Icardi sparks Inter’s late comeback to stun Spurs

Inter Milan’s Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino celebrates after a last minute winning header during the UEFA Champions League match between Inter Milan and Tottenham at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Icardi sparks Inter’s late comeback to stun Spurs

  • Christian Eriksen’s deflected strike gave Spurs a 53rd-minute lead at the San Siro
  • Matias Vecino took advantage of some slack Tottenham defending at a corner to nod in a dramatic injury-time winner

MILAN: A stunning Mauro Icardi volley sparked a thrilling late Inter Milan comeback as the Italian side beat Tottenham 2-1 on their return to the Champions League after a seven-year absence on Tuesday.
Christian Eriksen’s deflected strike gave Spurs a 53rd-minute lead at the San Siro, and the visitors looked comfortable for much of the second half.
But Argentinian striker Icardi hammered home a magnificent volley in the 86th minute to draw Inter level, and Matias Vecino took advantage of some slack Tottenham defending at a corner to nod in a dramatic injury-time winner.
“This is exactly what the fans want to see,” said Inter coach Luciano Spalletti.
“Icardi scored a magnificent goal. The team had a great game and really went for it in the end.”
The win leaves Inter second in the early Group B table, behind Barcelona on goal difference after the Catalan giants thrashed PSV Eindhoven 4-0 with a Lionel Messi hat-trick.
The late drama was greeted with deafening applause from the 66,000 crowd in the San Siro who minutes earlier had feared that Inter’s disastrous start to the Serie A season would carry over into Europe.
“We came into this game with quite a few problems,” continued Spalletti, whose side are struggling in Serie A.
“I think that winning in the last minute after turning around the result gives you a lot of enthusiasm and self-belief.
“It means that we can believe in our potential for the future. The reaction is a sign we are on the right path.”
Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino lamented his side’s failure to kill off a game.
Star striker Harry Kane missed an early opportunity to add to his Champions League tally after being served up a clever chipped cross from Eriksen on 38 minutes.
“If he had scored maybe we are talking about a different game,” said Pochettino. “We are suffering a little bit but that’s not an excuse.”
Kane, the top scorer at the World Cup with six goals, arrived in Italy having scored nine goals in ten Champions League games.
But with only Samir Handanovic to beat the England striker rounded the Inter goalkeeper before losing his way as the ball rolled behind for a goal kick.
After Eriksen struck with a deflected shot that looped over Handanovic, the Londoners looked in control.
But the hosts turned things around with Icardi scoring his first Champions League goal in his first appearance in the competition, to add to his 110 goals in Serie A.
Inter Milan, who last won the trophy in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, were returning to Europe’s elite event for the first time since 2011-12, with Tottenham eliminated last season in the knockout rounds by Juventus.
Both teams are faltering in the league with Inter Milan on four points from four games and Tottenham sixth after suffering consecutive defeats.
Pochettino made five changes to the Tottenham side that lost to Liverpool at the weekend with Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Harry Winks and Lucas Moura all dropping out.
“It’s easy to talk about the players who aren’t here,” snapped Pochettino of his tactical choices.
“Against Watford and Liverpool they were on the pitch.
“That is football. After 46 years loving this game, I understand that some tough periods can arrive.
“After the Manchester United win (in August) I said: ‘be careful, be careful the tough period can arrive’ and here it is.
“The important thing is to work harder and to be strong. We have the quality but for different reasons we’re a little late in our preparation.
“Today I started to see good signals that the team is coming back again.
“We showed great personality, playing in the San Siro is a very difficult place and we showed character and personality.”


England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

Updated 18 November 2018
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England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.