Inter crash to first defeat as Osimhen boosts Napoli past Udinese

Napoli's Victor Osimhen, left, scores their side's second goal of the game during the Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Udinese at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples Wednesday. (AP)
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Updated 28 September 2023
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Inter crash to first defeat as Osimhen boosts Napoli past Udinese

  • Domenico Berardi hit the winner as Sassuolo claimed all three points to follow up last week’s win over Juventus
  • After a defeat and two draws, champions Napoli returned to winning ways with Osimhen playing a starring role in a 4-1 win over Udinese

MILAN: Inter Milan crashed to their first defeat of the Serie A season on Wednesday, going down 2-1 at home to Sassuolo as controversial striker Victor Osimhen starred for Napoli despite an apparent rift with the champions.

Inter went into the game with a perfect record of five wins in five and looked in control at 1-0 ahead thanks to a Denzel Dumfries goal on the stroke of halftime at the San Siro.

Sassuolo leveled in the 54th minute when Nedim Bajrami scored with a long-range effort which caught out goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

Domenico Berardi hit the winner 10 minutes later as Sassuolo claimed all three points to follow up last week’s win over Juventus.

Inter remain top of the table on goal difference ahead of AC Milan who earlier defeated Cagliari 3-1.

“After a good first period where we should have scored more than one goal, but we lost our focus especially after the equalizer,” said Inter coach Simone Inzaghi.

“Losing in front of our home crowd hurts us, we have to understand what happened, even if the schedule, with our next match on Saturday, doesn’t really give us time to take a step back.”

After a defeat and two draws, champions Napoli returned to winning ways with Osimhen playing a starring role in a 4-1 win over Udinese.

The Nigerian striker scored his fourth goal of the season after 39 minutes with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia ending a long goal drought by finding the net in the second half.

Osimhen, top scorer in Serie A last season, had cut a controversial figure at the weekend when he showed his displeasure at being taken off by coach Rudy Garcia in the 0-0 draw with Bologna.

On Tuesday, his agent threatened Napoli with legal action for having published a video on the club’s TikTok account, since deleted, mocking the striker for missing a penalty in that game.

Osimhen removed photos of himself in Napoli colors from his own social media, fueling speculation that he will demand a move in the next transfer window.

“I have a very good relationship with Victor,” insisted Garcia.

“I am happy for him because he scored tonight. After the match in Bologna, we were all frustrated, angry, Victor in particular, because he missed the penalty.

“On the sporting aspect and on other levels, especially on TikTok, there have been a lot of things to manage in recent days,” smiled Garcia.

“But I can assure you that Victor loves this jersey and that he is invested in 100 percent in our project.”

Napoli are now fifth in the table with 11 points, four points behind the two Milan clubs.

AC Milan fought back from a goal down to defeat Cagliari.

Milan were without injured goalkeeper Mike Maignan as well as strikers Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao.

Cagliari, searching for a first win of the campaign, grabbed a shock 29th-minute lead through Angolan winger Zito Luvumbo who capitalized on a mix-up in the Milan defense to shoot past Marco Sportiello.

Milan, however, hit back with Noah Okafor levelling in the 40th minute when he beat goalkeeper Boris Radunovic from a cross by Christian Pulisic.

In first-half injury-time, Fikayo Tomori added Milan’s second thanks to the work of Yacine Adli who was starting a game for only the second time since his arrival at the club in July 2022.

Stefano Pioli’s side made sure of the three points on the hour mark when Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit the target.

The win was a fifth in six matches for AC Milan who are level on 15 points with Inter.

“We deserved our victory in a match which was not a formality,” said Pioli who celebrated his 200th win as a coach in Serie A.

However, he admitted there had been “naivety” over the goal Milan conceded.

“We know that it is the matches against our direct rivals for the title which will impact our place in the table, but these matches which, on paper, seem simple will be very important at the end of the season,” he added.

Empoli, who sacked coach Paolo Zanetti last week after a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Roma, celebrated their first win of the season.

Tommaso Baldanzi scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Salernitana.


Spain prosecutors to demand longer rape sentence for Brazil star Alves

Updated 01 March 2024
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Spain prosecutors to demand longer rape sentence for Brazil star Alves

  • Alves was sentenced on February 22 after being convicted of raping a young woman at a Barcelona nightclub in December 2022
  • Prosecutors had called for him to be jailed for nine years followed by 10 years of probation

