Romelu Lukaku scored twice and assisted another to help Inter to a 3-1 win over Lazio that lifted Antonio Conte's men above bitter rivals Milan to the top of Serie A.

Milan's shock 2-0 loss to Spezia on Saturday opened the door for Inter and they pounced at San Siro on Sunday, taking a one-point lead into next weekend's huge Derby della Madonnina.

Lazio were furious with the awarding of Inter's 22nd-minute penalty as replays appeared to show Wesley Hoedt, drafted in after Stefan Radu was injured in the warm-up, got some of the ball before taking out Lautaro Martinez.

Lukaku converted and added a second ahead of half-time with the assistance of VAR, before teeing up Martinez to seal the points after Gonzalo Escalante had given Lazio some temporary hope.

There had been little between the sides prior to the controversial penalty call, with the VAR standing by referee Michael Fabbri's decision to point to the spot for Hoedt's challenge on Martinez.

Lukaku sent Pepe Reina the wrong way to extend his perfect penalty record in Serie A to 10 from 10, and the Belgium international did not have to wait long for the landmark 300th career goal for club and country.

It had an element of fortune about it as Marcelo Brozovic slid in on Manuel Lazzari and the ball ricocheted into the striker's path, though it took a lengthy VAR check to ascertain that Lukaku was level with the last man when the initial pass was played.

Lazio had found the net in each of their past 17 league outings, however, and they kept that run going when Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's free-kick heavily deflected off substitute Escalante and beat Samir Handanovic on his 500th Serie A appearance.

But just when the visitors had some momentum on their side, Lukaku charged down the right, held off Marco Parolo and unselfishly squared the ball for Martinez to tap into an empty net.

Reina denied Lukaku a hat-trick with a good save down low but Inter, knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Juventus in midweek, retained their two-goal cushion to move to the summit.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the first half of Inter's Serie A clash with Lazio on Sunday to bring up the 300th goal of his career.

The Belgium striker opened the scoring from the penalty spot at San Siro and added a second late in the opening period - the goal allowed to stand after initially being ruled out for offside.

Lukaku moved onto 56 goals for Inter in all competitions since joining from Manchester United in August 2019, 16 of those coming in the league this season.

That is one fewer than the 27-year-old has scored for his national side at senior level, though he still has some way to go before equalling the 87 netted for Everton between 2013 and 2017.

Lukaku's other goals were scored for United (42), Anderlecht (41) and West Brom (17). He failed to register for Chelsea, despite spending three years on the London club's books - two of those out on loan - and making 15 appearances.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang revelled in his stunning return to Arsenal's starting line-up after his hat-trick propelled the Gunners to a 4-2 win over Leeds United.

Aubameyang put Arsenal 2-0 up by the 41st minute of Sunday's clash, opening the scoring early on before doubling his tally with a penalty.

The spot-kick marked his 200th goal across Europe's top five leagues, with the 31-year-old then completing his first Premier League hat-trick two minutes after the restart.

That goal, which came after Hector Bellerin had rounded off a neat team move, put Arsenal 4-0 up, though Pascal Struijk and Helder Costa made life uncomfortable in the second half.

Aubameyang had not started a league match since January 18, with the Gabon striker having been handed a leave of absence to help care for his ill mother.

He was quick to hail the support he received from Arsenal, both internally and from the fanbase.

"Happy, really happy, and my kids are going to be happy because they're going to get it [the match ball]," Aubameyang told Sky Sports.

"Really happy with the performance from the team today, we knew that it was going to be a hard game, they never gave up, they fought a lot, in the end I think we had good game management.

"Maybe a bit nervy [at 4-2] but we managed it well in the end, we won the game. It was important to show that this is our home, this is where we have to win games.

"It means a lot to me. I'm a guy who always works hard, tries to give the best, for first my family and then the team as well. It's been a tough time for me but now it's time to get the smile back, score goals and win games.

"From everybody around the club, everyone was giving a lot of love to me, my mum and my family – I'm really proud to be part of this family, I have to say thank you to everyone at the club and the fans as well because I received a lot of messages.

