A roundup of all the weekend’s action in Italy’s top flight:
Inter Milan 1-0 Roma
Gary Medel scored the only goal of the game (below video), as Inter Milan knocked off previously second-place Roma, 1-0 at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday. Medel received the ball nearly 30 yards from Roma’s goal, took a touch toward goal and unloaded the low, powerful shot from 25 yards out that so narrowly avoided the outstretched hand of Wojciech Szczesny and nestled itself inside the Polish goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Juventus 2-1 Torino
Paul Pogba scored one (an absolute stunner, WATCH HERE) and helped set up another, the late winner (below video), to give Juve all three points in the Turin derby and push the four-time reigning Serie A champs into the top half of the table, 10th, for the first time all season.
Ante Rebic, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Khouma Babacar and Mario Suarez provided the first-half fireworks for Fiorentina, who with their eighth victory of the 2015-16 Serie A season retain the league lead. Through 11 rounds, the Viola‘s +13 goal differential separates them from Inter Milan (+4) at the top of the table.
Lazio 1-3 AC Milan
AC Milan rode three goals, from Andrea Bertolacci, Philippe Mexes and the below beauty courtesy of Carlos Bacca, by way of Giacomo Bonventura’s stunning through ball, to three points and a three-place climb in the league table, all the way up to fifth.
Chile’s wait for a Copa America title has ended at 99 years, after La Roja defeated Argentina 4-1 on penalty kicks (0-0 after regular and extra time) in the final of the 2015 Copa America. To boot, Chile’s first-ever South American title was secured at their national stadium in the capital city of Santiago.
The first clear scoring chance of the game came off the head of Sergio Aguero, who flicked Lionel Messi’s right-sided free kick toward the far post, only to see the header saved by Claudio Bravo from very close range.
Manchester United winger Angel Di Maria was forced to leave the game after just 29 minutes, thanks to an apparent hamstring injury. Di Maria, who due to a thigh injury missed Argentina’s semifinal and final fixtures at last summer’s World Cup, pulled up lame after making a lengthy counter-attacking run.
Chile’s temperamental midfield destroyer Gary Medel should have been sent off in the 34th minute, when his high, intentional boot to the midsection of Messi missed the ball completely and dropped the Argentine superstar to the ground. It was a cynical kick to the gut from behind, but was punished with only a yellow card.
With barely 15 seconds left to be played in second-half stoppage time, Argentina came inches from victory, when Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi combined on a counter attack down the left flank, but the Paris Saint-Germain attacker’s cross/shot bounced inches wide of the far post. A late arriving Gonzalo Higuain could do nothing but put the ball into the outside netting of Bravo’s goal, sending the final to extra time, tied at 0-0.
With the game still scoreless after 30 minutes of extra time, and little more than half-chances and cases of cramps to show for it, the sides were set for a penalty shootout to determine four years’ worth of South American bragging rights.
Matias Fernandez put Chile’s first penalty into his left-hand upper-90, which was followed by Messi slotting Argentina’s first spot kick into the bottom right corner. 1-1. Arturo Vidal hit Chile’s second penalty low and to the left, and thought Sergio Romero got a hand to it, the ball still found the back of the net. Higuain blasted Argentina’s second spot kick well over the bar. 2-1, Chile.
Charles Aranguiz hit his off Romero as well, but like Vidal, his powerful shot found the bottom corner and the back of the net. Ever Banega’s ensuing spot kick for Argentina, weakly hit roller, was easily saved by Bravo. 3-1, Chile. In grand fashion, Alexis Sanchez dinked Chile’s fourth penalty over the line from 12 yards out, giving Chile a 4-1 victory in the penalty shootout and their first South American title in 99 years.
The genius vs. the Pitbull. Lionel Messi has been magisterial for most of Argentina’s Copa America tournament. He set up three goals in their 6-1 semifinal drubbing of Paraguay and embarrassed more Paraguay defenders with this audacious run. The man tasked with stop messing is certainly up for a scrap. Gary Medel plays in a holding midfield role for Inter Milan but the reverse Javier Mascherano (more on him, shortly) excels for Chile at center back. His ability to read plays, step out of the back four with the ball and extinguish fires before they’ve even begun to smolder make him perfect for the oft languid pace of international soccer in South America. Messi explodes into life without warning and Medel will have to be at his best to keep Barcelona’s superstar at bay.
