Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice but was unable to rescue Milan as their unbeaten start in Serie A ended with a thrilling 4-3 loss at Fiorentina on Saturday.

The Rossoneri had made their best start to a top-flight season in the three-points-per win era after 12 matches and had a chance to move clear at the top of the table, but ​their 17-game unbeaten run in the league stretching back into last season was halted at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Joseph Alfred Duncan profited from a calamitous mix-up between Ciprian Tatarusanu and Matteo Gabbia to fire the hosts ahead, before former Milan player Riccardo Saponara curled in a sensational second shortly before half-time.

Dusan Vlahovic extended Fiorentina's advantage, and while Ibrahimovic struck twice in five minutes to set up a tense period, the Serbia international notched his 14th league goal of the season to render Lorenzo Venuti's late own goal nothing more than a consolation.

Milan found themselves behind with 15 minutes played in rather comical circumstances as Tatarusanu spilled a corner and Gabbia attempted to shield the ball for his goalkeeper, but Alfred Duncan got to it first and prodded in from close range. 

Pietro Terracciano frustrated Milan with a couple of impressive stops and Ibrahimovic diverted wide from inside the six-yard box – a miss that would prove costly as Saponara bent a delightful 25-yard shot away from Tatarusanu into the top-right corner.

Vlahovic added a third against the run of play after an hour with a composed finish from a tight angle once played in by Alfred Duncan, but Milan were soon back in the game through Ibrahimovic's double.

The striker profited from a loose Giacomo Bonaventura pass to thump past Terracciano and then turned home Theo Hernandez's cut-back to leave Fiorentina sweating.

Venuti put into his own net deep into added time after Ibrahimovic's header hit the woodwork and ricocheted in off his face, but only after Vlahovic had settled any nerves with his second of the match in the 85th minute.

 

 

Juventus eased to a 2-0 win against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to move up to sixth place in Serie A.

A Leonardo Bonucci penalty in each half proved enough for Massimiliano Allegri's side, making it back-to-back wins in the league after they beat Fiorentina 1-0 before the international break.

Lazio were without star striker Ciro Immobile and it showed as the Biancocelesti struggled to create much in the way of chances.

Maurizio Sarri would have been hoping to do better against his former club, with his team now having won just twice in their last seven games in all competitions.

Danilo was forced off with an injury for the visitors after 15 minutes following a strong challenge from Elseid Hysaj, with Dejan Kulusevski replacing the Brazilian.

Juventus had their first penalty in the 22nd minute after Danilo Cataldi was judged to have fouled Alvaro Morata in the box following a VAR review, which Bonucci coolly dispatched past Pepe Reina.

Morata should have made it two just before half-time when Juan Cuadrado lifted a delicate ball into the box, only for the Spain striker's scissor-kick to fly over the bar.

Juve had their second penalty with ten minutes to go after Federico Chiesa rounded Reina, only to be hacked down by the goalkeeper before he could score, and Bonucci made no mistake to seal the win.


What does it mean? Juve back on track

Shortly before the international break there was slight talk of crisis at Juventus. Back-to-back defeats against Sassuolo and Verona saw the Old Lady sitting in ninth place, 16 points off the top of the table.

After victory here, they are temporarily at least up to sixth and have cut Napoli and Milan's lead at the top to 11 points, albeit with both still yet to play this weekend.

They will hope to build on three wins in a row in all competitions when they travel to Chelsea for matchday five of the Champions League in midweek, where a win will confirm them as winners of Group H.

Better week for Bonucci

Bonucci and the rest of his Italian team-mates had an international break to forget, with draws against Switzerland and Northern Ireland meaning that the Azzurri must now go through the play-offs if they are to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

However, Bonucci's penalties against Lazio not only won the game, but also mean he has scored more Serie A goals than any other defender since the beginning of the last decade (27).

Lazio lack mobility without Immobile

Immobile is one of only four players already with at least 10 goals in the big five European leagues this season, along with Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema and Mohamed Salah.