"Today's win and the goals are for them."

Mikel Arteta was delighted with the all-round discipline and intensity shown by his side – factors he believes are the only way to match up to Marcelo Bielsa's free-flowing team, who have now conceded 42 goals but also scored 40 in the league.

"Very pleased with the result, very happy with the performance, especially in the first half against a fantastic team that make life so difficult for you and really put high demands into every action, with or without the ball," Arteta told Sky Sports.

"We read the situations really well and created big problems for them. I said to the players at half-time that Leeds will never give up, they throw everything at you and that's what they've done. We scored the fourth goal, could have scored more but they made it hard.

"Every action, you have to be full gas. If you don't take the game like that you are in big trouble. You have to be very precise to find the next pass, the next movement.

"It was great, the amount of chances we created and the types of goals we scored, I am really pleased with that."

Zinedine Zidane and Toni Kroos have lamented Real Madrid's growing injury issues after full-back Dani Carvajal limped off in Sunday's 2-0 win over Valencia.

Carvajal was making his first appearance for Madrid since January 2 but lasted just 28 minutes before sustaining an apparent injury to his right thigh.

He has been restricted to 12 games in all competitions this term and is now considered a big doubt for the Champions League last-16 first leg with Atalanta on February 24.

The Spain international joins the likes of Sergio Ramos, Eder Militao, Alvaro Odriozola, Eden Hazard, Rodrygo, Federico Valverde and Marcelo on the sidelines.

Madrid boss Zidane is concerned about the long list of injuries he has had to contend with this term and is unsure why so many players have been ruled out of action.

"There are a lot of injuries," he told Movistar. "I'm worried because when you lose a player it bothers me. It's a relapse [for Carvajal]. 

"I'm sorry for him because he was fine to play and is a very important player to us. But I can't explain all these injuries."

Asked if the packed fixture schedule is to blame, with Madrid playing nine times since the turn of the year, Zidane said: "I'm not going to get into that.

"We already have enough trouble. The calendar is what it is. We didn't have a normal pre-season and there are many injuries. 

"I hope to get my players back but I'm not going to get involved in the rest."

Lucas Vazquez replaced Carvajal at right-back and slotted in seamlessly by teeing up Kroos for Madrid's second, 30 minutes after Karim Benzema had opened the scoring.

Kroos, who scored and assisted a goal in the same Madrid match for the first time since November 2018, joined Zidane in bemoaning his side's injury nightmare.

"It worries us a lot, of course. We are without important players," he said. "Dani has come back from three injuries in a row - it's not right, we don't like it.

"But the others have to do as much as possible. We can't change the situation, just accept it."

Valencia managed just one attempt on target at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano - Maxi Gomez's shot from range - in what was a routine third successive league win for Madrid.

Zidane's men have now kept back-to-back clean sheets and the Frenchman is pleased with the improvement made by his side at the back.

"That much is evident," he said. "We believe a lot in what we do. We are overcoming difficulties and there is a lot left for us to give."

Madrid, who have now gone 13 home LaLiga matches without losing to Valencia, are five points adrift of Atletico Madrid having played two games more than the league leaders.

But two-time title-winning boss Zidane is not yet giving up hope of chasing down rivals Atletico, who Madrid face at Wanda Metropolitano on March 7.

"We are going to continue doing what we are doing," he said. "We are not going to look at what others are doing. Today we played a very good game. 

"They all defended very well without the ball and when got forward we caused a lot of damage. We have to continue in this way."

Valencia head coach Javi Gracia has won only one of his eight LaLiga games against Madrid and took full blame for his side's lacklustre display in the Spanish capital.

"It was a bad game from us," he said. "I do not know if it was our worst of the season but one of the worst. The intention was to be more aggressive, it was very easy for them.

"The coach has the maximum responsibility in everything. This is a step backwards in our trajectory. From the first minute we have not been able to demonstrate anything. 

"We have not seen options to achieve anything positive here. We could not even link two passes"

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double in Arsenal's first-half dismantling of Leeds United on Sunday took the Gunners forward onto 200 goals in Europe's "top five" leagues, before the star striker then rounded off a first Premier League hat-trick.

