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.

Leicester City 0-3 Crystal Palace: Benteke the hero

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  • First away win, goals of season for Palace
  • Benteke with a goal, assist
  • Leicester’s first defeat in five
  • Palace unbeaten in seven, longest ever run in PL

Crystal Palace beat Leicester City 3-0 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday as first half goals from Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha set Roy Hodgson’s side on their way to a first away win of the season with Bakary Sako hammering home another goal in stoppage time.

Leicester’s run of four-straight wins came to an abrupt end as Claude Puel‘s side struggled from start to finish and Palace looked dangerous on the break with Benteke scoring one, setting up another and making amends for his missed penalty kick late on against Bournemouth last weekend.

To add to Leicester’s woes Wilfried Ndidi was sent off in the second half for picking up two yellow cards.

With the win Palace move on to 17 points and push out of the relegation zone and into 14th place, while Leicester remain on 26 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Palace started well early on with Jeffrey Schlupp pulling a ball back across goal which was crying out to be finished, then Ruben Loftus-Cheek broke free on the edge of the box but his low shot was well saved by Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester looked threatening on the break as the first half wore on but Puel’s side failed to create clear cut chances and they were hit with a hammer blow.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Neat build-up play on the right saw the ball fall to Andros Townsend and his delightful inswinging cross found Benteke who nodded home Palace’s first away goal of the season.

There was a sense of relief for Benteke and a deserved lead for the Eagles, but soon after Benteke almost headed into his own net but his defensive clearance flew inches wide and then Jamie Vardy went close for the hosts.

Benteke then created Palace’s second goal as he drove forward with the ball, played in Zaha and the Ivory Coast international drilled home. 2-0.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Palace sat back and soaked up plenty of Leicester pressure in the second half, with the Foxes going close with Riyad Mahrez having a low shot saved well by Julian Speroni and Benteke heading wide at the other end.

On the break the Eagles threatened as the second half wore on and Leicester pushed to get back into the game, but Ndidi then picked up two yellows cards with the second for a shocking dive in the box.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Hodgson’s men held on comfortably to continue their impressive recovery and added a third goal in stoppage time with Sako smashing home.

January exits at Manchester United?

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Jose Mourinho has already stated his opinion that he isn’t a big fan of the January transfer window but he may buy this year, and it appears he could be willing to sell a few players next month too.

With the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Luke Shaw out of favor at United and linked with moves away from Old Trafford, Mourinho was asked if he was happy to let players leave in January.

Citing the sale of Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin last January, Mourinho didn’t hesitate to leave the door open for players who want out.

“For the right price, that is my approach as a manager in case the club advise. Every player has a price,” Mourinho said. “If a player is not happy and if a player brings with him a request with the number that we consider is a good number it happened with Memphis (Depay) and Morgan (Schneiderlin), I would never say no.”

In a word, if you’re not in Mourinho’s plans now and you aren’t happy, there’s the door.

Mkhitaryan leaving to return to Borussia Dortmund wouldn’t be a huge surprise as they’d likely get a large chunk of the $35 million transfer fee back that they paid for him in the summer of 2016.

Shaw’s situation is a little different, with United perhaps wanting to use the left back in any potential deal for Danny Rose and Tottenham do not seem to be willing to sell Rose until the summer.

Still, both appear to have no future at United and Mourinho is nudging them towards the exit.

With Mourinho also leaving the door open for a potential signing in January, could United spend big to try and put pressure on league leaders Man City? It seems unlikely, but it appears Mourinho is lining things up for somewhat of a shakeup next month.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Crystal Palace

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Leicester City host Crystal Palace on Saturday at the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams in fine form recently.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Claude Puel has led Leicester to four consecutive wins and the Foxes have surged up the standings since he took charge in October with Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy in fine form.

Palace are unbeaten in six games, winning twice, as Roy Hodgson has turned them into an incredibly tough team to beat.

In team news Leicester bring in Demarai Gray for Shinji Okazaki despite the Japanese international scoring twice in the win over Southampton in midweek.

Palace bring in Martin Kelly and James McArthur for Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Luka Milivojevic.


LINEUPS

Luan, Gremio looks to dethrone Real Madrid at Club World Cup

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“He’s a wonderful person. He’s got lots of titles, so maybe he can just leave this one to us.”

That’s Gremio youngster Luan after being told Real Madrid star and countryman Marcelo said he has a huge future in the game.

Luan and his teammates could make a lot more noise with a win in Saturday’s Club World Cup final against Real.

[ MORE: Galaxy to acquire Bingham? ]

Gremio edged Pachuca in extra time of its semifinal after Real came back to beat Al Jazira, and now hopes to become just the second non-European club to win the Club World Cup since 2007.

Brazilian clubs won the first three CWCs between 2000-06, but Corinthians claimed the lone Brazilian title since when it beat Chelsea in 2012.

Spanish clubs have won the last three finals, with Real sandwiching two around Barca’s 2015 win over River Plate.

The 24-year-old Luan won Olympic gold with Brazil in 2016, and has two caps with the national team.