Lazio unsurprisingly missed their talisman here, with only one of their eight shots at goal hitting the target.

What's next?

Lazio face Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia in the Europa League on Thursday, while Juventus travel to Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho believes Andriy Shevchenko has already shown that he can be a success as a head coach in Serie A ahead of his first game in charge of Genoa on Sunday.

The Ukraine legend replaced Davide Ballardini as head coach of the Grifoni two weeks ago after a 2-2 draw at Empoli made it nine games without a win.

Shevchenko's first game in club management sees him hosting Roma and Mourinho, who was at the helm at Chelsea when 'Sheva' arrived at Stamford Bridge as a player in 2006.

The 45-year-old recently left his role in charge of the Ukrainian national team after a quarter-final defeat to England at Euro 2020.

Shevchenko enjoyed a very successful time as a player in Italy, scoring 127 goals in 226 Serie A games for Milan, and Mourinho expressed his hope that he can have success as a manager as well.

"He was an incredible player," Mourinho said at a media conference on Saturday. "This is his first job in club management, but he did really well with Ukraine.

"I think he showed he has ideas, he has leadership... but I hope he loses the first of his club management career, like I did!"

Mourinho will also be looking to improve the fortunes of his own team, with Roma having won just one of their last seven games, and he will be missing several players through injury and COVID-19.

The Giallorossi announced on Saturday that Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar have tested positive for COVID-19, and join injured quartet Matias Vina, Chris Smalling, Riccardo Calafiori and Leonardo Spinazzola on the sidelines.

"We didn't do any training this morning. It will be fun for you to think about how we will play tomorrow," Mourinho said. "The work we've done in the week has to go in the bin a bit.

"It's clear we need to find new solutions and perhaps some players will have to 'sacrifice' themselves in different roles."

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United manager knows the risks that come with playing a team under a new head coach, and believes that factor will make the clash all the more interesting.

"At the very least, it's going to be an entertaining, intriguing game," he added. "The Genoa fans will be up for the game, the players will want to impress the new coach. It's a beautiful stadium and I'm sure it will be a great atmosphere."

Simone Inzaghi is hopeful that Inter can reach an agreement with midfielder Marcelo Brozovic over a new contract.

Croatia international Brozovic is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and has been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Newcastle United.

While Nicolo Barella and Lautaro Martinez have recently signed new deals, fresh terms have yet to be reached with Brozovic as the January transfer window draws nearer.

According to reports from Italy, Inter directors Giuseppe Marotta, Piero Ausilio and Dario Baccin met with the 29-year-old's representatives earlier this week.

Inzaghi was unable to provide an update on Brozovic's future at a news conference on Saturday, but the Inter head coach says his bosses are aware of his thoughts.

"Marcelo is a great footballer," Inzaghi said ahead of Sunday's home clash with Napoli. "He's been here for many years and he's always doing great things.

"Our managers are here every day and they are the ones who discuss these issues. They know what I feel about the player."

Brozovic's importance was clear to see in last term's Scudetto-winning campaign when featuring in 33 of Inter's 38 Serie A games.

He has started all 12 league games this term and ranks first among Inter players for passes (755) and successful passes (696), while only Barella (17) has won more tackles than Brozovic's 11.

 

The former Dinamo Zagreb midfielder is in line to start again when Inter welcome Napoli to San Siro.

Napoli entered the weekend top of Serie A after going unbeaten through their opening 12 matches, with their last league loss coming 22 games ago against Juventus in April.

Reigning champions Inter are seven points behind their opponents and are winless in four league games this season against sides that finished in the top seven last time out.

"It'll be a very important game for our position in the table," said Inzaghi, who has lost seven of his previous 10 managerial matches against Napoli.

"Courage and motivation can make the difference. We have done well in Serie A and the Champions League. 

"We're only two points off our position at this stage last season, but it's also true that Milan and Napoli are having the kind of start we hadn’t seen in Serie A for 40 years.

