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Inter fights back to beat Verona 2-1 and move top of Serie A

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MILAN (AP) Nicolo Barella scored his first league goal for Inter Milan to help the Nerazzurri come from behind to beat Hellas Verona 2-1 and move top of Serie A on Saturday.

Barella struck a stunning winner seven minutes from time after Matias Vecino had cancelled out Valerio Verre’s penalty for Verona.

Inter moved two points above eight-time defending champion Juventus, which hosts AC Milan on Sunday.

Verona remained ninth ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.

Inter was in need of a boost after letting slip a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday.

But it went behind in the 19th minute when goalkeeper Samir Handanovic tripped Mattia Zaccagni and Verre drilled the resulting spot kick powerfully down the middle.

Along with Juventus, Verona had the best defensive record heading into the weekend and Inter struggled to break the visitors down.

But it laid siege to the Verona goal and it eventually paid off in the 63rd minute when Vecino headed in Valentino Lazaro’s cross.

And Inter snatched all three points when Barella cut inside from the left and curled an unstoppable strike into the top corner.

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Antonio Conte “fed up” with Inter Milan board’s “big mistakes”

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Antonio Conte laid much of the blame for Tuesday’s second-half collapse away to Borussia Dortmund at the feet of the Inter Milan board, claiming, “Big mistakes were made in planning this season,” and insisting he is “fed up of saying it.”

[ MORE: UCL roundup | Chelsea 4-4 Ajax | Liverpool 2-1 Genk ]

It was the second time this season that Inter have dominated the first half of a major clash in the UEFA Champion League, only to throw it all away in the second half and walk away empty-handed. In early October, Conte’s side held a 1-0 lead over Barcelona at the Camp Nou, but lost 2-1.

This time, a 2-0 lead over Dortmund turned into a 3-2 defeat, and that has Conte seeing red. In Conte’s mind, he doesn’t have a big enough, or deep enough, squad to compete on multiple fronts and against the quality of competition they face. He refused to tip-toe around the perceived issue — quotes from Football Italia:

“Big mistakes were made in planning this season. I am fed up of saying it.”

“It’s disappointing, but what can I say? They tell me that I should smile more on television. I should always say the same things, the growth process, taking it step by step, so just ask me some questions and I’ll try to answer.

“I don’t feel like even commenting on the second half, as there are too many alibis and I don’t want to create any more. I just hope this type of match clarifies things for those who need to understand. The lads are going at 100 kilometers per hour and I can only thank them for all they are doing during this period. They cannot give more than this.

“It irritates me and I hope that this defeat irritates my players too. We can do no more than to work and that’s what we’re doing. I am just fed up of saying the same things over and over, I hope a director comes here and says things instead.

“I don’t care about January or February. We should’ve planned this season out much, much better. We proved that we can trouble anyone if we are on form, but there are players who have played non-stop. I am fed up of saying it. You can take your conclusions from a second half like that.”

“We are Inter, so we must all look at ourselves and realize we are… actually, I was going to cause controversy again, but no, stop me talking now.

“I am really p—ed off, because we cannot do more than this. We’ve reached the limit.”

The most frustrating part for Conte, presumably, is that Juventus look genuinely beatable for the for the first time in nearly a decade. It’s as if they’re extending ever opportunity for someone — anyone — to knock them off their perch and take the title from them. Conte is beyond smart enough to recognize it, yet he doesn’t feel he’s been supported with the necessary means to do so, just as he’s wise enough to know Juve’s dip won’t last forever — maybe not even a second season — and this could very well be their best only chance.

Champions League wrap: Dortmund’s epic comeback to beat Inter

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Tuesday saw its fair share of crazy encounters across the continent — from Chelsea’s 4-4 draw with Ajax, to Borussia Dortmund’s amazing comeback to beat Inter Milan, to Barcelona’s helpless 0-0 draw with Slavia Prague.

[ RECAPS: Chelsea 4-4 Ajax | Liverpool 2-1 Genk ]

A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in the world’s preeminent club competition…

 

Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Inter Milan

Dortmund trailed 2-0 after 50 minutes, at home, before flipping the script on Inter Milan and completing an epic comeback to win 3-2.

Lautaro Martinez scored a sensational solo goal put the visitors ahead after just five minutes, only to be upstaged by an even more delightful team goal in the 40th minute.

It was 2-1 far too early for Inter to hold on, though, thanks to Achraf Hakimi’s close-range finish in the 51st minute. Julian Brandt made it 2-2 with a strike from a nearly impossible angle in the 64th, and there was only ever going to be one outcome.

Jadon Sancho got the ball atop the penalty area and slipped it through to Hakimi. The Moroccan international had no trouble locating the goal and picking out his spot inside the far post.

Dortmund now sit second in Group F, just a point behind Barcelona for top spot. The victory over Inter avenges their 2-0 defeat at the San Siro last month and puts them in prime position for a place in the knockout rounds.

Barcelona 0-0 Slavia Prague

Barely three months into the 2019-20 season, it’s already been a campaign to forget for Barcelona. With three losses from 11 league games, including a 3-1 hammering by Levante on Saturday, a third straight La Liga title is far from a forgone conclusion. Now, Ernesto Valverde is under even more pressure after failing to beat Czech side Slavia Prague on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi went closest to breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute, but the Argentine found only the corner of the goal frame. Slavia Prague goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar made six saves and turned in a man-of-the-match performance.

