S.S. Lazio players celebrate winning the Italian Cup final soccer match against AS Roma at the Olympic stadium in Rome

Lazio wins Coppa Italia with 1-0 over Roma – Michael Bradley goes 90 strong in loss

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A 71st minute strike by Senad Lulic was all Lazio needed to secure a 1-0 over AS Roma in the Coppa Italia version of the Derby della Capitale.

It was a brutal, hard-fought match full of biting tackles, plenty of chances on goal and 8 yellow cards (five in the first half). The game winner came with 19 minutes to play when Antonio Candreva found Stefano Mauri who gave it back to the midfielder sprinting down the right side of the pitch.

Candreva tore into the box and ripped a bending cross along the 6 yard box that Roma goal-keeper Bogdan Lobont managed to get a finger on but it wasn’t enough as Lulic had timed his back-post run to perfection.

Two minutes later Roma looked like they might have their leveler through the ageless Francisco Totti, who’s curling free-kick caused confusion in the box and bounced off the ground forcing Lazio goal-keeper Federico Marchetti into a fine save.

Lulic got things started in the 3rd minute when his strike from 22 yards forced Lobont to parry the shot. Lazio striker Miroslav Klose was quick to the rebound but couldn’t convert before being closed down by the Roma defense.

After Lazio looked to have firm control over the match, things swung Roma’s way as Totti unleashed from 25 yards out but Marchetti saved easily. In the 10th minute, American Michael Bradley nearly broke the deadlock as Marquinhos’ cross from the left side found Eric Lamela, who dumped off to the unrushing Bradley but his far-post shot went just wide.

Seven minutes later and Lamela tried his luck from 23 yards out but Marchetti was up to the task. In the 34th minute, Klose was back at it with a ladder-climbing header that Lobont did well to parry before his defense cleared.

Stuck in a 0-0 deadlock going in to half-time the fierce-paced match slowed before the 67th minute when Lulic delivered a 40 yard cross to Mauri at the corner of the 6, who fired the ball back across goal but the out-stretching Klose couldn’t get his foot on it.

Four minutes later, Lulic fired home from close range to give Lazio the lead and the ensuing free-kick by Totti’s was well saved by Marchetti to hand the Biancocelesti its sixth Coppa Italia title.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.