"We deserved more against Atalanta, Juventus and Milan, only getting three draws, so we need to do more from tomorrow in the head-to-head clashes. The time has come to win these games."

Jesse Lingard's future does not appear to be with current club Manchester United.

Contract talks between Lingard and United have reportedly broken down.

The England international has only played eight times in all competitions this season, starting just once.

 

TOP STORY –  LINGARD SET FOR JANUARY SWITCH

Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard will make a £10million move to West Ham in January, according to The Sun.

The Red Devils are said to be looking to cash in on the 28-year-old England international before he is out of contract at the end of this season.

Lingard impressed during a six-month loan spell with the Hammers in the second half of last season, with nine goals and four assists.

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham are also interested in signing Lingard on a free transfer in the off-season, according to the Daily Express.

- United are prepared to sell Diogo Dalot to Roma in order to facilitate a deal for Atletico Madrid's England full-back Kieran Trippier, claims the Manchester Evening News.

- Marca claims that Real Madrid are ramping up their pursuit of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, who is out of contract at the end of this season. Bayern Munich are also said to be tracking the Germany international.

- Promising young Argentina international Julian Alvarez is being monitored by Italian powerhouse pair Juventus and Milan, reports Calciomercato. Alvarez, who has four Argentina caps, is currently with River Plate who will wait until December to evaluate any offers.

Massimiliano Allegri is convinced Italy will make it to the World Cup – but that is the least of his worries as he looks to guide Juventus back into the Scudetto picture.

Juve head coach Allegri takes his side to Lazio on Saturday for what already feels like a highly important game in the context of the season.

Defeats to Sassuolo and Hellas Verona in late October look to have almost scrubbed Juve out of the title frame, and they sit eighth heading into the weekend, already 14 points behind Napoli and Milan. It will take a sharp upturn for them to trouble the early pace-setters.

Lazio are three points better off than Juventus too, and their boss is former Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri, the man who was given the flick by the Turin giants in August 2020 after just one season.

Sarri won the Serie A title in that campaign, but a lack of European success cost him dearly. His successor, Andrea Pirlo, delivered neither, which is why Allegri was summoned to return to the Allianz Stadium top job, having won five league championships in his previous stint.

Italy is consumed by the travails of the Azzurri, with Roberto Mancini's team falling to Earth with a bump after their Euro 2020 success as they failed to earn automatic qualification for the World Cup, with Jorginho's costly missed penalty against Switzerland followed by a draw with Northern Ireland.

They still have a play-off to fall back on, so may well still feature at Qatar 2022, and Allegri spoke about Italy while addressing the focus on putting points on the board.

"Football is good because you can have opinions, you can talk, but in the end it all boils down to the results," he told a news conference on Friday.

"For a missed penalty, they've been massacring them for a week now. We need balance, there are unforeseen events that must be managed, and I believe that in the end they will go to the World Cup."

He is waiting to learn whether Paulo Dybala is available for the trip to Rome, with the Argentine keen to be involved after international duty. Allegri described the forward's calf as "problematic" but did not rule him out.

"It's a nice challenge, two teams that are floating on the edge of fourth place," Allegri said. "It will be a difficult match."

A sketchy 1-0 victory over Fiorentina, secured by Juan Cuadrado's stoppage-time goal after their visitors were reduced to 10 men, sent Juventus into the international break with a win.

 

"Right now, here you just have to do and not think. We are behind in the standings, talking is of no use at all," Allegri added.

"We just have to think about what to do to try slowly to improve in the attacking and defensive phases, as well as in the standings."

Juve have lost only two of their last 33 Serie A games against Lazio, both since 2017 (W24 D7).

Lazio have conceded at least once in their last 16 Serie A home games against the Bianconceri, their longest streak without a clean sheet at home against a single opponent in the top flight.

Sarri has previously spoken of his difficulty in bringing new elements to Juventus' play during his short tenure, but Allegri feels the current crop are malleable enough.

"Maurizio is an excellent coach and here he won a championship," Allegri said. "You'd have to ask him, he said it and not me. For me the teams are all trainable, it depends on the players you have."