On the bright side, Barca extended their run of 34 home games without a defeat in Champions League play, an all-time record which dates back to 2013.

Valencia 4-1 Lille

Group H is as tight as it realistically could be after four rounds of play, with Chelsea, Ajax and Valencia all sitting on seven points, thanks to Valencia’s 4-1 thrashing of Lille on Tuesday.

The visitors went ahead through Victor Osimhen in the 25th minute, but Valencia hit back for four straight goals beginning in the 66th minute. Dani Parejo converted from the penalty spot, followed by an own goal turned home by Adama Soumaoro in the 82nd minute. Geoffrey Kondogbia made it 3-1 in the 84th and Ferran Torres completed the scoring six minutes later.

What’s left on the schedule for Los Ches? A visit from Chelsea and a trip to Ajax.

Elsewhere in UEFA Champions League action

Chelsea 4-4 Ajax — FULL RECAP
Liverpool 2-1 Genk — FULL RECAP
Napoli 1-1 Red Bull Salzburg
Zenit St. Petersburg 0-2 RB Leipzig
Lyon 3-1 Benfica

The buzz is back at Inter Milan, on and off the field

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MILAN — The differences between the two Milan clubs could not be starker — on and off the field.

[ MORE: Liverpool fixture congestion presents serious conundrum ]

The clubs held their annual shareholders’ meeting almost simultaneously on Monday, but while Inter Milan congratulated itself on record revenue, AC Milan was reporting record losses.

Inter’s turnover grew by 20 percent in relation to last season, to $465 million, and has more than doubled since Chinese owners Suning Group took over in June 2016.

Financially-troubled Milan reported a deficit of $161.2 million — the worst in the club’s history — from its first season under the ownership of American hedge fund Elliott Management.

And while Milan is languishing in the middle of the standings, Inter is going toe-to-toe with eight-time defending champion Juventus at the top.

“Our constant improvement both on and off the field makes us very proud and gives us added incentive,” Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta said. “Inter has laid solid foundations for the growth of the club in the sporting field.

“The choice of one of the world’s best coaches in Antonio Conte and his winning mentality, the strength of a close group, made up of many Italian players, will enable us to reach our objectives.”

[ MORE: Erling Braut Haaland drawing scouts from more than 20 clubs ]

The unity of the group is easy to see. Forward Romelu Lukaku took the squad out for dinner on Wednesday, and gave a speech thanking his teammates.

A win at Brescia the previous night had put Inter back at the top of the standings, albeit temporarily because Juventus also won (while the Nerazzuri were having their dinner) to move a point clear.

Inter’s goals in Tuesday’s 2-1 win were scored by Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, who are rapidly developing an impressive partnership.

The duo have scored 10 of Inter’s last 12 goals. Lukaku has netted seven times in Serie A since joining from Manchester United in the offseason for a club record transfer fee of about $73 million plus up to $15 million in bonuses.

Lukaku was just one of the players the club brought in as Inter invested heavily in the offseason. Inter said that expenditure explains its loss of $54 million.

Inter could invest more in January as it continues to battle in the Serie A, Champions League and Italian Cup, with Conte warning that his team can’t keep up if they play a match every three days on average.

Some of the players have appeared visibly fatigued and injuries to either Lukaku or Martinez could cost the team dearly.

“Conte can be worried when there are moments of difficulty,” Marotta said. “There have been injuries that have taken away players from us, but every member of the club knows that difficulties are a part of life.

“We look forward to the January transfer window with great optimism. We know that there are economic aspects to be respected, but we are ready to seize any opportunities that arise.”

Serie A roundup: Juventus, Inter Milan succumb unusual draws (video)

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Abnormal draws from Juventus and Inter Milan on the same matchday highlight Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lecce 1-1 Juventus

With a couple of its stars resting – including Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus traveled to Lecce to take on the recently-promoted club. Shockingly, the league leaders were stunned and walked out with only a point.

Powered by the Argentine duo of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, the Old Lady knocked, and knocked on the home side’s door. To be exact, Juventus took 15 shots in the first half, and even though the majority came inches from being on frame, only one resulted to be on target.

Close chances soon became a regular occurrence throughout the 90 minutes.

But early in the second half, Dybala finally broke the deadlock from the spot, following a hard foul on Miralem Pjanic on the edge of the 18-year-box. It was Juventus’ game to lose.

In a way, that’s exactly what happened when Lecce earned a penalty of their own only six minutes later. Marco Mancosu converted from 12 year out, putting the underdog leveled with the league’s most lucrative side.

Luckily for Maurizio Sarri and company, Parma’s two first-half goals were too much for Inter Milan to top, as the second-place side drew their first game of the season. Juventus, despite dropping two points on Saturday, remain one point ahead of Antonio Conte‘s Inter after nine games played.

With Ronaldo likely on the teamsheet, Juventus hosts Genoa midweek, while Inter Milan travel to Brescia.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Inter Milan 2-2 Lecce

Genoa 3-1 Brescia