Romelu Lukaku

Getty Images

Nainggolan pegs back Inter in draw with Cagliari

Leave a comment

Inter’s challenge of Juventus for the Scudetto this season continues to absorb punches, each one slightly more damaging than the last.

The most recent blow came on Sunday as Inter suffered its third straight draw, pegged back by Cagliari as Radja Nainggolan delivered a 78th minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw.

Lautaro Martinez put Inter in front in the first half, with a pinpoint header buried off new signing Ashley Young‘s cross just before the half-hour mark. Unfortunately, as has been the story of late, they were unable to tack on the all-important second. The best chance came via Romelu Lukaku who dazzled the San Siro crowd by dodging and weaving through midfield and charging forward towards net, but was ultimately let down as he dragged the big chance wide with 10 minutes remaining. Young also seemed to have won a penalty at one point in the second half, but none was given and VAR did not intervene.

Nainggolan was the man to keep Cagliari in the hunt for a Champions League place, delivering a 78th minute shot that deflected off the heel of Inter defender Alessandro Bastoni and tucked perfectly inside the bottom-left corner. The deflection was a stroke of luck, but not all that harsh as Cagliari finished the match with a whopping 60% possession on the road at the second-placed Inter side.

To make matters worse, Martinez – who has been so massively important to Inter this entire season – lost his head deep in stoppage time, sent off for dissent after arguing a non-call. That leaves him suspended for the next league match against Udinese.

The lone point leaves Inter three points back of Juventus, who plays later Sunday against Napoli. A victory would carry the Old Lady six full points atop the table, with Inter having drawn against Atalanta and Lecce previously. The draw also leaves Inter vulnerable to Lazio below them, who sits three points back with two games in hand. A January slump is not uncommon for Inter, having won more than one league game just once in the last seven seasons.

There are still other competitions for Inter to focus on, however, with a Coppa Italia quarterfinal game against Fiorentia this week plus the Europa League knockout stage which begins in late February with a matchup against Russian side Ludogorets.

Chelsea winger Victor Moses moves to Inter on loan

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Thursday morning Inter Milan confirmed yet another acquisition from the Premier League, securing Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea with an option to buy.

Moses has been on loan at Turkish club Fenerbahce for the last calendar year, moving to the Super Lig last winter. The 29-year-old made 23 appearances for Fenerbahce across all competitions, scoring five goals and assisting two more. Fenerbahce finished last season in a disappointing eighth, meaning they did not qualify for European play this season. He has not played much this season, making just six league appearances thanks to a thigh injury.

Moses, who retired from international competition with Nigeria after the 2018 World Cup, had been a consistent presence in the Chelsea lineup under former Chelsea and current Inter boss Antonio Conte, reinventing himself as a wing-back opposite Marcos Alonso in Conte’s 3-CB system. However, he was dropped from the consistent starting lineup at the start of the 2018/19 season and was sent out on loan that winter.

The former Chelsea player becomes the fourth player either sold or loaned to Inter from a Premier League club this season, joining Manchester United trio Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young, with the latter joining this winter as well. It is the first time Conte has dipped into the well of his former Chelsea players. They have also been heavily linked with Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen.

Conte has Inter challenging for the Scudetto this season, with the club sitting second in the Serie A table. However, draws with Atalanta and Lecce in the last two matches have seen them drop to four points back of leaders Juventus after challenging them for much of the season to date.

Serie A roundup: Immobile nets hat-trick, Lazio runs over Sampdoria (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lazio’s record-extending 11th straight Serie A win highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio 5-1 Sampdoria  

Like Lazio’s season, Ciro Immobile continues to make strides with each passing day.

The 29-year-old’s hat-trick powered Simone Inzaghi’s side past Sampdoria 5-1, extending his goal count to 23, nine more than Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaka.

 

Lazio, who are three points behind top-of-the-table Juventus and one behind second-place Inter Milan, were up three goals by the 20-minute mark. By the 65th minute, Immobile reached the three goal mark, converting from the spot.

“We would need too much time to count his records,” coach Simone Inzaghi said on Immobile’s magnificent run of form. “We are talking about an extraordinary team player. He has shown that so many times. Immobile has been doing extraordinary things for four years, I’m not surprised.”

Full of confidence, Lazio turn one of the most challenging corners of the season, as they take on rivals AS Roma defend the Italian Cup against Napoli.

“We’ll enjoy this 11th win but we have to already be thinking about the next matches,” Inzaghi said. “We know what a derby means but I can’t allow myself to think about Roma.

“We play Napoli on Tuesday, we know what the Italian Cup means for us, what it meant last year, we have it on our shirts and we will fight for it again.”

When it comes to Sampdoria, things are going from bad to ugly, quick.

“Tonight I’ll add salt and pepper and I’ll eat them alive,” Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri said of his players.

“Lazio was too good for us, you could clearly see the difference between the two teams, but it was without doubt the worst Samp performance since I’ve been here.”

Elsewhere

Sassuolo 2-1 Torino

Napoli 0-2 Fiorentina

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Ashley Young to Inter

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United is offloading captain Ashley Young, with multiple reports in both England and Italy claiming the 34-year-old is set for a medical at Inter Milan on Friday.