Arsenal could look to offload Nicolas Pepe in the January transfer window.

The 26-year-old has not lived up to his billing after being signed in 2019.

Pepe has scored once in nine appearances for the Gunners this season.

 

TOP STORY – MILAN SET FOR JANUARY PEPE SWOOP

Italian giants Milan are interested in signing Arsenal's Ivorian winger Nicolas Pepe, claims Il Milanista.

Pepe has more than two years to run on his Gunners deal, having joined on a five-year contract from Lille in 2019 for a club-record fee of £72 million (€79m).

Arsenal may be willing to let Pepe go for a little as £25m in January.

ROUND-UP 

- Chelsea's Spanish full-back Cesar Azpilicueta is on Barcelona's transfer radar, according to SPORT. The 32-year-old's contract expires at the end of this season.

- Tottenham have joined Inter in having an interest in signing Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso, claims Kicker. Tolisso is out of contract at the end of this season.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that talks between Gavi and Barcelona on a five-year contract extension are progressing amid interest in the Spanish teenager from Chelsea.

- Jose Mourinho's Roma are considering a move to sign Atletico Madrid's Mexico international midfielder Hector Herrera in January, claims Calciomercato. Atletico are willing to cash in on Herrera, who is out of contract in mid-2022.

- Manchester City target Theo Hernandez is close to completing a contract renewal with Milan, according to Rudy Galetti. The Rossoneri have reached an agreement with him until 2026.

- FotoMac claims Mohamed Elneny's agent has reached an agreement with Arsenal for the Egyptian to leave in January. He was previously linked with Galatasaray.

- Lens midfielder Seko Fofana has been added to Newcastle United's shortlist of transfer targets, claims Foot Mercato.

Paul Pogba's future continues to make headlines.

With his contract expiring, it remains to be seen whether he will remain at Manchester United.

United are believed to be ready to move on as Real Madrid lurk.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID READY TO POUNCE FOR POGBA

Manchester United have given up on keeping Pogba and Real Madrid have a "great opportunity" to sign the Frenchman, according to the front page of Thursday's Marca.

Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and the United star is no closer to a renewal at Old Trafford.

Madrid are continuing to circle Pogba, who has also been linked with former club Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Sport claims Barca are eyeing moves for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech and Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman. Out-of-favour Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling and RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo have also been linked.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will extend his contract at Milan until 2023, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

Chelsea are interested in signing Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana, says Foot Mercato. The 20-year-old is yet to play this season due to a serious leg injury.

- El Nacional reports Madrid and Chelsea will go head-to-head to land Monaco star Aurelien Tchouameni. The France international is also reportedly wanted by Juve, City, United, Liverpool, Bayern and Newcastle United.

Newcastle are eyeing Inter duo Stefan de Vrij and Marcelo Brozovic and Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, per The Times.

Mino Raiola has not ruled out a return to Juventus for Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, declaring "December is the month for dreaming."

Pogba's contract expires at the end of this season and the France international will be free to talk to other clubs in January.

The 28-year-old won eight trophies during his time at Juve before returning for a second spell with United in 2016.

Raiola, Pogba's agent, did not dismiss the prospect of the World Cup winner heading back to Turin when asked about his future on Wednesday.

He told reporters: "Dreaming is free, those who do not dream are dead. I do not forbid dreams to anyone, I do them too every day so let's dream, it's good for you. Then let's see if they become reality."

Raiola also took a swipe at former United players who have been critical of both he and Pogba.

He added: "December is the month for dreaming, with Christmas and all the holidays. It's still too early, let's see what happens.

"We don't know why, but when we talk about Pogba in England, even the dead wake up. So better not talk about it, because then maybe some former Manchester United players if they don't talk about Pogba and me they don't talk about anything. So it's better not to talk about it."

Pogba is currently sidelined by a thigh injury and has been serving a ban following his red card in the 5-0 Premier League thrashing at the hands of Liverpool.