MADRID: Spanish prosecutors will appeal against the four-and-a-half year sentence handed to former Brazil international footballer Dani Alves for rape and seek a longer jail term, judicial sources said Friday.
Alves was sentenced on February 22 after being convicted of raping a young woman at a Barcelona nightclub in December 2022.
The 40-year-old footballer was also handed five years’ probation after serving his jail sentence and ordered to pay the victim 150,000 euros ($162,000) in compensation.
Prosecutors had called for him to be jailed for nine years followed by 10 years of probation.
One of the world’s most decorated footballers, who played for Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, Alves insisted the sex was consensual.
Immediately after the sentence, his lawyers said they would appeal.
The victim, who testified behind a screen to protect her identity, said Alves had violently forced her to have sex in a private bathroom of the nightclub despite her begging him to release her, causing her “anguish and terror,” prosecutors said.
Police officers who later came to the nightclub told the court about the woman’s state of agitation and “shock” as well as her anxiety that “nobody would believe her” if she filed a complaint.
In sentencing him, the Barcelona court said: “The victim did not consent and there is evidence that, beyond the complainant’s testimony, permits the rape to be considered proven.
“The court considers as proven the fact that the defendant abruptly grabbed the complainant, threw her to the ground and penetrated her vaginally, preventing her from moving, while the complainant said no and wanted to leave,” it said.
Alves’ lawyers had argued that the victim had been “glued” to the player while dancing at the nightclub, saying there was “sexual tension” between them.
But in its 61-page decision, the court said that did not mean “that she consented to anything that might have subsequently happened.”
In October 2022, Spain’s parliament passed the “only yes means yes” law which tightened the criminal code on sexual violence by requiring explicit consent for sexual acts.
The move — which had long been demanded by assault survivors and women’s rights groups — removed the requirement for rape victims to prove they were subjected to violence or intimidation.
It sought to shift the focus away from the victims’ resistance to a woman’s free and clearly expressed consent. It was amended six months later to close a loophole.


SAFF: 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship ‘will be the first of many’ tournaments held in Kingdom

Updated 01 March 2024
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SAFF: 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship ‘will be the first of many’ tournaments held in Kingdom

  • Jordan defeat Nepal in penalty shoot-out to claim victory in 1st official 11-a-side women’s tournament held in Kingdom
  • Saudi officials hail ‘exciting new era for professional women’s football’ after milestone event draws nationwide interest

RIYADH: The latest chapter in Saudi Arabia’s football evolution came to a close last weekend as the 2024 West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship — the first official 11-a-side women’s tournament held in the Kingdom — reached its conclusion. 

A milestone occasion that attracted nationwide interest and engagement, the eighth edition of the championship was staged in Jeddah throughout its 11-day duration from Feb. 19 to Feb. 29 as seven countries competed alongside the host nation.

Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Nepal, Palestine, Syria and Guam joined Saudi Arabia with fixtures played at the King Abdullah Sports City and Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Sport City stadiums. A total of 15 matches were played across the group and knock-out stages.

The final was played in front of over 4,000 fans at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Sport City Stadium and ended 2-2 after full time, with Jordan winning the tournament via a penalty shoot-out against Nepal in Thursday’s final.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s message following the 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship was clear — this debut official 11-a-side women’s tournament on home soil “will be the first of many.”

“We promise that the 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship is the start of an exciting new era for professional women’s football in Saudi Arabia,” Lamia Bahaian, vice president of the federation, said in a statement.

“Besides showcasing our hosting credentials to the region and wider world, it has paved the way for more competitions to make their way to our shores in the years ahead. For sure, this will be the first of many.”

Bahaian said that the women’s game is inspiring audiences as a driving force for positive change, with the Saudi Arabia women’s national team “instrumental” to the direction of travel.

“Reaction to the tournament and the way it was received by fans and the wider community was incredible — witnessing fans embrace the competition, get behind our women’s national team, and attend matches was a genuine joy,” she said.

“Our national team has been instrumental here. The players are pursuing their dreams and representing their country for everyone to see. This has helped introduce women’s football to audiences new and old, laying new foundations for sustained growth and development while contributing to a positive shift in wider society.”

Underpinned by a strategy to help elevate Saudi Arabia to elite status in world football by 2034, huge strides have been taken in the last few years, with growth witnessed across a series of key metrics. 

Since 2021, the number of female clubs nationwide has increased by 112 percent, with the number of local players up 150 percent and national teams up 300 percent.


Brothers Iñaki and Nico Williams lead Athletic Bilbao to Copa final with rout of Atletico Madrid

Updated 01 March 2024
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Brothers Iñaki and Nico Williams lead Athletic Bilbao to Copa final with rout of Atletico Madrid

  • Gorka Guruzeta also scored for Athletic as they advanced 4-0 on aggregate after having won the first leg 1-0 in Madrid three weeks ago
  • The Basque Country club will play the April 6 final in Seville against Mallorca, which eliminated Athletic rival Real Sociedad on penalties on Tuesday

MADRID: Brothers Iñaki and Nico Williams teamed up with goals and assists to each other as Athletic Bilbao defeated Atletico Madrid 3-0 to reach their third Copa del Rey final in five seasons on Thursday.

Gorka Guruzeta also scored for Athletic as they advanced 4-0 on aggregate after having won the first leg 1-0 in Madrid three weeks ago. The Basque Country club will play the April 6 final in Seville against Mallorca, which eliminated Athletic rival Real Sociedad on penalties on Tuesday.

“Iñaki and I have been getting along very well,” Nico said. “This victory goes to my parents who are in Ghana. Ghana will be a party.”

Nico and Iñaki Williams are sons of Ghanaian parents who migrated to Spain before they were born. They are among the few Black athletes to ever play at the club that historically fields only players from Spain’s northern Basque Country region or adjoining areas.

