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

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.”

Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

‘I’m very happy to have won my first title with Juventus,’ Cristiano Ronaldo said. (Photo/General Sports Authority)
Updated 17 January 2019

Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

  • Ronaldo’s glancing header sinks AC Milan 1-0 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium

JEDDAH: A historic Wednesday evening at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium saw Italian champions Juventus beat AC Milan in the final of the 31st annual Supercoppa Italiana.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal as Juventus lifted the Supercoppa Italiana for the first time since 2015 with a 1-0 victory in front of a sold-out 61,235-capacity crowd.

As only one should expect when two of the most successful Italian clubs go head to head, a tactical and elegant, albeit very physical, display of football was at hand. 

Cheerful roars from the Jeddah crowd resonated throughout the night, in the kind of buzzing atmosphere that only a cup final brings.

Juventus, the Serie A champions, began brightly and were the first side to settle into the game, threatening with frequent sweeping moves.

Juventus and Portuguese international Joao Cancelo could have opened the scoring in the 16th minute after being played through on goal, but the defender’s zooming effort lacked the necessary precision and whisked past the far post with the Milan keeper rooted in his spot.

A maddening crescendo of noise erupted when Juventus and French international Blaise Matuidi thought he had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute after being played through by Costa before being flagged offside. 

Juventus did not have too much longer for another opportunity though, with Ronaldo’s acrobatic half volley from just outside the six-yard box bouncing and nestling agonizingly just over the bar and sparing Donnarumma’s blushes in the process.

Christiano Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his last seven finals. (Reuters)

Milan, who qualified for the final as runners-up to Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia, had struggled throughout the first half to settle into the game. They gradually grew into their own though, and nearly broke the deadlock at the stroke of halftime with a stinging drive from Turkish international Hakan Calhanoglu.

After a slew of opportunities had Juventus failing to build a halftime lead, Milan nearly made them pay for their squandered chances by starting the second half like bats out of hell. 

Milan’s confident pressing start to the half was almost rewarded in the 47th minute when a Ronaldo tackle inadvertently set up Cutrone with a clear sight on goal.  The striker turned and blasted an effort that rattled off the crossbar — the closest either team had come thus far.

And just when the tide seemed to have turned for Milan in the second half, their confidence building with every minute, a perfectly floating cross from Pjanic found Ronaldo with yards of space, and he made no mistake directing a swift header into the back of the net in the 61st minute and sending Juve supporters into a frenzy.

• AS IT HAPPENED: Cristiano Ronaldo's goal gives Juventus Supercoppa Italiana victory over AC Milan in Jeddah >>

• Arab News Matchday gallery >>

Things went from bad to worse for Milan in the 73rd minute. Franck Kessie came rushing in with a recklessly timed tackle, crunching his studs into the shins of Emre Can, which resulted in him seeing a straight red and leaving Milan with 10 men and a subsequent insurmountable uphill battle.

The final whistle came soon after, and with it brought Juventus a record eighth Supercoppa. It goes without saying that there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a cup final, but this was a historic and monumental occasion for Jeddah. 

The first major European cup final match being held in Saudi Arabia is now in the books, and with it brought an added sense of passion and excitement. 

Thousands of men, women and children showed up enthusiastically, were highly supportive of both teams, and were thoroughly entertained. It was a successful and memorable night that will surely pave the way for many more.

Addressing a prematch press conference on Tuesday night, Juventus Captain Giorgio Chiellini had defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.

“We (footballers) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.”

Juventus had been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they had lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European Cup finals. 

Chiellini, however, firmly believed that his team would change the trend and the team did make their captain proud. 

Juventus now holds the outright record of most Italian Super Cups with eight titles. (Arab News photo by Ali Khamg)