Aubameyang, making his first league start since January 18 following a leave of absence to care for his ill mother, marked his return to Arsenal's line-up in style at Emirates Stadium.

The 31-year-old opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a low shot which had the power to beat Illan Meslier, whose clumsy challenge on Bukayo Saka then gifted Aubameyang the chance to make it 2-0 from the spot.

Having sent Meslier the wrong way, Aubameyang brought up his 200th goal in Europe's 'top five' leagues, in what was his 369th appearance – he is the ninth player to reach the landmark in those divisions.

It was his 61st Arsenal goal, which is 37 shy of the total he managed during his time with Borussia Dortmund (98).

Aubameyang's first goal in Ligue 1 came for Lille in December 2009, before he then went on to have spells at Monaco, Saint-Etienne in France prior to leaving for Dortmund in 2013 and eventually joining the Gunners three years ago.

It was also the first time Aubameyang has scored in consecutive starts in the Premier League within a single season since last February, when he did so against Newcastle United and Everton, and the first time he has scored at least twice in successive starts in the English top flight.

Hector Bellerin's well-crafted goal made it 3-0 to Arsenal on the stroke of half-time – the Gunners scoring three first-half goals in a Premier League game for only the second time under Mikel Arteta, having previously done so in July 2020 against Watford.

Aubameyang headed in from Emile Smith Rowe's cross-shot just after the break to complete his maiden Premier League hat-trick.

AUBAMEYANG'S 'TOP FIVE' LEAGUE GOALS – A BREAKDOWN

Lille (2009-10) – 14 appearances, two goals.

Monaco (2010-11) – 19 appearances, two goals.

Saint-Etienne (2010-13) – 87 appearances, 37 goals.

Borussia Dortmund (2013-18) – 144 appearances, 98 goals.

Arsenal (2018-21) – 105 appearances, 62 goals.

Karim Benzema maintained his impressive scoring run against Valencia and Toni Kroos was also on target as Real Madrid eased to a 2-0 win in Sunday's LaLiga clash.

French striker Benzema netted for the fifth league game running in this fixture to open the scoring at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano and Kroos added a second before half-time.

Valencia won the reverse fixture 4-1 in November, with Carlos Soler scoring a hat-trick of penalties, but they offered little attacking threat in a one-sided game in the Spanish capital.

Ferland Mendy had a goal ruled out in a low-key second half as Madrid, who lost Dani Carvajal to an injury on his return to action, made it three league wins in a row to move back into second place.

Valencia were seeking a first league double over Madrid since 1967-68 but found themselves behind to Benzema's 12th-minute strike.

Kroos played the ball to Benzema towards the left and the striker cut inside before curling a 20-yard shot into the bottom-right corner.

Losing Carvajal to an injury was a blow for the hosts but they did not lose any fluency as Kroos fired in from the edge of the box for only his second goal this season.

Valencia, now without an away league win against Madrid in 13 attempts, pressed for an equaliser and called Thibaut Courtois into action through a Maxi Gomez drive.

Mendy had the ball in the net soon after, only for his celebrations to be cut short as VAR adjudged the defender's heel to be offside before he converted Vinicius Junior's pass.

Zinedine Zidane's men went close to adding to their tally, but Jaume Domenech denied Benzema at his near post and Mendy lost his footing when shooting from a good position late on.

Dayot Upamecano will be a Bayern Munich player in 2021-22, meaning Liverpool and Chelsea must go back to the drawing board.

The Premier League rivals had each been linked with a move for the RB Leipzig centre-back as they look to add to their options at heart of defence.

Now they each must look to different targets come the end of the season, with injuries and poor play at the back having derailed the Reds' hopes of winning a second successive league title.

But which centre-backs could be part of Liverpool and Chelsea's plans to pose a more serious challenge to Manchester City next season?

Here we look at four players who could be playing their football at Liverpool or Stamford Bridge next season.

Bremer

The Torino defender is reported to be Liverpool's top close-season target after an impressive season in Serie A.

