Nicolo Barella

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Top European teams roll in domestic Cup action

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Manchester City advanced in the Carabao Cup despite losing to Manchester United, but otherwise most top teams across Europe advanced in domestic Cup action with little trouble.

Real Madrid hammered Real Zaragoza 4-0 in the Copa del Rey behind four different goalscorers. Raphael Varane opened the scoring just six minutes in, and it was elementary from that point on. Lucas Vazquez doubled the lead past the half-hour mark, while Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema tacked on goals inside the final 20 minutes. The Vinicius goal was the pick of the lot, poking home the finish with the outside of his foot. Zaragoza held its own in front of net, actually out-shooting Madrid 15-13, but only put three of its 15 efforts on target and struggled to cope with Madrid’s ruthlessness in front of net, and overall it was just too easy for the La Liga leaders who advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition.

In other Copa del Rey scores, defending champions Valencia needed penalties to pass by Segunda Division side Cultural Leonesa after a 0-0 draw. Santi Cazorla scored as Villareal topped Rayo Vallecano 2-0, with both Villareal goals coming inside the final 10 minutes of the match.

In France, both Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille advanced by two-goal margins, also moving into the quarterfinals.

PSG started a second-choice eleven against third-tier Pau and worked a 2-0 victory behind goals from Pablo Sarabia and Leandro Paredes. Mauro Icardi led the lines for PSG supported by the likes of Julian Draxler and Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting, while Ander Herrera held down the midfield.

Marseille topped fellow Ligue 1 challengers Strasbourg 3-1 with Dimitri Payet on the scoresheet alongside Bouna Sarr and Boubacar Kamara. It was tight through the end until Kamara put the game away in the 95th minute. Payet’s goal came from the spot, while Sarr’s opener just past the half-hour mark featured a dizzying, sparkling run through the penalty area past three defenders before finishing with the left foot.

Inter had a tougher task, squeaking by Fiorentina 2-1 to reach the semifinals of the Coppa Italia. Antonio Candreva poached a goal in the 44th minute on a goalmouth scramble to put Inter in front, and while Fiorentina drew level on the hour mark off a corner, Nicolo Barella delivered a venomous blast seven minutes later to seal the win. The match featured the debut of Christian Eriksen off the bench, seeing time on the field alongside four other former Premier League players for Inter in starters Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young plus substitute Victor Moses.

The one side that fell in disappointing fashion was French club Lille who slumped to a 2-1 defeat to fourth-tier side SAS Epinal. Former Chelsea striker Loic Remy scored just eight minutes into the match to put Lille in front early, but the minnows managed a pair of second-half goals from Jean-Phillipe Krasso to pull off the enormous upset.

The only top European league that did not feature any domestic Cup action this week was Germany, whose DFB-Pokal is still in the Round of 16. Those matches will take place next week with RB Leipzig taking on Eintracht Frankfurt while Bayern Munich hosts Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen meets Stuttgart, Schalke hosts Hertha BSC, and Borussia Dortmund visits Werder Bremen.

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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Conte’s Inter avoids UCL upset in stoppage time

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The Champions League nearly began with an upset, as Slavia Prague led Inter Milan 1-0 into stoppage time at the San Siro on Tuesday.

But a pair of Inter loanees produced a play to tie the score in the second minute of stoppage, as Stefano Sensi (Sassuolo) curled a free kick off the bar and Nicolo Barella (Cagliari) first timed the rebound through traffic and inside the far post.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Peter Olayinka started and finished the play for Slavia Prague’s second half opener. The scorer took the ball to the end line and cut back for Lukas Provod, whose shot was saved by Samir Handanovic.

But Olayinka followed the play and took advantage of the marker who slid to block his initial pass. On the doorstep at the back post, the Nigerian smashed the ball into the top of the goal.

The goal was deserved, and the score line represented the tightness of the contest. Inter barely out shot the Czech visitors and had just a little bit more of the ball.

Romelu Lukaku nearly thumped home a header in the sixth minute of stoppage, but Slavia keeper Ondrej Kolar made a fine save.

Here’s the equalizer:

Blocked from traveling, Cagliari kicks over milk in compromise

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Sardinian side Cagliari had an interesting Serie A travel day to Milan in that there was a chance it might not happen at all.

The Italians were trapped inside their training ground by over 100 protestors who were not challenging Cagliari’s on-field performances, but wanted the 15th place side to cancel their match at AC Milan in solidarity with them over high milk prices.

[ MORE: Wild day in Bundesliga ]

Part of a nation-wide protest which sees people kick over milk on the road, protestors would only let Cagliari’s players leave for Sunday’s match at AC Milan via compromise.

That compromise saw three Cagliari players join in the protest. From Football-Italia.net:

The team was only allowed to leave after several players, including Nicolo Barella, Alessandro Deiola and Joao Pedrowere filmed kicking over milk pails in a gesture of solidarity.

This a story we didn’t expect at the start of the Matchday.