“Nico and I have fought hard to be able to enjoy things like this,” Iñaki said. “It’s a night to enjoy and to be proud.”

There was fan trouble ahead of Thursday’s match at San Mames Stadium, with Atletico saying one of theire supporters was hospitalized with serious injuries after an altercation with Athletic fans at a nearby bar.

Also, the start of the second half was delayed for more than 15 minutes as medics attended to an Athletic supporter in the stands. The fan reportedly had a cardiac arrest and was taken out on a stretcher. Initial reports by Spanish media said his condition was not serious.

Athletic are the second most successful club in the Copa with 23 titles, eight less than Barcelona. It last won the competition in 1984, but was runner-up in 2019-20 and in 2021-21, losing to Sociedad and then Barcelona.

The team coached by Ernesto Valverde eliminated Barcelona in the quarterfinals this season to reach the last four for the fifth straight time.

Atletico, a 10-time Copa winner, were in the semifinals for the first time in seven seasons and was seeking its first title since 2013.

Diego Simeone’s team was without forward Antoine Griezmann because of an ankle injury.

“We couldn’t capitalize on our chances in the first leg, and today they played a very good match and we have to congratulate them,” Simeone said.

Iñaki opened the scoring 13 minutes into the match with a volley from inside the area after a well-placed cross by his younger brother Nico, who added to the lead from close range in the 42nd after a low cross by his sibling.

It was redemption for Nico a year after he had to shut down his social media accounts after a wave of insults from fans following his misses in the team’s elimination against Osasuna in last season’s semifinals.

“It’s a dream to make it here, especially after what happened last season,” he said.

Guruzeta netted the third in the 61st to seal Athletic’s victory in front of more than 52,000 fans at San Mames.

Athletic’s 1-0 win at the Metropolitano in the first leg ended Atletico’s 28-match unbeaten streak at home across all competitions.


Al-Shabab crowned inaugural Saudi Women’s U-17 football champs after defeating Al-Hilal in final

Updated 29 February 2024
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Al-Shabab crowned inaugural Saudi Women’s U-17 football champs after defeating Al-Hilal in final

  • Their success in the knockout phase follows a group stage in which they were unbeaten, racking up 9 wins and a draw while scoring 116 goals and conceding just 2
  • Event serves as showcase for talent and potential of young female players and the rapid development of women’s football in the Kingdom, officials say

JEDDAH: Deem Saud scored the decisive goal as Al-Shabab defeated Al-Hilal 1-0 in the final of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Football Federation Women’s U-17 tournament.
The road to the final, which was played on Wednesday at Noon Academy in Jeddah, began in November with the group stages of the tournament, in which 18 teams from the Women’s Premier League, the First Division and SAFF regional training centers were split into four groups.
Al-Shabab were unbeaten in Group 1, topping the table with 28 points from nine wins and a draw, scoring 116 goals along the way and conceding just two.
In the knockout phase, they defeated Jeddah 2-1 in the quarter-finals, and Eastern Flames 2-0 in the semis.
Adwa Al-Arifi, the assistant minister for sport affairs at the Ministry of Sport, Lamia Bahian, the vice president of SAFF, and Aalia Al-Rasheed, the head of the women’s football department at SAFF, watched the final.
Officials said the competition offered a showcase for the talent and potential of young female players in the Kingdom, illustrating the rapid recent development of women’s football across the country. The players and clubs were praised for their skill, team spirit and passion for the sport.
SAFF congratulated Al-Shabab for their success, commended all of the clubs that took part, and thanked the players, coaches and fans for their enthusiastic support, which they said had helped make the championship a great success.


PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season

Updated 29 February 2024
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PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season

  • “If everything goes well I am convinced we will have a much better team than this year,” the Spaniard said
  • “I am convinced, as much in defense as in attack, in the midfield, tactically, physically”

POISSY, France: Paris Saint-Germain coach Luis Enrique on Thursday promised that the French giants will have a stronger team next season despite the impending departure of Kylian Mbappe when the superstar forward’s contract expires.
“If everything goes well I am convinced we will have a much better team than this year,” the Spaniard said after refusing to name specific targets when asked if AC Milan forward Rafael Leao was on the club’s shopping list.
“I am convinced, as much in defense as in attack, in the midfield, tactically, physically,” added the former Barcelona and Spain coach.
His comments came after he took Mbappe off with PSG trailing in last week’s 1-1 draw against Rennes.
Luis Enrique later said the Ligue 1 leaders needed to become accustomed to life without Mbappe, who recently informed PSG of his decision to leave at the end of the current campaign.
“Sooner or later, when it happens, we are going to have to get used to playing without Kylian,” he said after that game.
PSG are 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 before going to Mbappe’s former club Monaco on Friday, when they will be without captain Marquinhos due to a calf injury.
They then travel to Spain to face Real Sociedad in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next Tuesday, defending a 2-0 lead from the first meeting.
“Obviously we are entering into a difficult period. The players really want to win things and this is the key point in the season, the best time,” Luis Enrique said.
“It is all or nothing, and that is a nice feeling.”