His 75 clearances are the second-most in the Italian top flight among defenders, while Bremer has also excelled at making recoveries.

Indeed, he has tallied 114, putting him 11th among defenders to have played at least 10 league games. Only four defenders have won more aerial duels than Bremer's 47.

David Alaba

Chelsea have been linked with the man Upamecano is seemingly set to replace, though Alaba’s wage structure may reportedly be a sticking point for the Blues.

Alaba's versatility to play across the back four and in midfield would certainly appeal to Chelsea and former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel.

The Austria international has consistently demonstrated his prowess in attack as well as at the back.

He has created at least 17 chances in every season since 2010-11 and has crafted 10 in 19 league appearances this season.

Ibrahima Konate

Could Leipzig be raided again? Both Chelsea and Liverpool have been linked with Konate, the France Under-21 international signed from Sochaux in 2017.

Injuries have been a problem for Konate, who has played only 15 league games since the start of last season.

However, when he has played extensively, he has shown his quality. 

Konate featured 28 times in the Bundesliga in 2018-19 and was sixth in the league with 100 aerial duels won, contributing to 12 clean sheets, a tally only bettered by two players – his Leipzig team-mates Marcel Halstenberg (15) and Willi Orban (13).

Jules Kounde

Liverpool are thought to be keen on Kounde, but they will likely face competition from across Europe for the Sevilla defender's services.

Kounde has emerged as one of the finest young defenders in European football is again excelling this season.

With 106 recoveries in 2020-21, Kounde – who has also previously been linked with Barcelona and Manchester City – has proven a reliable presence in the heart of defence, while he can also start attacks.

His 136 successful passes into the final third are more than Barca's Clement Lenglet (132) and Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos (128).

Ramos (84.77) and Lenglet (80.49) have a higher accuracy percentage on those passes than Kounde's 76.84, but at just 22 he has the time and the talent to develop into one of the world's top centre-backs.

Central Coast Mariners extended their lead at the top of the A-League thanks to a 2-0 win at 10-man Wellington Phoenix.

The hosts operated with reduced numbers for more than an hour of the contest after David Ball was given a deserved straight red card for a reckless lunge on Matt Simon.

Simon recovered well enough to give Central Coast the lead five minutes before half-time, clipping home Marco Urena's excellent throughball.

The goalscorer heaped praise on the experienced Costa Rica playmaker afterwards.

"You can see Marco's quality out on the pitch and that pass was just another showing from him of how good he is," Simon said.

"And he's only going to get better.  I think he's still got a little bit to go to get 100 per cent fit but I think he's shown his qualities so far."

Oliver Bozanic made it 2-0 from the penalty spot after another misguided Phoenix challenge - this time from Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi on Daniel De Silva - and there was little doubt from that point that the Mariners would open up a four-point gap over second-placed Macarthur.

Brisbane Roar had the chance to leapfrog the Sydney club but were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Newcastle Jets.

The Jets are seventh with two wins from eight games so far, with Valentino Yuel close to a being a topical matchwinner on Sunday when his 25-yard drive boomed back off the post.

Wellington are only kept off the bottom by Melbourne Victory on goal difference, although they have only played six times.

Hansi Flick welcomed the signing of Dayot Upamecano but said "our task is to perform right now" as Bayern Munich prepare to return to Bundesliga action against Arminia Bielefeld.

On Sunday, Bayern announced that they have triggered a €42.5million release clause to land defender Upamecano from domestic rivals RB Leipzig.

The in-demand France international will join the newly-crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions on July 1 after agreeing terms on a five-year deal.

Flick is delighted to have beaten off competition to secure the services of the 22-year-old centre-back, who was linked with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool

The Bayern head coach's focus for now is ensuring Bayern extend a seven-match winning streak by beating Bielefeld at Allianz Arena on Monday, when a victory would put the leaders seven points clear of Leipzig.

Flick said: "I'm pleased we've managed to sign Dayot. But our task is to perform right now, and the same goes for Dayot at Leipzig. But that's how I've got to know him."

Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff expressed his disappointment that Upamecano will be departing, but knew his exit was inevitable.

