Giuseppe Lami/ANSA via AP

Inter Milan back in the Champions League after late heroics (video)

Leave a comment

It’s been more than a half-decade since Inter Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League, an infamous run that ended on Sunday.

Inter scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat fifth-place Lazio and advance into the Top Four via head-to-head record.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

Lazio held 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but could not get the job done at home, collecting red cards in the 79th minute and stoppage time.

Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino scored his third goal of the season, redirecting a corner kick home in the 81st minute, as Inter clinched fourth place in Serie A.

Europa League quarterfinal field set

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Leave a comment

Longtime Liverpool man Lucas Leiva led Lazio into the UEFA Europa League, as eight teams not await Friday morning’s quarterfinal draw.

[ MORE: Arsenal blasts Milan ]

Three rounds stand between these teams and an automatic berth in the UEFA Champions League, though that does not seem to be an issue for several via league standing (chiefly Atletico Madrid).

AC Milan, Lyon, Borussia Dortmund, and Zenit Saint-Petersburg were among the eight sides dumped out of the tournament on Thursday.

Quarterfinalists
Arsenal
Atletico Madrid
CSKA Moscow
Lazio
Marseille
RB Leipzig
RB Salzburg
Sporting Lisbon

Inter in crisis ahead of match against title rival Lazio

Getty Images
1 Comment

Two weeks ago Inter Milan was on top of Serie A and hadn’t lost a match all season. Now it is seemingly in freefall and has lost three straight matches in all competitions.

Inter’s latest defeat came in the Italian Cup at struggling city rival AC Milan on Wednesday and it will need to swiftly pick itself up if it is to get a result against title rival Lazio on Saturday.

“It is a painful defeat, and also maybe unexpected, because we cared a lot about this Italian Cup,” Inter midfielder Antonio Candreva said after the 1-0 loss. “We were coming from two successive defeats and we must start again with confidence.”

Inter moved top of Serie A with a credible 0-0 draw at Juventus on Dec. 9. However, that was mainly down to the performance of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, and its struggles in front of goal have continued.

Three days later, Inter needed penalties to get past third-division Pordenone after a goalless draw. That was followed by league losses to Udinese (3-1) and Sassuolo (1-0) before the Cup defeat to Milan, which played with third-choice goalkeeper Antonio Donnarumma.

Inter forward Ivan Perisic has not scored since netting a hat trick in the 5-0 victory over Chievo at the beginning of the month, while captain Mauro Icardi – who remains the league’s leading goal scorer – has only found the back of the net once since that match.

“You have to blame everyone when you don’t win, it’s everyone’s fault even if maybe we need to be more clinical up front,” Candreva said. Inter was outplayed in “a half against Udinese, while against Sassuolo we were punished due to certain episodes. It is a shame for us and the fans also.”

Inter has slipped to third in Serie A, five points behind leader Napoli and four behind Juventus. The two teams immediately below it, Roma and Lazio, have played one less match.

Lazio would move a point behind Inter with victory at San Siro.

“It’s a moment in which we have lost confidence, we have less courage and we are less convinced of our qualities,” Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said. “The players are doing well from a physical point of view and we are not lacking in quality. But we shouldn’t wait for our problems to be resolved by someone else. We have to resolve things by ourselves.”

HOPEFUL MILAN

In contrast to Inter, Milan is hoping the cup victory is a sign its crisis is coming to an end. The win came right after two league defeats and will give the players renewed confidence.

The standout player in the match was surprisingly Antonio Donnarumma, the older brother of first-choice ‘keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was already sidelined. Antonio Donnarumma only found out he was about to make his debut shortly before kickoff, when second-choice Marco Storari pulled out of the warmup with injury.

Antonio Donnarumma had been harshly labeled a “parasitic brother” by Milan fans, who felt he was only signed by the club so his younger brother would sign a new, long-term contract.

Antonio Donnarumma was a part of Milan’s youth team but has made only one Serie A appearance – for Genoa in 2013 – and spent last season in Greece with Asteras Tripolis.

“I’ve always trained well, in silence, and hard work pays off,” the 27-year-old said. “I couldn’t have had a better debut.

“Parasite? Gigio and I felt hurt, but we kept working in silence. So many stupid things did the rounds, Gigio never said `I’ll only sign if Antonio comes’, on the contrary he told me to go somewhere and play. We have an extraordinary relationship, we’ve also suffered and only we know how much.”

Lazio summoned to hearing over Anne Frank stickers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) The Italian football federation has ordered Lazio to attend a disciplinary hearing after shocking displays of anti-Semitism by the Serie A club’s supporters last month.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

After their team’s victory over Cagliari on Oct. 22, Lazio fans littered the Stadio Olimpico in Rome with images of Anne Frank – the young diarist who died in the Holocaust – wearing a jersey of city rival Roma.

The FIGC announced the hearing on Tuesday. It says there was a “clear anti-Semitic intent” and that it “constituted discriminatory behavior.”

There was worldwide outrage after the incident and a criminal investigation is underway.

A passage from Frank’s diary was read out at all soccer matches in Italy the following week, while there was also a minute of silence before they kicked off to promote Holocaust remembrance.

Serie A: The Napoli-Juventus title race is getting good

Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City’s historic start; Man United, Arsenal win ]

Napoli 3-1 Sassuolo

Juventus went top of the table on Saturday, courtesy of two Gonzalo Higuain goals in a 2-0 victory over a struggling AC Milan side, just edging past Napoli on goal differential. On Sunday, Napoli responded with a 3-1 victory over 16th-place Sassuolo.

Brazilian midfielder Allan forced a turnover atop Sassuolo’s penalty area and slotted home with ease after 22 minutes, but the visitors hit back through Diego Falcinelli’s powerful header four minutes before halftime.

The scoreline would remain 1-1 for fewer than three full minutes, though, as Jose Callejon helped to bundle the ball over the goal line from a corner kick in the 44th minute. Nine minutes into the second half, Dries Mertens bagged his 10th goal of the season (third this week) to put the game to bed.

After 11 games played, Napoli top the league table on 31 points, three ahead of the six-time defending champs from Turin. The season’s first meeting between the two sides is scheduled for Dec. 1, at Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo.

Benevento 1-5 Lazio

Juventus will actually finish the weekend in third place, level on points with Lazio but behind the capital club on head-to-head results. Simone Inzaghi’s side thrashed newly promoted Benevento on Sunday, after going 3-0 up inside the opening 25 minutes — Bastos, Ciro Immobile and Adam Marusic got the early goals, followed by a fourth from Marco Parolo to make it 4-1.

Sunday’s most notable scorer, however, bagged his goal inside the final five minutes to complete the scoring — former Valencia Fenerbahce Sporting CP Manchester United winger Nani, whom Portugal could very well heavily rely upon at next summer’s World Cup, scored his first goal for the club (and tallied the assist on Parolo’s goal) after coming on as a 71st-minute substitute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Crotone 2-1 Fiorentina
Sampdoria 4-1 Chievo
SPAL 1-0 Genoa
Udinese 2-1 Atalanta
Torino vs. Cagliari — in progress