FC Internazionale Milano v AC Milan  - Serie A

Offshore drilling, Italy: Inter Milan 4, Milan 2

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Man of the Match: Check my research on this, but Diego Milito recorded the first hat trick in a Derby della Madonnina (or, Milan derby) since José Altafini scored three for Milan in 1960. That day, Milan lost to Inter, 5-3. Today, Milan not only lost the game; they also lost the league.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Possibly the match of the weekend if you consider the confluence of significance, history, and actual in-game entertainment. Please let me know if you saw a better game (and I will spend the rest of my Sunday trying to track it down).
  • Besides Milito and Milan’s lost title defense, penalty kicks were the story of the day. The match featured three: one a blown call; one obvious; and one sparking an old debate;
    • Milan’s equalizer (44′, converted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic) saw midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng dive a millisecond before goalkeeper Julio César touched him while coming up to swallow a pass played behind Inter’s defense. It was a very convincing performance – perfectly timed such that only a few replay angles conclusively showed the fraud.
    • The obvious call was the second, right back Ignacio Abate pulling Milito down from behind after the Inter striker had beaten him in the left of Milan’s area. It was a terrible piece of defending. Then again, most given penalty kicks are.
    • The final penalty awarded, the one which led to the match winner, was more debatable, bringing  “ball to hand” into the conversation. A high pass from the right to Inter forward Giampaolo Pazzini was flicked onto defender Alessandro Nesta’s shoulder-high right arm. The hand ball was clearly unintentional, but it’s one that’s almost always given: arm in an unnatural playing position; the defending team benefitting from the play (the ball not allowed to go into the middle of the area). However, it was not an intentional hand ball, Nesta’s arm made no movement toward the pass, so some of the letters of the law are on Milan’s side.
  • Milan hadn’t given up four goals in a Serie A match since last January’s 4-4 draw with Udinese. One of the reasons they did so today: Three changes in a defense that also lost their starting right back (Daniele Bonera) and goalkeeper (Christian Abbiati) in the first half. Disorganization at the back played a part in each of the first two goals, while an outright error gifted a third.
  • The two early, forced subs meant Max Allegri’s hands were tied. He couldn’t make any changes until late, bringing on Antonio Cassano for Sulley Muntari in in 77th minute. Andrea Stramaccioni was able to start changing his side at the hour mark, after which Inter outscored Milan 2-0.
  • If Milan was hamstrung by their lack of substitutions for much of the second half, they were hamstrung by their tactics for beginning of the first. True, having Ibrahimovic play opposite right back Yuto Nagatomo could have worked, especially if Ibra had put him Robinho’s cross in the 12th minute. But taking Ibra out of the middle is always a risk. He could end up lost. For much of the fight half, Milan was overly reliant on Robinho because they had shifted their focal point out of the middle.
  • While Milan carried the burdens of tactics and a title race, Inter played like a team freed by lowed expectations, even if their Champions League lives were on the line. Particularly in the play of Esteban Cambiasso and Fredy Guarin in the middle, you could see Milan were going to have trouble matching Inter’s energy level.
  • As a result, Allegri was left to try a number of different configurations with his top three (Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Boateng) in order to promote his attack, but ultimately, it his problems at the back were too much to overcome. With no Thiago Silva, a backup goalkeeper in net (Marco Amelia), and an 18-year-old (Mattia Di Sciglio) making his third appearance at right back, Milan didn’t have enough to contain their rivals.
  • With the loss (and Juventus’s win), Milan’s title defense ends. They will finish second, next week’s visit from Novara rendered meaningless.
  • Inter’s season is basically over, too. They sit sixth, only three points back of third place Udinese, but they can’t finish in the top three (Udinese wins the head-to-head tiebreaker, Napoli wins a three-way tiebreak). Five points ahead of Roma and Parma, they have nothing to play for next week at the Olimpico, though given Lazio is still fighting with Udinese for Italy’s last Champions League berth, Inter will be expected to give the requisite effort.

Not need to write your congressman about Offshore drilling. You can get more examples of PST’s version here.

Atletico Madrid unveils new crest, stadium video

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Atletico Madrid has a new look to go with its new home (which has a name, also obviously new).

The La Liga giants will eliminate that dot of green from their badge when they hit the Wanda Metropolitano next summer.

Yep, that’s when the new stadium will open. Ideas move quickly.

[ MORE: Stoke’s Hughes likes Arsenal’s PL odds ]

The blue in Atleti’s crest is navy, and the red stripes are wider. There are still seven stars, a bear, and a strawberry tree.

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Stoke’s Hughes senses Arsenal could win Premier League

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Mark Hughes manager of Stoke City looks on prior to the Premier League match between Stoke City and Burnley at Bet365 Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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A longtime Manchester United player who managed two sides in London, this probably stings a bit for Mark Hughes.

The Stoke City boss has admitted he’s feeling positive about Arsenal’s chances at a run to the Premier League title this season.

[ MORE: Swans committed to Bradley ]

Hughes, 53, leads his Potters into the Emirates Stadium for a 10 a.m. EDT Saturday date with the Gunners, and knows the challenge is high.

The manager has the Potters up to ninth after a poor start to the season, and Stoke is closer to sixth than the relegation stew.

From the BBC:

“Arsenal, as a team, look in good shape and whilst we have a lot of confidence, given their form too, it isn’t a good time to play them.

“At times, Arsenal have struggled with consistency, and it has cost them, but you sense this could be their year. It’s important for us to give ourselves an opportunity to get something out of the game, we need to stay in the match and frustrate them.”