He told the club's official website: "Of course, we would have liked to keep Dayot Upamecano at RB Leipzig.

"However, Dayot indicated to us very fairly and in good time that he would like a new challenge this summer and take the next step. The talks with Dayot and his agent as well as with FC Bayern were transparent and constructive at all times.

"It was well-known that Dayot's contract contained a buy-out clause. Our task was therefore to prepare for the situation that he would one day leave us, and we've done our homework in that regard.

"Dayot has shown outstanding development during his time in Leipzig, which is exemplary for our philosophy of finding young talents and consistently bringing them to the top level.

"Dayot has been and remains an important factor in our success and FC Bayern can look forward to an outstanding footballer and great person. We are now looking to the tasks ahead and want to give Liverpool a great fight on Tuesday in the Champions League last 16."

Flick expects to be without Leon Goretzka (calf) when the champions face Bielefeld, while Thomas Muller and Javi Martinez will be monitored.

Bayern Munich have confirmed the signing of Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig.

Upamecano, 22, had long been linked with a move away from Leipzig after developing into one of Europe's most-promising centre-backs.

While Liverpool and Chelsea were both thought to have designs on purchasing the France international, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic signalled his imminent capture on Friday.

Salihamidzic claimed Bayern had committed to paying Upamecano's €42.5million release clause, with the defender agreeing a five-year contract.

Bayern have now made that official with a club statement.

It read: "Dayot Upamecano (22, RB Leipzig) will play for FC Bayern Munich from July 1, 2021.

"The defensive player and the record German champions agreed on a five-year collaboration until June 30, 2026."

Salihamidzic added: "We are happy that we were able to win Dayot Upamecano for FC Bayern. Dayot will be a very important building block for our team in the coming years, we are convinced of that."

The transfer will see Bayern once again strengthen themselves while seemingly weakening a direct domestic rival.

Nevertheless, Leipzig have been expecting Upamecano's departure for a while and are preparing for life without him.

They secured a deal last year for highly rated Croatia Under-21 international Josko Gvardiol, who returned to former club Dinamo Zagreb on loan for the 2020-21 season.

Leipzig are also reportedly close to agreeing a deal for Strasbourg defender Mohamed Simakan in a deal that is said to be worth up to €18m.

Bayern Munich have confirmed the signing of Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig.

Lazio can win Serie A's Scudetto race this season according to Christian Vieri, who lauded Simone Inzaghi's "amazing" team.

Spearheaded by highly rated head coach Inzaghi, talisman Ciro Immobile and star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lazio are once again challenging in 2020-21.

Lazio can move to within six points of top spot with victory over second-placed Inter on Sunday as they prepare for a blockbuster Champions League last-16 tie against holders Bayern Munich.

Inzaghi has renewed Lazio's fortunes since taking charge in 2016, guiding the capital club to Coppa Italia (2019) and Supercoppa Italiana (2017 and 2019) success. The Biancocelesti had not celebrated silverware since 2013.

Ahead of the Inter showdown, Lazio have found the net in each of their past 17 Serie A games – they last went on a longer streak in October 1994 (18).

Lazio have also gained the most Serie A points in 2021 (19). They are the only unbeaten side (W6 D1) – having also conceded the fewest goals (four, level with Genoa) since the turn of the year.

Vieri spent a year with Lazio in 1998-99 – scoring 14 goals in 28 appearances under Sven-Goran Eriksson as the club won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and Supercoppa Italiana alongside Alessandro Nesta, Pavel Nedved, Marcelo Salas, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Dejan Stankovic before a then-record move to Inter – and he hailed the work of Inzaghi.

"He has been there for four years. You can't change coach every year," ex-Italy striker Vieri told Stats Perform News. "Coaches need time. All the teams that are changing every year aren't doing well.

"Lazio are doing amazing. They have an amazing director – [Igli] Tare, fantastic. They have big players at Lazio.

"Lazio are a fantastic team. They played amazing football. In the Champions League and qualified very easy.

"Lazio are there to win everything. Lazio can win the Scudetto, you never know. Let's see what happens in the Champions League. Anything can happen, but they're doing amazing."

