Hakan Calhanoglu

Getty Images

Serie A roundup: Roma’s Mkhitaryan scores on debut, Milan edges Verona

Leave a comment

Roma’s first win of the season headlines Sunday’s Serie A action.

Roma 4-2 Sassuolo

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s stint with Roma is off to a brilliant start.

The former Arsenal attacker, scored a blistering goal in his debut with the Italian giants, who won their first game of the season in the 4-2 thumping of Sassuolo.

The Armenian’s goal was only one of the four that Roma put together in the first 45 minutes of the game. With a headed goal off of a corner kick, Bryan Cristante gave the home side an early lead. Seven minutes later, Edin Dzeko tallied his second goal of a young season.

By the 33rd minute, Justin Kluivert’s calm finish inside the box had Roma up by four goals. I Giallorossi kept pushing, dismantling the visiting with their frenetic pace down the wings, but came up short, striking the bar post in three different occasions.

Despite being outclassed in the first half, Sassuolo’s silver lining showed up in the final 45 minutes: Domenico Berardi. A wonder free-kick opened the scoring for the 24-year-old, who eventually sealed his brace in 72nd minute. The captain has scored five goals in two league matches this season.

With confidence under their belt, Roma travel to Bologna next, while Sassuolo host SPAL.

Verona 0-1 AC Milan

Milan aren’t doing it in convincing fashion, but they’re winning.

A game that saw both teams end up with 10 players, also saw Milan walk away with a 1-0 victory in Verona. The win has Marco Giampaolo’s side sixth in the table only three points behind leaders and rivals Inter Milan.
Despite playing a player down early on, Verona had a pair of chances in the first half. A half-effort bicycle was no match for a well-positioned Roma defense and Gianluigi Donnarumma. The clearest chance of them all came right before the first 45 minutes came to a close, however. In motion, with his back turned on the ball, Valerio Verre’s first touch and subsequent strike would just go inches high of the bar.
As the second half went on, Milan proved to be too much for the home side, controlling the ball and taking a plethora of shots on goal. Eventually, it took a tool on I Gialloblu. In the 68th minute, Hakan Çalhanoğlu shot struck Verona’s Koray Gunter hand, resulting in a penalty that Krzysztof Piątek put away.

Now in sixth place, Milan face rivals Inter Milan next. On the hand, Verona travel to Turin to take on a mighty Juventus.

Elsewhere in Serie A

SPAL 2- 1 Lazio

Brescia 3-4 Bologna

Parma 1-3 Cagliari

Arsenal overcomes outrageous Milan goal to advance in Europa League (video)

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Leave a comment

Danny Welbeck scored twice as Arsenal advanced to the Europa League quarterfinals with a 3-1 win, 5-1 on aggregate, over AC Milan on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.

Hakan Calhanoglu scored a wonderful goal to give Milan hope, but Welbeck won a very questionable penalty and converted it moments later.

Granit Xhaka also scored for Arsenal, which is hoping to win the tournament for a spot in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

The draw for the quarterfinals will be held at 8 a.m. ET Friday morning.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Arsenal could’ve given one of those goals back in the first minute, as Andre Silva found himself alone with a cutback inside the 18 only to hit his attempt off the outside of the net.

Danny Welbeck couldn’t beat Gianluigi Donnarumma at the other end, and Arsenal grew into control of the match.

Yet Milan went ahead, and did it in style through Calhanoglu’s rip from distance.

Arsenal quickly bid to answer, with Donnarumma making an outstanding save on Aaron Ramsey. And a penalty was given to the Gunners soon via a Welbeck dive.

Welbeck got Donnarumma going the wrong way to level the leg at 1.

Calum Chambers then saw a ball off his elbow inside the Arsenal box, but no penalty was given to Milan.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s diving header of a Welbeck pass almost made it a three-goal difference on aggregate before the break, but the ball headed wide of the post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Donnarumma was again needed to thwart a Mkhitaryan shot in the 49th minute, and Shkrodan Mustafi nodded over the bar on the ensuing corner kick.

Suso dragged a shot wide as Milan endeavored to come back and substitute Nikola Kalinic then headed an inviting cross to a stooped Ospina.

For all the good he did, Donnarumma committed a howler in allowing Xhaka’s effort with 20 minutes to play. That effectively sealed it for the hosts.

AC Milan’s masterplan: Spend their way back to relevance

Photo credit: AC Milan
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) It’s the type of freewheeling spending spree that has been the domain of Middle East sheikhs and Russian oligarchs in recent years.

Only this time it’s the new Chinese owners of AC Milan who have been dominating football’s transfer market.

The signing of prized Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci from six-time defending Serie A champion Juventus on Friday boosted Milan’s offseason spending to 211 million euros (nearly $250 million) – easily the most in Europe.