Jose Mourinho remains on course to become "one of the most important coaches in the history of Roma", general manager Tiago Pinto has declared.

Defeats to Milan and Venezia before the international break, either side of a draw with Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League, came as a jolt to the Giallorossi.

They had previously won six of their first 10 Serie A matches of the campaign, with Mourinho making a strong start to his second club job in Italy, after a triumphant spell as Inter boss over a decade ago.

Now Roma face the challenge of building momentum afresh, starting on Sunday when they travel Genoa.

Pinto was pivotal in bringing Mourinho to Roma and is confident the former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United boss will lead the club to great success.

It has been a feature of their collaboration that Pinto and Mourinho have stressed there is a Roma "project", and it is one that could take years to come to fruition.

Although Mourinho has previously had a reputation for quickly building a winning team, from day one it has been a different concept with Roma.

"He has built this image over time, because fortunately he has coached the biggest clubs in the world and maybe these teams do not have the time, the project and the strategy of Roma," Pinto told Sky Sport Italia.

"But it would not have been possible to have a coach like Mourinho without this strategy. All the time he spends with the Roma youth team confirms that he is totally aligned with us.

"We cannot create an instant team like other teams do and this is not a criticism, but a truth. Mourinho is not only aware of this, but he is also aligned and the work he is doing proves this more than my word."

Mourinho has given chances to young players, but he has also pointed to the weakness of his squad beyond the core of the first team, particularly in the wake of a 6-1 away loss to Bodo/Glimt.

Roma sit sixth in Serie A after 12 games but are already 13 points behind Napoli and Milan, and Mourinho said after the shock loss to Venezia that he felt his squad was no stronger than last season's pool of players, despite a major transfer window overhaul.

He also said this season could prove "a painful one for body and soul".

Pinto said that Roma's studied effort to gradually build up the team "doesn't mean we don't want to win", as he explained the signing of England striker Tammy Abraham from Chelsea.

"Maybe we confused people because we took Abraham, who is young but a great player," Pinto said. "But we don't want to make an instant team, we want to work in all areas and improve every day and in every transfer window."

That final comment may indicate Roma will move again in the market in January, backing Mourinho by listening to his comments about where the squad is still falling short.

"Mourinho is important to us. We took him because his experience, his intelligence and his leadership were perfect to develop this three-year project of a change of mentality, reconstruction of the squad and development and improvement of all players," Pinto added. "And I must say, after four months, that the choice was right and that he will be one of the most important coaches in the history of Roma."

There are already signs of substantial improvement at Roma, when balancing this term's performances against those of last season.

When it comes to committing errors leading to shots by the opposition, in 2020-21 Roma were allowing 0.71 per Serie A game, but that has come down to 0.42 this season.

Roma are having 18.5 shots per game, compared to 14.34 under Paulo Fonseca last term. They are creating 14.5 chances per game, a step up from 10.76 in 2020-21.

If their big-chance conversion rate had not fallen away, from 41.35 per cent in 2020-21 to 32.14 per cent, the season might have begun in even brighter fashion.

Passes played into the box have shot up (28.24 to 33.33 per game), while the aerial challenges won/loss ratio is a healthier 175:141 so far under Mourinho after last season's 461:443 split, a sign his slowly-slowly revolution in Rome is taking effect.

The Netherlands will have to do without the injured Stefan de Vrij when they face Norway in a decisive World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

De Vrij suffered a hamstring injury in the closing stages of the Oranje's 2-2 away to Montenegro on Saturday and was replaced by Matthijs de Ligt.

The Inter centre-back has now been ruled out of the Netherlands' final Group G game against third-placed Norway at De Kuip, so De Ligt is set to starting alongside captain Virgil van Dijk.

Coach Louis van Gaal has not called up a replacement for De Vrij.

The Netherlands lead Norway and Turkey – who are away to Montenegro on Tuesday – by two points, and a draw should be enough for them to qualify for the tournament in Qatar next year due to their far superior goal difference.

It appeared to be mission accomplished for the group leaders when Memphis Depay's double put them in control at Podgorica City Stadium, but late goals from Ilija Vukotic and Nikola Vujnovic prevented them from getting the job done.

The Netherlands will not have the backing of a partisan crowd against Norway, as the game in Rotterdam will be played behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions.

Jose Mourinho is not the problem at Roma and the club and fans must stick with him, according to Giallorossi legend Francesco Totti. 

Roma appointed Mourinho last May and invested around €130million on new players – the biggest close-season outlay of any Serie A team. 

Things started positively with Roma winning their first six competitive games of a season for just the third time in their history, but they have been victorious in just four of their subsequent 12 outings. 

Mourinho became the first Giallorossi boss since Luis Enrique in 2011 to lose their maiden top-flight Derby della Capitale in September, while the following month he suffered the heaviest loss of his managerial career when Roma were hit for six by Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League. 

The next week his 43-game home unbeaten run in Serie A came to an end at the hands of Milan, while November started with a disappointing draw at home to Bodo/Glimt and a shock 3-2 loss at Venezia. 

However, Totti does not believe Mourinho is at fault for Roma's slide in form and believes his pedigree is more than sufficient for a show of faith. 

"If we think Roma's problem is Mourinho, it means we have everything wrong," Totti told Sky. 

"Mourinho has won more than all the other Serie A coaches combined – hats off to him. 

"You have to focus on him. He is a great coach and a great motivator. He knows how to manage the group, he knows what to say and what to do. 

"The club and the fans must stick with him." 

Despite their poor form, Roma sit sixth in Serie A and are just three points adrift of the top four. 

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe?

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has long been tipped to join Real Madrid.

Madrid are reportedly preparing another approach for the France forward.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID PUSHING FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid will make another move for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo.

Madrid have made no secret of their interest, while Mbappe – who will become a free agent at the end of the campaign – revealed he wanted to leave PSG for Los Blancos at the start of the season.

With Mbappe's contract winding down, LaLiga giants Madrid are stepping up their pursuit.

 

ROUND-UP  

- Mundo Deportivo and Sport claim Barcelona are closing in on the signing for Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling. The England international has found himself down the pecking order in Manchester.

Arsenal are interested in Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, but there have been no talks with the Serbia international's agents, reports Fabrizio Romano. Vlahovic is also wanted by City, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Tottenham.

- Staying at Emirates Stadium, Gianluca Di Marzio says Arsenal are ready to make a move for Juventus sensation Dejan Kulusevski.

Roma, Milan, Atalanta and Napoli are eyeing Sassuolo winger Jeremie Boga, per Foot Mercato.

- Milan are readying contract renewals for Theo Hernandez, Ismael Bennacer and Rafael Leao, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are hoping to beat Barca to Milan midfielder Franck Kessie on a free transfer. Kessie has also been linked with PSG, Arsenal, Tottenham, Inter and Atletico.

Alessandro Antonello says Marcelo Brozovic is a "fundamental player" and a "strategic piece" for Inter as the Serie A champions strive to keep the midfielder.

Brozovic's contract expires at the end of the season and the 28-year-old has been linked with the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Newcastle United.

Nicolo Barella and Lautaro Martinez have recently signed new deals with the Nerazzurri following intense speculation over their futures.

Inter chief executive Antonello hopes Croatia international Brozovic will follow suit but says the club will not be held to ransom.

He said on Radio 24's 'Tutti Convocati' broadcast: "The relationship with the players is excellent. Let's also remember the results achieved by the team with the Europa League final [in which they lost to Sevilla last year] and the Scudetto [triumph last season].

"We must recognise this and the sporting performances that must be adequately paid.

"But it is normal that the pandemic has led to reflections, then there are contracts to be respected and it is right to sit at the table with the parties involved to find an agreement.

"Brozovic is a fundamental player for the team, he is a strategic piece for us "

Brozovic has started all 16 of Inter's matches in all competitions this season.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.