Inter Milan brush aside champions Napoli to return to top of Serie A

By Sports Desk December 03, 2023

Inter Milan moved back to the top of Serie A in convincing style with a 3-0 win at defending champions Napoli.

Simone Inzaghi’s side had been knocked off the summit by Juventus’ victory at Monza on Friday, but emphasised their title credentials after being set on their way by a stunning goal from Hakan Calhanoglu.

Nicolo Barella doubled Inter’s lead just after the hour mark and Marcus Thuram made certain of all three points five minutes from time.

The win takes Inter two points clear of Juventus and 11 in front of Napoli, who have now taken just seven points from a possible 21 at home.

The home side in fact made a bright start and could have gone ahead in the third minute, only for Yann Sommer to produce a brilliant save from a shot from Eljif Elmas which looked destined for the top corner.

Both sides were happy to shoot from distance and Calhanoglu went close at the other end with a left-footed effort from outside the area before the visitors briefly thought they had broken the deadlock.

Thuram played a delightful one-two with Lautaro Martinez before firing a shot across Alex Meret and into the far corner, only to see the flag correctly go up for offside.

Inter were forced into an early change when Stefan de Vrij suffered a thigh injury and had to be replaced by Carlos Augusto, the reshuffle possibly allowing Elmas to get free in the area moments later to bring a good save from Sommer at his near post.

There was nothing Sommer could do about Matteo Politano’s long-range effort after 36 minutes however, and the Switzerland international was relieved to see the ball cannon back off the crossbar.

When the opening goal finally arrived it proved well worth the wait, Denzel Dumfries heading a deep cross back to Barella to flick the ball into the path of Calhanoglu, who struck a sumptuous low volley which swerved away from Meret and nestled in the corner of the net.

Napoli striker Victor Osimhen appealed in vain for a penalty early in the second half after tangling with Francesco Acerbi just inside the area, the ball then breaking for Khvicha Kvaratskhelia to bring a good save from Sommer.

But it was the visitors who found the all-important second goal shortly after the hour mark as Barella collected a firmly-struck pass from Martinez and slalomed past two defenders before slotting the ball into the bottom corner.

Osimhen flashed a header narrowly wide as Napoli tried to get back into the game but Thuram settled matters five minutes from time as he turned in a low, driven cross from substitute Juan Cuadrado.

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    Plymouth director of football Neil Dewsnip was “absolutely delighted” with his side’s shock 1-0 Championship victory at home to leaders Leicester that eased their relegation worries.

    Recalled Mustapha Bundu scored a 21st-minute winner with an angled strike after running onto a defence-splitting ball from Adam Forshaw.

    Home goalkeeper Michael Cooper made a string of stops as Leicester piled on the pressure but the hosts held on for maximum points as they moved to 16th and now sit five points clear of the bottom three.

    Dewsnip said: “We are absolutely delighted with the result. Made up but we know it’s not done yet. We still have a target and that is to stay in this league.

    “Our aim is to stay in the league. It’s been the same since day one when we started in the Championship. It’s been a great night for Plymouth Argyle Football Club.

    “We still have three more games to play and more points to play for. The players stuck to the shape we wanted and I am delighted we stuck to the game plan.

    “Mustapha’s goal was absolutely terrific. He’s got that finish in him we see every week in training. It does fly over the railings one or two times but credit to him that was a really good goal.

    “The fans from the first minute to the last were just at it. I found myself clapping with them at one point.

    “I am absolutely delighted the team recorded a 1-0 win for them.

    “We have not had a great record defending set -pieces, so we worked on it and got an unbelievable response.

    “Thankfully tonight was our night not theirs. I am sure Leicester will have theirs in the future.

    “Tomorrow I think I will be watching the scores come in, especially as 24 hours ago we weren’t sitting here with these three points.”

    Leicester boss Enzo Maresca took the positives from their second-consecutive loss as they remain level on points with second-placed Ipswich, with Leeds a point further back ahead of their games on Saturday.

    He said: “It has been a tough week with two defeats in a row that we did not expect so we are upset.

    “The only good thing is that fortunately, it is still in our hands.

    “We need to take our chances and start to win games. We have four games to go, three of them at home, with our fans behind us, so hopefully we can finish well.

    “At the end – and I have said it many times – the problem is when you don’t create chances. That is when you have to be worried and find a different solution.

    “At this moment we are struggling to score. We created chances inside the six-yard box, from outside the box and we struggle.

    “But there are moments over the season where we need to win the game and it doesn’t matter which way we need to win the game.

    “But as I said, the positive thing is it’s still in our hands in the last four games. Now we cannot lose any more chances we have to try and win those (four) games.

    “At this moment we need all our players. For sure, when you don’t win games there is always a why?

    “I don’t see a big difference between tonight’s game and when we started the season.

    “When we lose you are always looking for the reason. The team are still competing and are still creating chances.

    “I don’t know if we need all the four games to win the league but we will still go out to win those four games.

    “With one chance they (Plymouth) were clinical and we had more chances and were not clinical.”

  • Championship leaders Leicester stunned by Mustapha Bundu’s winner for Plymouth Championship leaders Leicester stunned by Mustapha Bundu’s winner for Plymouth

    Leaders Leicester missed the chance to move clear at the top of the Championship as they suffered a shock 1-0 defeat away to relegation-threatened Plymouth, thanks to Mustapha Bundu’s 21st-minute winner.