Other recent signings by the Rossoneri have included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio), and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

With teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma having agreed to extend his contract until 2021 and another big forward signing expected, Milan could be in position to challenge for its first Serie A title since 2011.

It’s the type of outlay made by the likes of Roman Abramovich when he took over Chelsea in 2003, Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City in 2008 and the Qatari investors in Paris Saint-Germain in 2011.

The overhaul reminds former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi of when Silvio Berlusconi took control of the club three decades ago and quickly acquired the likes of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Carlo Ancelotti and Frank Rijkaard.

The important thing, Sacchi said in an editorial in the Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday, will be for the new owners to give Milan coach Vincenzo Montella the time to mold a proper squad.

“Berlusconi and (former Milan vice president Adriano) Galliani were extraordinary and determined with me, showing confidence and respect for me even though we were far from the top by Christmas,” Sacchi wrote.

“Montella’s job won’t be easy,” Sacchi added. “He’s going to have to create the right chemistry and find a system of playing that makes all of these players thrive.”

Milan went on to win two European Cups under Sacchi and ushered in a period of dominance by Italian clubs.

With seven European and Champions League titles in all, Milan sits second only to Real Madrid’s 12.

But after three years without any appearances at all in Europe, Milan is looking to regain its place among football’s elite.

The Chinese-led consortium that purchased Milan from Berlusconi for $800 million in April has infused the club with cash.

By the time Serie A starts in mid-August, Milan’s starting 11 could consist of nine new players.

While Bonucci is considered Italy’s top defender – which is saying something in a nation that prides itself on its defending – the last piece of Milan’s transfer puzzle could be the one that alters the balance of power in Serie A.

If Bonucci, as he has intimated, is able to convince former Juventus teammate and current Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata to join him at Milan, the Rossoneri might just have enough firepower to end Juve’s stranglehold on the “scudetto” (title).

The other forwards Milan is considering signing include: Andrea Belotti, who scored 26 goals for Torino last season; Nikola Kalinic, the scrappy Fiorentina striker; or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the still-improving Borussia Dortmund marksman who ended his youth career with Milan.

Whoever Milan chooses, he will pair in attack with the 21-year-old Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo’s wingman with Portugal, whose transfer cost 38 million euros ($42.5 million).

Bonucci’s transfer fee topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

In an unusual move, Milan will also make Bonucci the club’s captain before he even plays a match for the team.

“The truth is they’ve gone beyond expectations,” former Milan stalwart Demetrio Albertini said of the new owners. “But if amount of money invested were the only measure that counted, Paris Saint-Germain should have won at least a couple Champions League titles by now.”

Leverkusen midfielder Calhanoglu forgoing salary during ban

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu will forgo his salary and bonuses for the duration of his four-month FIFA suspension for breach of contract.

“Bayer had nothing to do with the events at the time. But the club is hit hard by the penalty in a sporting and financial way. That’s why it’s evident to me not to harm the club any further,” Calhanoglu said in a Leverkusen statement Tuesday.

The 22-year-old Turkey international was a youth player at Karlsruhe when he was paid 100,000 euros after agreeing to sign for Turkish club Trabzonspor. But he extended his contract with Karlsruhe in 2011 and went on to join Hamburger SV in 2013. He switched to Leverkusen in 2014.

[ MORE: Premier League Power Rankings ]

Calhanoglu’s appeal against the FIFA ban was denied last week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled Calhanoglu must also pay 100,000 euros ($108,000) in compensation to Trabzonspor.

Leverkusen has criticized the timing of the ban, which means Calhanoglu will miss the club’s Champions League matches against Atletico Madrid and the rest of the Bundesliga season.

“Although Bayer Leverkusen had nothing to do with the events in 2011, we are now being heavily punished. Now we’re missing a very important player during a decisive part of the season,” Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller said.

The club said Calhanoglu would continue to train with the team, that “he will support his teammates as a fully fledged team member to the best of his ability even without competitive games,” and that it will help Calhanoglu maintain his athletic performance.

Calhanoglu is also suspended for Turkey’s World Cup qualifying match at home against Finland on March 24.

WATCH: This Calhanoglu beauty is what it took Bayer Leverkusen to break Atletico Madrid’s shutout streak

Leave a comment

The way Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid was defending in the UEFA Champions League, it was going to take a pretty special strike to put a “1” on the board.

And that’s what Hakan Calhanoglu provided, as the Bayer Leverkusen attacker scored the first goal against Atlei in six UCL matches to give the German club a 1-0 lead it would not relinquish during the first leg of their Round of 16 tie.

[ MATCH RECAP: Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Atletico Madrid ]

Atleti closed down Karim Bellarabi inside the 18, but the German wizard back heeled the ball to a darting Calhanoglu. The 21-year-old Turkish national teamer made no doubt, sending a spear into the goal.

Watch, and enjoy: