Dries Mertens scored a crucial and historic equalizer against Inter Milan to ensure Napoli made it into the Copa Italia final against Juventus. Napoli won the first leg away at San Siro and Mertens 122nd goal for Napoli was just enough to ensure they qualified for the final showdown. The goal also makes Mertens become Napoli’s all time leadin scorer.
Fabian Ruiz’s goal at the San Siro had put Napoli in control from the first leg only for Inter to cancel the lead through Christian Eriksen inside two minutes into the game.
Ospina made a couple of saves to deny Belgian hitman Romelu Lukaku and Andrea Candreva before setting up the equaliser late in the second half.
Christian Eriksen got on the scoresheet inside two minutes with a spectacular effort, scoring directly from a corner kick to bring Inter on level terms with Napoli.
His clearance started a fast counter-attacking move that took Inter off balance. His clearance found Lorenzo Insigne passed the ball across to the on rushing Mertens to enter the Napoli history books four minutes before half time.
Ospina was also instrumental in the second half as he made a string of saves that ensured Napoli qualified for a trip to Rome for the final.
Napoli will face Juventus in Rome and Wednesday. Inter will then resume their Serie A season as they take on Sampdoria on Sunday, June 21. Napoli will lock horns with Hellas Verona two days later
It was a dramatic end at to the contest as Erling Braut Haaland’s late goal was the difference against Fortuna Dussseldorf.
The match was primed to end as a stalemate after Raphael Gurreiro’s second half strike was ruled out for handball but Haaland reverted to super sub mode to ensure Bayern cannot establish a nine point lead at the top on Saturday.
Despite several chances created by Jadon Sancho in the first half, Dortmund could not put the ball at the back of the net as they lacked a clinical edge until Haaland made a cameo return from a knee injury. Archaf Hakimi should have taken the lead Dortmund when he had only the keeper to beat in the 17th minute after a rapid break following a Dusseldorf corner.
Sancho and Julian Brandt also combined twice but Brandt was denied by a last ditch tackle from Andre Hoffman and the goal keeper Florian Kastenmeier on another occasion.
Haaland’s introduction soon after the restart almost paid dividends as his shot took a deflection and dropped nicely to Raphael Gurreiro whose drilled attempt was ruled out after a VAR check.
Dusseldorf also had two opportunities to take the lead as Steven Skrzybski’s effort from distance hit the left hand post in the 82nd minute before being denied by the other upright in stoppage time.
Dortmund then took the lead immediately after as Haaland guided a header past Kastenmeier from a cross provided by Manuel Akanji.
This ensures that the title race is still open, at least for now.
Dortmund host Mainz at the Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday while Dusseldorf will face RB Leipzig on the same day.
Lionel Messi scored one and assisted two as Barcelona made a winning return to the La Liga campaign.
Arturo Vidal, Martin Braithwaite and Jordi Alba were also on target as Barcelona ran out 4-0 against Real Mallorca.
Having not played football for three months due to the forced coronavirus break, Barcelona needed a little less than two minutes to take the lead through Vidal’s header.
Lionel Messi then assisted Braithwaite as he scored his first goal for the club just eight minutes to the end of the first half.
Luis Suarez also featured in the game as Barcelona looked sharp all through the game.
Real Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo was cleverly dispossessed by Frenkie de Jong in midfied who lay the ball of off to Alba to create Vidal’s header.
Kubo looked like he would atone for his mistakes as he forced a save off Marc-Andre Ter Stegen from the edge of the box before being denied again from behind a dead ball.
Prior to this, Messi and Braithwaite had combined to put pressure on the Marlloca defence and their efforts finally yielded results just before the interval in a combative build-up which involved flick ons from De Jong and Messi.
Suarez was brought on in the second half after being out since January due to a knee injury. He proved to be a menace to the Marlloca defence as he created chances that were begging to be converted for Braithwaite and Ronald Araujo.
Messi then set up Jordi Alba with an ingenious flick that ended with an emphatic finish at the near post.
There was enough time for Messi to join the scoring spree for the seventh straight game against Marlloca. He kept his balance and composure to put a right-footed finish at the back of the net.
Antoine Griezmann was almost anonymous all through the game but Barcelona will be happy to stay top of the log.
Barcelona host Leganes at the Camp Nou on Tuesday before travelling to the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan to face Sevilla three days later. Mallorca will clash with Leganes next Friday and face Villarreal next.
Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury? Deontay Wilder is the forgotten obstacle that can still ruin undisputed title fight
His silence has been deafening. But somewhere in the Deep South there will have been a rumble, an awakening of Deontay Wilder when he heard his name uttered with such irreverence.
The news that Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have agreed financial terms for two undisputed heavyweight championship fights in 2021 came with a caveat – “there is a lot to overcome in the meantime,” said promoter Eddie Hearn.
The biggest hurdle to jump is the man who, four months ago, was feted with awe and fear as boxing’s hardest-ever puncher.
Wilder has kept his head down since losing an alarmingly one-sided WBC title defence to Fury in February.
Since suggesting that his elaborate ring-walk costume knackered his own legs before a punch was thrown, Wilder has stayed quiet in Alabama and undergone bicep surgery (for the second time in his career, notably).null
He has not shot back at Joshua and Fury’s big news.
Perhaps a long period of self-reflection is what Wilder needed to rediscover his old self. Perhaps Joshua and Fury’s plans to meet will stoke the fire in his belly to scupper it.
He has said one major thing of note since losing to Fury, when asked about suggestions that he could willingly step away from his contracted right to a third fight: “Why wouldn’t I want it?”
Wilder has big questions to answer, not least the toughest that any boxer can face: how will he respond to a humiliating and painful defeat? Joshua did it successfully, Fury has never had to. Wilder has made worrying excuses, been through another surgery, but the true test of his heart is still to come.
Fury knows that Wilder is a serious obstacle to the Joshua fight, exclusively telling Sky Sports: “It only takes one punch off Deontay Wilder.
“Still a very dangerous opponent, still a very hungry man, who is coming in there to prove his worth, to prove he can come back and become a two-time heavyweight champion.
“More dangerous than the last fight, for sure.”
Joshua takes a dimmer view, exclusively telling Sky Sports: “I always believe that when you go to war, you can’t have one weapon in your arsenal, which was his right hand.
“Once that was taken away from him, which Tyson Fury did, I’m not going to go into tactics, but he was able to annihilate Deontay Wilder and expose him for some of his weaknesses.”
Dillian Whyte is another serious roadblock on the path to Joshua vs Fury.
He remains the mandatory challenger to Fury’s WBC belt, having been that organisation’s top challenger since November 2017 without ever receiving his opportunity.
“There is a big period of time where Whyte should get his shot at the title,” promoter Hearn told Sky Sports. “That’s important to us.”
But Fury’s US promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, told Sky Sports: “We will be talking to the organisations to eliminate mandatories, or to postpone them all for at least one year.”
Whyte is due to challenge for the belt by February 2021 which the WBC confirmed is still the case. Fury’s next fight against Wilder is planned for November or December 2020. A distinct possibility is that Fury must battle past two of the world’s top four heavyweights before meeting Joshua midway through next year.
The WBC tweeted on Wednesday that they wouldn’t apply the ‘franchise’ tag to Fury as a means for Whyte to instead challenge somebody else for a vacant belt. Vasiliy Lomachenko and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez are currently WBC ‘franchise’ champions but seemingly that won’t be repeated in the heavyweight division.
“We’ll give Whyte a beating,” Fury told Sky Sports. “Why not?”
Whyte, who will next face Alexander Povetkin at a behind-closed-doors UK venue, insists he bettered Fury in sparring and said: “No one is mentioning me as they are scared of fighting me. One hundred per cent I beat Fury. He knows it and that’s why he doesn’t want to face me.
Oleksandr Usyk is a lurking threat to Joshua who is also dead-set on spoiling the dream fight with Fury.
The undefeated and glory-laden Usyk is expected to have his second heavyweight outing against Derek Chisora but he is already the WBO mandatory challenger to Joshua’s belt.
“WBO mandatory should be next,” the governing body’s president Paco Valcarcel tweeted on Thursday. Usyk’s status will create a scheduling conflict because, like Whyte, he is owed an opportunity.
Joshua and Usyk both won gold medals at London 2012 – the Ukrainian has since become undisputed cruiserweight champion and a pound-for-pound rated phenom.
Usyk told Sky Sports about Joshua and Fury: “I want to fight both.”
His manager Egis Klimas said: “I believe Anthony also wants this fight. Good fighters want to fight good fighters. Anthony sees a good challenge in Oleksandr and wants to go there.”
Joshua previously told Sky Sports about Usyk: “Line them all up. You know what it is with me, you look through my resume, I take them all on.
“I will be a well-respected heavyweight in this division, knowing that I never ducked a challenge, but Usyk, Whyte, Fury, Wilder – they’re all on my hit list, for sure.
“Usyk is a WBO mandatory challenger and if Dillian didn’t step up, Fury didn’t step up, I would take on Usyk without a shadow of a doubt.”
Joshua, before any of those, will take on his IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev whose only defeat in 29 fights came against Wladimir Klitschko. Pulev is the first hurdle on a lengthy path towards Fury.
But the most ferocious obstacle to the undisputed championship fight must be Wilder, a man who was within a split-second of knocking Fury out in the stunning 12th round of their first meeting.
Joshua vs Wilder was, until recently, the dream undisputed heavyweight championship fight that never happened. Wilder now finds himself in a different, unwanted role trying to ensure a different undisputed title fight also disappears.
Lionel Messi scores 20th La Liga goal of the season; Follow Real Madrid vs Eibar on Sunday with live blog on Sky Sports website and app
Lionel Messi scored his 20th league goal of the season as Barcelona extended their advantage at the top of La Liga to five points after returning to action with a 4-0 victory over Mallorca at the Visit Mallorca Estadi on Saturday.
Quique Setien’s side, playing in their first match since March 7 following the coronavirus pandemic, made the perfect start as Arturo Vidal headed home Jordi Alba’s cross after just 65 seconds.
The visitors extended their advantage in the 37th minute when Martin Braithwaite smashed home his first goal for the club before Jordi Alba (79) latched on Messi’s pass to add a third.
Messi then rounded off an impressive night for Barcelona, scoring his 25th goal of the season in all competitions.
20+ – Lionel Messi is the only player to score 20+ goals in 12 consecutive @LaLigaEN seasons:
Victory sees Barca move five points clear of title rivals Real Madrid ahead of their return to action against Eibar at home on Sunday (kick off 6.30pm). Meanwhile, Mallorca stay 18th as they continue their fight against relegation.
The duo, who have made a combined 404 league appearances for the club, are both out of contract
Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva will leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer, says the club’s sporting director Leonardo.
Cavani, 33, and Silva, 35, are both out of contract in June but will remain with the club until the season is fully completed as PSG are in the Champions League quarter-finals.
PSG were awarded the Ligue 1 title after the season was ended amid the coronavirus pandemic with 11 matches to play.
“It was a really difficult decision to take. [Thiago Silva and Edinson Cavani] are players who have had a big impact on this club’s history,” Leandro told Le Journal du Dimanche.
“You always wonder if you should carry on down the same path together or if it’s better to avoid a scenario where you’ve stayed for one year too many.null
“It’s been such a wonderful journey, but we’re coming to the end. We had to make a logical decision, both in financial terms and also considering the next generation of players coming through.
“Maybe it’s the wrong decision, I don’t know. There’s never a perfect moment. The Champions League is still on the agenda and the plan is to remain in the competition with them until the end of August.”
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Allan Saint-Maximin tells Adam Bate about his love of dribbling, the challenge of adding goals to his game, and why he is loving life at Newcastle…
“I started playing football alone by myself in my house,” Allan Saint-Maximin tells Sky Sports. “That is when my parents realised that I loved football. I took the ball everywhere and I dribbled everywhere. Even when I went to church I would go with my ball.
“Just me and the ball.”
Newcastle supporters will not be too surprised by their winger’s first memories of life with the football. Saint-Maximin, an £18m signing from Nice last summer, has already earned a reputation as the team’s star soloist. The Frenchman is a dribbling phenomenon.
An entertainer at a club where the fans are just aching to be entertained
Newcastle have had more than their fair share come over from France and do just that over the years, from David Ginola and Laurent Robert to Hatem Ben Arfa. The latter was once honoured in a banner depicting him as Che Guevara, the word hope emblazoned over it.null
It is the prospect of a takeover that provides the hope on Tyneside these days but when it comes to joy – visceral joy – Saint-Maximin is the player providing it. He is the one whose name is on the kids’ shirts. He is the one who has supporters on the edge of their seats.
He senses that himself too.
“They cry a lot, eh? They cry a lot. That is why I feel it. I really love Newcastle because the fans like how I play. This is important for me, you know. It is a really great feeling. That is why I am enjoying it a lot here and I know I can show much better things too.”
Of course, the electricity that reverberates around St James’ Park when Saint-Maximin has the ball at his feet will be absent when football resumes. He will miss that more than most.
“To be honest, it will be really hard for me because the fans are really important for us, you know. We win more games at home and everybody knows why. When you play at home it is a different feeling. Now it is very difficult but I prefer playing like this to not playing.”
Despite this frustration, Saint-Maximin has shown that he does not always need a crowd to impress. Perhaps you caught the video back in October that showed him weaving his way past several defenders in training before slotting the ball into the corner of the net.
Millions did, amused by the yells for him to pass the ball midway through one of those now trademark charges. Dribbling is what Saint-Maximin does – what he was born to do, according to his former youth coach Gael Diarra – and the numbers back that up.
Saint-Maximin has completed 5.66 dribbles per 90 minutes in the Premier League season. Only Wolves flyer Adama Traore beats an opponent more regularly than that.
Saint-Maximin is one of the top dribblers in the Premier League
The criticism that usually follows is about his end product. It is a complaint that has dogged Saint-Maximin throughout his fledgling career, one that has already taken him to the Bundesliga and back as well as playing top-flight football in France for four different clubs.
The journey began at Saint Etienne – “far from my family and friends in Paris but that was better for my football” – before being loaned to Hannover and Bastia. A move to Monaco did not work out as he was said to have exasperated coach Lucien Favre right from the first training session. Patrick Vieira took him under his wing at Nice but tensions soon arose.
The hope is that Newcastle will be different, that Steve Bruce’s man-management skills can help coax something from Saint-Maximin that has been latent up to now. Could he start deciding games on a regular basis rather than just decorating them with his dribbling?
Saint-Maximin has completed 80 Premier League dribbles but scored only two goals in the competition with just the one assist. For the 23-year-old winger it is a familiar line of questioning but it prompts a lengthy and animated defence of his record to date.
“I want to score goals and do assists but sometimes you can do the pass before the assist,” he explains. “Sometimes this pass is very important for the goal. I always think about this. Sometimes I can dribble and four players will come towards me and then I can make a pass and it is easier for my team-mate to score. I am really happy when this happens.”
I want to score goals and do assists but sometimes you can do the pass before the assist. Sometimes this pass is very important for the goal.
He is quite right, of course. Newcastle’s winning goal against Manchester United at St James’ Park earlier this season came courtesy of Matty Longstaff on his full debut. It was Jetro Willems who laid the ball into Longstaff’s path to claim the assist but the hard work had been done prior to that as Saint-Maximin cut through the opposition defence.
He wants to do more of that. He wants to score more goals too. But he is also aware that the level of the Premier League is so high, the circumstances at Newcastle so often loaded against the team, that it will not be straightforward to improve his statistics.
“For sure, I want to improve my finishing. But I think everybody knows that sometimes when you don’t have a lot of action in a game it is difficult. Sometimes there are games like the one against Oxford, if you remember that, when I had six or seven shots. That is easier.
“But sometimes in a game I will get one or two shots. This is harder. That is why we have to keep working and keep improving because the games are difficult. Sometimes we play really good but other games we play a bit bad. When you play a bit bad you don’t have chances.
“You have to keep running and working but it is hard for everybody. Even Miguel Almiron and Joelinton, it is hard for them too. That is why I try my best to assist my team-mates. I am more happy when I provide an assist for them to score. This is really important for me.
“I know it is really important to score. That is why I want to improve and score more goals for myself and for my team. But I am not focused only on this. I would prefer to not score and my team wins 1-0 than to score and lose 3-1. I just want to help my team-mates do that. The most important thing is when my team win. That is why we have to keep going.
“We have to do everything to win because we have 35 points and we don’t need a lot of points to stay up. The Premier League is the best in the world so you have to keep improving and keep working to be able to play in it. Now I feel good and feel I can show what I can do.”
Saint-Maximin speaks with real passion. A team man and a family man, he appears to have embraced life in Newcastle with his young family – two daughters and one son. His social media posts even include images of him around the house wearing his Newcastle kit.
Lockdown has at least meant more time with his children. And despite being denied some time on the training ground, it has meant more time too with Saint-Maximin’s oldest companion.
“I have felt really comfortable restarting training because I am lucky enough to have a good house with a garden where I have been playing, shooting and doing lots of things.”
Just Saint-Maximin and the ball. Just the way he likes it.
Goals from Florian Lejeune and Saint-Maximin in a friendly match at St James’ Park gave Newcastle their second victory over Championship opposition in just four days, following Tuesday’s 3-2 win against Middlesbrough.
Lejeune opened the scoring in the first half, heading home Jonjo Shelvey’s accurate cross from a free-kick.
Newcastle vs Sheff Utd
June 21, 2020, 1:00pm
Live on Halif’s blog
Saint-Maximin doubled the lead just before the break, picking up a loose ball in the box and side-footing it beyond Hull goalkeeper George Long.
Napoli into first Coppa Italia final since their win in 2014 and will play Juventus in the final on June 17 in Rome
Napoli were 1-0 ahead from the first leg at the San Siro three months ago, but their advantage was wiped out barely two minutes in as Christian Eriksen – making his fourth Inter start since his January moved from Tottenham – curled a corner home.
But it was Dries Mertens’ (41) slotted finish after a superb break from Lorenzo Insigne that ultimately sealed Napoli’s place in Wednesday’s final against Juventus, overtaking Marek Hamsik (121) as the club’s highest scorer (122) in the process.
InteR will rue their lack of cutting edge, having had the better of the chances throughout.
How Napoli made it past Inter
Within two minutes, Inter hauled themselves level in the tie. A fizzing corner from Eriksen bypassed everyone, shot through the legs of David Ospina and nestled into the far corner
It was a stop-start first half but Inter saw the lion’s share of the chances and should have gone further ahead.null
In the 16th minute, an impressive Antonio Candreva could only lift his effort over the bar before linking up with Eriksen 13 minutes later. His cross from the right was headed on by the Dane for Romelu Lukaku, but the striker directed his own nodded effort wide.