

Also, Fiorentina moved into the top half of the table by beating Lecce 1-0 with an own-goal from Antonino Gallo and Sampdoria defeated Hellas Verona 3-1 with a brace from Manolo Gabbiadini in a matchup of two teams in the drop zone.

Barcelona rally to top Madrid, move closer to league title

Updated 20 March 2023

Barcelona rally to top Madrid, move closer to league title

  • Franck Kessie scored in stoppage time to give Barcelona the home victory and a 12-point lead

MADRID: Barcelona took a major step toward winning their first Spanish league title since 2019 after coming from behind to beat Real Madrid 2-1 on Sunday.

Franck Kessie scored in stoppage time to give Barcelona the home victory and a 12-point lead over second-place Madrid with 12 matches to go.

Barcelona’s players huddled and celebrated on the field after the final whistle at Camp Nou.

The Catalan club was saved by the VAR for the second consecutive game, as Madrid had a potential go-ahead goal by Marco Asensio called back in the 81st minute because of offside. Last week, they edged Athletic Bilbao when an 87th-minute equalizer by Athletic forward Iñaki Williams was disallowed by video review.

Barcelona went into the match still facing criticism over their payments of several millions of dollars over several years to the former vice president of the country’s refereeing committee. Prosecutors have formally accused Barcelona of alleged corruption, fraudulent management and falsification of documentation. Madrid are among the clubs siding against Barcelona in the legal proceedings, as is the Spanish government, the league and the soccer federation. Barcelona have consistently denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying it paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.

Madrid needed a win in the last league “clasico” of the season to give theselves a realistic chance of catching Barcelona and defending their title.

Barcelona won eight league titles in 11 seasons through 2019. They finished second to Madrid in 2020, then third — behind Madrid and champion Atletico Madrid — in 2021, and second to Madrid again last season. They are seeking their 27th league title, which would leave them eight behind Madrid.

Barcelona were in control for much of the match on Sunday, creating most of the significant chances.

But the visitors opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a fortunate own-goal by Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo, who redirected the ball into the net with a header after a cross by Madrid forward Vinicius Junior from the left side of the area.

Sergi Roberto equalized after picking up a loose ball inside the area in the 45th, and Kessie netted the winner from the middle of the box after a late breakaway as Madrid made a final push for the victory.

Madrid had thought it went ahead when Asensio found the net from near the penalty spot after a pass by Dani Carvajal, but video review determined the goal couldn’t count because of offside in a tight call.

It was the second match between the rivals in less than three weeks. Barcelona won 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on March 3 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. The return leg at Camp Nou is on April 5.

Madrid won the first league “clasico” 3-1 at the Bernabeu.

Barcelona was without playmaker Pedri and forward Ousmane Dembele because of injuries, while Madrid’s only absence was defender David Alaba, also because of an injury. Barcelona players wore the logo of international singer Rosalia instead of Spotify’s brand as part of its strategic agreement with the music streaming service. Rosalia was selected as she celebrates the one-year release of her hit album Motomami.

Elsewhere,Takefusa Kubo scored as Real Sociedad beat last-place Elche 2-0 to end their winless streak and regain sole possession of fourth place in the league.

Ander Barrenetxea also scored in the second half for Sociedad, who hadn’t won in six games in all competitions, including four straight in the league. They were coming off elimination against Roma in the Europa League on Thursday.

The win gave the Basque Country club a three-point gap over fifth-place Real Betis in the fight for the Champions League places.

Playmaker David Silva led Sociedad over Elche, who have won only two of its last 11 league games. It sits 14 points from safety.

Sociedad’s last league win had been at Espanyol in February.

Betis ended their four-game winless streak in all competitions with Borja Iglesias scoring a second-half goal in a 1-0 victory over midtable Mallorca at home. Betis had been eliminated by Manchester United in the Europa League.

Villarreal, another Spanish club that failed to advance in European competition after losing to Anderlecht, rebounded in the Spanish league with a 3-0 win at Osasuna.

Villarreal were coming off a three-game winless streak. They stayed in sixth place, four points behind Betis and seven from Sociedad.

Getafe left the relegation zone with a 2-0 home win over Sevilla, who stayed two points from the danger area. Sevilla have won only one of their last five league games, but were the only Spanish team to advance in the Europa League after eliminating Fenerbahce on Thursday.

Haaland hits another hat-trick as Man City show Kompany no mercy

Updated 18 March 2023

Haaland hits another hat-trick as Man City show Kompany no mercy

  • Kompany, who won four Premier League titles in an 11-year career at City as a player, was given a hero's reception at the Etihad
  • On the pitch City showed no mercy towards their former captain as Haaland took his tally for the season to 42 goals

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Burnley manager Vincent Kompany endured a nightmare return to Manchester City on Saturday as Erling Haaland scored his sixth hat-trick of the season in a 6-0 rout that sent Pep Guardiola’s men into the FA Cup semifinals.
Kompany, who won four Premier League titles in an 11-year career at City as a player, was given a hero’s reception at the Etihad.
But on the pitch City showed no mercy toward their former captain as Haaland took his tally for the season to 42 goals.
Julian Alvarez also scored twice and Cole Palmer netted the other goal as City remained on course for a treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.
Haaland scored five as RB Leipzig were put to the sword in a 7-0 thrashing in the Champions League in midweek.
Once again the Norwegian’s goal tally was restricted by a Guardiola substitution as he was replaced shortly after sealing his hat-trick on the hour mark.
Burnley are storming toward a return to the Premier League in Kompany’s first season in charge.
But the Championship leaders were shown the gulf they have to bridge next season by a clinical City display.
The visitors had started the brighter of the two sides but were undone once Haaland opened the scoring by prodding home Alvarez’s pass on 32 minutes.
Moments later it was 2-0 as Phil Foden was released down the left to square for Haaland to stroke home.
City’s number nine completed his hat-trick on the rebound after Foden’s shot came back off the post.
Haaland has now scored at least a hat-trick in six of his 19 appearances at the Etihad this season.
His remarkable form has overshadowed Alvarez’s excellent start to his City career.
The Argentine World Cup winner signed an extended contract at the Etihad this week celebrated with a double of his own from two Kevin De Bruyne assists.
In between times, Palmer scored City’s fifth with a simple tap-in after Bailey Peacock-Farrell parried Foden’s cross.
City are the first team to book their place in the last four with the other three quarter-finals taking place on Sunday.
Manchester United host Fulham, while fourth-tier Grimsby aim to produce another huge upset when they travel to in-form Brighton.
One Championship side is guaranteed a place at Wembley as Sheffield United host Blackburn.