    Second-placed Ipswich remain level on points with the Foxes, with Leeds a point further back ahead of their games on Saturday with all three clubs currently having four matches left.

    Managerless Argyle climbed to 16th on the back of their first home win in seven, under the caretaker management team of director of football Neil Dewsnip and first-team coach Kevin Nancekivell and now sit five points clear of the bottom three.

    It only took five minutes for Leicester to test home goalkeeper Michael Cooper as Abdul Fatawu’s thumping right-footed shot – following a flowing move – forcing him into a diving save low down to his left.

    Ricardo Pereira was next to test Cooper, following a defence-splitting one-two with Wilfred Ndidi. Again it was all diving Cooper could do to parry the ball away.

    Stephy Mavididi latched on to the aerial ball and headed it back across the goal, which resulted in a goalmouth scramble and Argyle eventually clearing the ball.

    Mavididi went close with a curling 13th-minute shot after being teed up by playmaker Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall on the edge of the box. The attacking midfielder’s shot beat Cooper for pace but flew just past the post.

    Totally against the run of play, Plymouth stunned their visitors with a 21st-minute goal on the counter.

    Adam Forshaw intercepted a Leicester attack and released recalled striker Bundu with a superb, measured pass through the middle of the park.

    Bundu sprinted forward and – as he got into the penalty box – let fly with a fierce angled drive from the right that beat diving Mads Hermansen and rocketed into the far corner.

    Harry Winks fired wide from 20 yards as Argyle failed to clear their lines following another City corner with the half-hour mark approaching.

    Argyle’s next best chance fell to Bundu, after good work by Forshaw and substitute Joe Edwards, but this time the striker fired high over.

    Cooper did well to save low at his near post as Dewsbury-Hall fired across the face of goal in the 44th minute from close range.

    Cooper was again called into action early in the second half as he made another save, while Dewsbury-Hall tried his luck from 25 yards moments later.

    Central defender Dan Scarr did well to stoop and head a pacy Fatawu cross from the right away at the near post as Leicester continued to press or an equaliser.

    Fatawu’s next cross from the right – after 56 minutes – found striker Patson Daka and his deft near-post touch beat Cooper but spun past the far upright.

    Daka’s last action was firing wide when well placed at the far post after 67 minutes. He was replaced by former England international striker Jamie Vardy.

    With just over 15 minutes remaining, Wout Faes’ cross from the right was smashed towards goal by Mavididi but again, Cooper was equal to the effort.

    Cooper made an even better stop, bravely diving in to deny Vardy as the Leicester striker broke into the box, one-on-one, in the 88th minute but the hosts held on for the much-needed victory.

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    Ange Postecoglou has no interest in following the lead of Newcastle and other clubs, which includes his own, of allowing the TV cameras inside the Tottenham dressing room to film a documentary.

    Spurs return to St James’ Park on Saturday for the first time since their 6-1 thrashing last April, which features in a recent docuseries about the north-east club.

    Episode three of the four-part series focuses on a match which proved the nadir of a sorry season for Tottenham and subsequently resulted in the appointment of Postecoglou in June.

    This documentary about Newcastle is the latest in a collection of sports series by Amazon Prime, which includes Spurs’ 2019-20 campaign where then-manager Jose Mourinho predictably proved a TV star, but the current coach in the hotseat has no such burning desire.

    “Nah, unless you want a cure for insomnia, mate. Put it on late at night and dream yourself away,” Postecoglou replied when asked if he would feature in a behind-the-lens documentary.

    “I’ve probably watched… I watched Sunderland ‘Til I Die, it was good.

    “(Not Tottenham) because I just think it becomes a bit manufactured. I’d be very surprised if you get a real sort of glance.

    “Look, who am I to say? I’m no movie critic. Maybe people like them, but not for me. I love documentaries, but nah.”

    The Newcastle documentary is not the only footage Postecoglou has no interest in viewing.

    He has also declined to watch back Tottenham’s five-goal humbling away to Eddie Howe’s team last season, which resulted in Spurs dismissing Cristian Stellini after he had stepped up on an interim basis to replace Antonio Conte, who left a month earlier.

    Postecoglou added: “I might have watched individual players in that game but I wouldn’t have watched the game as a reference point because it’s totally different.

    “It’s a different set of circumstances, different manager. I’m really reticent to judge and try to figure out what someone else thinks because I’m not in their shoes on a daily basis.

    “I have never used those kind of things and also, irrespective of what has happened in the past, I have more than likely been brought in to do something differently.

    “I watched all the players individually through the whole season to do my research on the players I was inheriting, but there wasn’t a lot for me to be gained from watching matches and trying to get some reference points as to how that’s going to affect what I am going to do.”

    Spurs travel to Newcastle in pole position to claim Champions League football after they leapfrogged Aston Villa last weekend to take control of the battle for fourth.

    Postecoglou has often cited the Magpies as an example of why qualifying for Europe’s elite competition is not a guarantee of long-term success, but was happy to talk up the potential of the Tottenham squad on Friday.

    “That’s the exciting thing for me with this group – we’ve got a real core and there’s still so much growth in them,” he explained.

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