Lazio have not won the Scudetto since 1999-2000 – Inzaghi was part of that triumphant team as a player – but threatened to end their drought last season.

They were only a point adrift of Juventus when the league was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic in March last year.

But when the 2019-20 campaign resumed, Lazio stumbled and eventually finished third – four points behind Juve as the Turin powerhouse claimed a ninth consecutive Serie A crown.

"Everyone stopped playing, not only Lazio. The thing is, when you play and you don't need to win the Scudetto, you play with no pressure," the 47-year-old Vieri explained.

"When they say to you, there's 8-10 games to go and we have to win all eight, and tomorrow we have to win, it changes. You stop sleeping. You're nervous because you have to win.

"One thing is winning the game and no one says anything – you're second or third but no one expects you to win. But when they say there's five games to go and you have to win all five, that changes everything.

"When they started again after COVID-19, they had to win the last six or seven games and didn't do that. Juventus are used to the pressure. That's how it is."

If reports are to be believed, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

However, his next destination remains a mystery.

The United States, though, could be next on the list for the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MIAMI MOVE ON THE CARDS FOR MESSI?

Lionel Messi could be keen on joining David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS, claims Sport.

Messi, whose contract is set to expire, is tipped to leave Barcelona at the end of the season amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could be lured to the United States, where Beckham co-owns Inter Miami.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are battling Barca and Real Madrid to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. United are reportedly determined to bolster their defence and Kounde has emerged as a key target.

Liverpool have made Torino defender Bremer their top transfer target at the end of the season, reports the Mirror. Despite the January arrivals of Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, Liverpool still want to strengthen their defence.

- Spanish journalist Siro Lopez says Sergio Ramos has made his decision to leave Madrid. It comes as the likes of United, PSG, Juventus and Chelsea eye the superstar Madrid captain on a free transfer.

Madrid are interested in Real Betis midfielder Nabil Fekir, reports Estadio Deportivo. Inter, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Napoli are also believed to be eyeing the Frenchman.

Lionel Messi equalled Barcelona's all-time LaLiga appearances record set by Xavi by starting Saturday's clash with Deportivo Alaves.

It was thought Ronald Koeman might opt to leave Messi out given the importance of Tuesday's Champions League round-of-16 first-leg game against Paris Saint-Germain.

However, given the depleted nature of the Barca squad at the moment, Koeman made the decision to include his captain from the start.

It was Messi's 505th LaLiga appearance for Barca, tying the haul managed by club great Xavi, and the Argentinian could surpass his former team-mate next week at home to Cadiz.

Lorenzo Insigne scored his 100th goal for Napoli to earn his side a 1-0 win over Juventus in Saturday's Serie A clash, easing some of the growing pressure on boss Gennaro Gattuso.

Juve had won their last three top-flight games by the same 2-0 scoreline but their title prospects took another dent with defeat to a spirited Napoli side at Estadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Giorgio Chiellini marked his landmark 400th Serie A appearance by giving away a penalty that was put away by Insigne for what proved to be the only goal of the contest.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata went close to equalising but the visitors, who beat Napoli 2-0 in last month's Supercoppa Italiana, could not find a way through.

Napoli were already without a number of key men and lost first-choice goalkeeper David Ospina to injury in the warm-up, meaning a late call-up to the side for Alex Meret.

The hosts were fortunate to see Federico Bernardeschi balloon a promising chance into the stands but they took the lead 31 minutes in through Insigne's powerful penalty.

Chiellini jumped with his arm and caught Amir Rrahmani in the face, which VAR adjudged was worthy of a spot-kick, and Insigne did not waste the chance to bring up his century.

Juve, who had not conceded in their previous three Serie A games, should have been level early in the second half but Ronaldo fired straight at Meret from close range.

Meret was also equal to Federico Chiesa's drive and Morata had a goal ruled out following another Chiellini foul on Rrahmani in the build-up as Juve continued to press.

A final chance fell Morata's way late on but he could not get the better of inspired Napoli keeper Meret, who produced a fine save with his legs to help his side to a huge win.
 

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