Plus, you know, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain will be floating around too. All three have looked razor-sharp in this tournament with seven goals between them. Messi is desperate to win a first Copa America medal but he will have to get the better of Medel to lead Argentina to glory.
Javier Mascherano vs. Arturo Vidal
Before this game, Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano has tried to play down the intense battle which will likely play out in the Chilean capital.
“I hope that people can understand that football is a sport, not war,” Mascherano said. “The past is the past. We must not put sport in the middle of politics. Chile and Argentina are brother countries, we have to show mutual respect. If we stoop to aggression and violence, we lose that message of respect. Sport is about trying to be healthy and having fun, not a war.”
Well, expect the midfield area to be a war-zone on Saturday. It will be home to a pivotal battle in determining the winner as Arturo Vidal and Mascherano square off. Vidal has redemption on his mind, as his DUI car crash scandal during the group stages shocked the world but Chile stood by him. Oh how Vidal would love to repay the faith shown in him and led his nation to glory.
He also has a bone to pick with Mascherano as the Barca man beat Vidal’s Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final less than a month ago. Mascherano operates as a center back for Barca but in his usual holding midfield role for Argentina he is a machine. Vidal may start on the right-hand side of a diamond formation for Chile but expect him to drift inside to try and link up with Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas up top. If Mascherano can cut that supply line to Sanchez and Vargas off, Argentina’s chances of glory will increase exponentially.
Martin Demichelis vs. Alexis Sanchez
If Chile keep things tight then this is the one matchup you really fancy them to come out on top. Sanchez’s pace and direct play saw him give Demichelis all kinds of problems when Arsenal faced Manchester City this season in the Premier League. The veteran Argentine defender, 34, has superb positioning but Sanchez’s sheer persistence and pace could be too much for him to handle. If Chile can get the ball up to Sanchez frequently, expect Demichelis and other Argentine defenders to be drawn to the Arsenal forward. If that happens, the so-far lethal Vargas (he leads the tournament in goals with four) could have a field day. Sanchez has only scored once so far this summer, but expect the shackles to be well and truly off on Saturday.
The Chilean national team has been to the final of the modern-day Copa America just twice in 40 years, but the current La Roja squad, managed by Jorge Sampaoli, booked their place in Saturday’s 2015 Copa America final with a 2-1 semifinal victory over a 10-man Peru side on Monday night. Chile will contest Saturday’s final in their nation’s capital, Santiago.
Peru came closest to drawing first blood Monday night with fewer than 10 minutes on the clock, as Jefferson Farfan saw his header off Paolo Guerrero’s in-swinging cross bounce off the ground, hit the near post of Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and carom back into play.
The game completely change in the 20th minute, though, when Peru’s Carlos Zambrano, who was already on a yellow card, was shown a straight red for a high boot into the back of Charles Aranguiz. Replays indicated the the red card was extremely harsh on Zambrano, who made contact with Aranguiz only on his follow-through of a long clearance.
Chile broke through in the 42nd minute, when Eduardo Vargas slotted home a rebound off Alexis Sanchez’s dangerous effort which had bounced off the far post and back into the field of play. Sanchez’s shot, which originally began as a cross, hit the left-hand post of Pedro Gallese and fell to the feet of Vargas inside the six-yard box, and the former Queens Park Rangers attacker’s slow roller found its way over the goal line.
The level scoreline was to be short-lived, though, as Vargas bagged his second goal of the game just four minutes later. Dribbling towards Peru’s goal, 25 yards out, Vargas unleashed a blast that at first looked destined for the 15th row of the stands in the background, but quickly dipped and made a beeline for the back of the net just inside the far post. Very likely the goal of the tournament.
Chile will face the winner of the second semifinal between Argentina and Paraguay on Tuesday, where La Roja will play for the first South American Championship/Copa America title in their federation’s 120-year history.