According to The Telegraph, the deal is worth $1.7 million, netting Manchester United a small sum of money before Young’s contract was set to expire this summer. Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport is also reporting the move. It was reported a few days ago that Young was nearing a deal with Inter through the summer of 2021.

Young has made 12 Premier League appearances for Manchester United this season, but it was unlikely the club would offer him a contract this summer, and he has been slowly phased out of the squad as Luke Shaw began to earn the lion’s share of time at left-back.

He will have plenty of familiar faces at Inter, with Former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku and on-loan playmaker Alexis Sanchez both currently playing at the San Siro. It is unclear where Young fits in at the Italian side, with Antonio Conte favoring a three-CB system and Young’s skill set more defensive-minded, not exactly suited for a wing-back role.


According to The Guardian’s Nick Ames, Arsenal is paying special attention towards Paris Saint-Germain full-back Layvin Kurzawa, hoping to secure a deal this winter.

The 27-year-old has made 11 Ligue 1 appearances for PSG this season, sharing time with Juan Bernat at left-back. Kurzawa’s contract at PSG expires this summer and he has made just 90 appearances since joining from Monaco in 2015.

Kurzawa would be of special interest to Arsenal given the massive amount of injuries suffered by the Gunners along the back line this season. Kieran Tierney remains sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, with surgery keeping him out through March, while Calum Chambers begins ACL rehab, and both Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac work their way back from thigh injuries.

The Guardian report says the clubs have made contact but a deal is still “some way off.”


Tottenham is desperate to find a short-term replacement for injured talisman Harry Kane, which is proving more difficult than believed as the team looks to convince a player to join knowing they are only needed for a few months.

However, with Gedson Fernandes having already signe don, asking a player to agree to a switch is not the only problem they have reportedly faced. 28-year-old Porto striker Ze Luis is a target for the club according to a number of reports, including the Evening Standard. Unfortunately, it appears work permit issues are at the heart of the holdup.

Portuguese publication Record reports that Ze Luis does not possess a European passport, and as a Cape Verde international, it would seem unlikely that he would be set to earn a British work permit. Cape Verde was ranked 75th in world by the latest FIFA release, and the Premier League usually only considers players from top 50 countries.

After joining this past summer from Spartak Moscow, Ze Luis has scored seven Liga NOS goals in 12 appearances for Porto this season, earning the majority of minutes to this point before sitting the last two games in favor of Brazilian striker Tiquinho Soares.


According to The Guardian reporters Ed Aarons and Paul Doyle, Aston Villa is “close” to a deal for Genk striker Mbwana Samatta in a deal worth $11.1 million.

The deal was likely spurred on by an injury to Villa striker Wesley who suffered a knee injury that is set to keep him out the rest of the season.

Mbwana, a 27-year-old Tanzania international, has seven goals in 20 Jupiler Pro League games this season – although he has just two since the start of September – plus three more in Champions League play. He was the top scorer in the league last season, with 20 goals in 28 appearances, including a streak where he scored 10 goals in nine games through the winter.

He will also need a work permit to complete the switch, which could be an issue given Tanzania is ranked 134th in the world by FIFA, but he has 51 international caps and could be eligible for a special exemption. His status as top scorer last season, earning him the Soulier d’Ébène award as the best African player in Belgium, could be enough to trigger that exemption.

VIDEO: Lukaku continues tear with goal in opening 20 seconds

Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Romelu Lukaku has settled in quite well since joining Inter Milan from Manchester United last summer, hasn’t he?

[ MORE: Inter Milan still chasing January deal for Christian Eriksen ]

The 26-year-old Belgian forward already has 14 Serie A goals (in 19 games) to his name, plus another four in various other competitions, including the opening goal in Inter’s 4-1 Coppa Italia victory over Cagliari on Tuesday.

Just like he hasn’t taken long to get started in his Inter career, Lukaku needed very little time to start firing on Tuesday. He struck the ball with 00:20 on the clock, and by the time it read 00:21 he had already put Inter 1-0 ahead.

That 20th-second strike stood up as the potential game-winner for more than 70 minutes, until Cagliari pulled a consolation goal back late. Fortunately for Inter, Lukaku had already bagged his second of the game (49th minute), sandwiching a supplementary goal from Borja Valero in the first half. Andrea Ranocchia tacked on a late insurance goal and Inter are through to the quarterfinals on Jan. 29.

[ FA CUP: Spurs do just enough to beat Boro, reach 4th round (video) ]

Lukaku’s early successes at Inter have been such that it almost seems impossible that he could have been anything but a similarly raging success at Manchester United. If Inter manage to do the unthinkable — dethrone Juventus by winning the Serie A title — he’ll almost certainly be remembered as the key protagonist. After Tuesday’s game, Lukaku sounded like a player who was back to enjoying the game when he gave all credit to his Inter teammates, coaches, staff and fans — translation via Google:

“Did I settle in well at Inter? The merit is of the teammates, the coach, the staff and the fans. Inter was the best option for me, I can help this team to achieve its ambitions. I am a team man, I only think of the team, not me.”