This week’s match with Arsenal kicks off a four-week run that goes Arsenal, Saints, Leicester, Liverpool, Chelsea.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Copa America trip helped convince Lodeiro of Sounders move

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 22: Nicolas Lodeiro #10 of the Seattle Sounders gets control of the ball during a match against the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the Western Conference Finals at CenturyLink Field on November 22, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Sounders won the match 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Nicolas Loderio is getting set to play in the MLS Cup finals, something that only came to pass with a team visit to the United States, and the assistance of Luis Suarez.

According to Seattle Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey, he spoke with Lodeiro often in his attempts to bring the 27-year-old from Boca Juniors to Major League Soccer. The moment that swayed him was a trip to the US. A business trip.

With Uruguay competing in the Copa America Centenario, it allowed the two to speak more frequently, but when the Uruguayan became frustrated with his own handle of the native language, a friend stepped in to help. He asked national teammate Suarez to help translate, and thus the transfer came to pass.

“You don’t have body language, it’s harder than it is straight to the face and so he just got frustrated that he couldn’t understand everything that I’m saying,” Lagerwey told MLSSoccer.com’s radio show. “And so he says, ‘Hold on, speak to my friend,’ and I said, ‘OK,’ and I have no idea what’s happening. And Luis Suarez gets on and says, ‘Hi, this is Luis Suarez, how are you?’ And I’m like, ‘Morning, Mr. Suarez, how are you?’ And he was our translator.”

Lodiero has been a revelation for the Sounders since joining in the summer. A creative force all season, the Uruguayan has scored four goals in five playoff matches, bursting onto the national scene on the biggest stage.

“It was just funny. Nico and I, we talked fairly regularly during the process, in part because it took four months for the thing to play out,”  “And he was in the US for the Copa America with Uruguay, obviously, and in hindsight that ended up being a big deciding factor for him, because he brought his wife and his little son and they got to see America and I think liked it and developed a comfort level with it. And I think that’s what ultimately pushed them to make the leap, but I was talking and Nico’s English is actually pretty, pretty good, but he isn’t always so comfortable on the phone.”

With over 50 caps for the national team, Lodeiro is a well-known presence with the Barcelona striker and his other national teammates. The two have hooked up on the field as well, with Suarez assisting Lodeiro’s fourth national team goal back in October.

Zidane’s Madrid on cusp of setting new unbeaten record

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03: Zinedine Zidane, Manager of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga  match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Zinedine Zidane is one match away from coaching Real Madrid to a new unbeaten record.

When Zidane replaced Rafa Benitez midway through last season, the inexperienced former midfield standout got off to an auspicious start with a 5-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna.

Eleven months and one Champions League title later, Madrid faces Deportivo again at home on Saturday with the chance of surpassing its longest unbeaten run since the club was founded in 1902.

On Wednesday, Madrid equaled a club record of 34 games without a loss set in 1989 under coach Leo Beenhakker when it drew 2-2 with Borussia Dortmund.

“It’s important to continue to make history and continue our good run,” Zidane said after the match. “I don’t think it’s very important for me to leave my mark. What interests me the most is to continue with this great run that we’re on.”

Last season, when Real Madrid president Florentino Perez tapped Zidane to take over a struggling team, the decision smelled of desperation.

A fan favorite from his playing days as part of Madrid’s “galaticos” bunch, Zidane was promoted from coaching the reserve team to take over a side that was lurching from one embarrassing episode to the next.

Madrid’s 2015-16 campaign had started with Perez flubbing his play to sign away Manchester United goalie David De Gea. The team was then disqualified from the Copa de Rey for fielding an illegible player, and it endured a 4-0 defeat from Barcelona at home as it failed to click with Benitez.

Perez needed to make an impact move. But instead of searching for a veteran manager, he charged the unproven Zidane with turning around Madrid’s group of talented underachievers.

At first, the team remained erratic, and even looked set to bow out of the Champions League after a shocking 2-0 loss at German side Wolfsburg.

But that defeat on April 6 proved to be a catalyst. The team hasn’t lost since, recovering to claim its 11th European Cup and almost nip Barcelona for the Spanish league crown, before roaring out to lead la Liga this season.

Zidane, whose top-tier coaching experience had been limited to his stint as an assistant under Carlo Ancelotti, has now reached the half-century mark as head manager. During that 50-match period, he has overseen 37 wins, 11 draws and only two losses. That other loss came at Atletico Madrid in February.

“The players have to be congratulated. They’re the ones out on the pitch, it’s them who run, fight and dig in,” Zidane said. “We also have to thank the fans, who always get behind the team and support us. They’ve got to take some credit for what the team is achieving”.

Gifted with world-class stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, Zidane focused on getting more from Madrid’s supporting cast. He put a new emphasis on defense in his midfield by favoring Mateo Kovacic and Casemiro over flashier playmakers James Rodriguez and Francisco “Isco” Alarcon, and he has helped the little-known Lucas Vazquez blossom into an important piece of its attack.

“(Zidane) has gotten us to work hard and for things to go well for us, and that is paying off with this run of 34 unbeaten games,” defender Dani Carvajal said. “Everyone on the team has words of praise for him.”

Whereas the draw with Dortmund was disappointing because it cost Madrid a first-place finish in its Champions League group, its 1-1 stalemate earned last weekend at Barcelona tasted of victory. The “clasico” draw kept Madrid six points clear of Barcelona at the top of the Spanish table.

After it plays Deportivo, Madrid heads to Japan for the Club World Cup.

If Zidane sets the new club mark, his next goal would be the milestone held by Barcelona under counterpart Luis Enrique, whose 39-game unbeaten run was ended by Madrid last April.