Milan 1-0 Fiorentina: Late Rafael Leao strike edges Rossoneri closer to Scudetto glory

By Sports Desk May 01, 2022

Milan moved closer to a first Serie A title triumph in 11 years thanks to a late strike from Rafael Leao in Sunday's 1-0 home win over Fiorentina.

Inter's shock 2-1 loss to Bologna in midweek handed the Scudetto initiative to Milan and the Rossoneri just about took full advantage with this third league victory in a row.

The visitors had lost three games in a row in all competitions but frustrated their table-topping opponents until Leao made the most of an error to fire in an 82nd-minute winner.

That strike was enough as Milan moved five points clear of Inter, who travel to Udinese later on Sunday. Should it come to it, the Rossoneri boast the better head-to-head record.

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  • Inter bolster midfield ranks with Asllani from Empoli Inter bolster midfield ranks with Asllani from Empoli

    Inter have completed the signing of Kristjan Asllani on loan from Empoli with an obligation to buy.

    The 20-year-old has signed a contract until June 2027 and will cost Inter €14million, with €4m of that identified as the fee for the initial loan.

    A central midfielder, Asllani came through Empoli's youth system and enjoyed a breakout season in 2021-22, featuring 23 times in Serie A as the Tuscans comfortably avoided relegation.

    He scored his only goal of the season in a 4-2 defeat to Inter on May 6.

    While the youngster is unlikely to be a regular starter initially – rather a back-up to Marcelo Brozovic – he will bolster Inter's midfield following the departure of Matias Vecino and expected exit of Stefano Sensi.

    Asllani was present at the club on Wednesday, when Romelu Lukaku completed his loan return from Chelsea, and the Belgium striker was central to a slightly bizarre announcement video.

    Speaking to club owner Steven Zhang in the clip, Lukaku said: "I spoke to this guy, the new guy, Asllani... I like his mentality. You'll be surprised. He's only 20, but he speaks like a 27-year-old."

    As part of the deal, promising Uruguayan striker Martin Satriano is expected to join Empoli on loan for the upcoming season.

  • Eddie Jones has respect of England players but must start delivering results, says Gregan Eddie Jones has respect of England players but must start delivering results, says Gregan

    Eddie Jones has the respect of England's players but must deliver results if he is to lift pressure from his shoulders ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup, according to former Australia captain George Gregan.

    Experienced coach Jones had his future called into question on the back of another poor Six Nations campaign for England, who finished a distant third behind Ireland and champions France with two wins from five matches.

    Jones is under contract until after the 2023 World Cup and has been given the support of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), although performance director Conor O'Shea confirmed in March the search is under way for the 62-year-old's long-term successor.

    Former Australia boss Jones has repeatedly stated that peaking in time for next year's showpiece in France is his big aim, with his side's three-Test series Down Under – their first summer tour in four years – providing an opportunity to further experiment.

    While Gregan can understand the questions being asked of Jones, the retired scrum-half – who played under Jones for Australia and the Brumbies – understands supporters want to see signs of progress now.

    "I think pressure is always there with a head coach," said Gregan, ahead of Saturday's first Test in Perth. "I'm not going to speak on his behalf, but he knows that as a head coach it's all results driven in professional sport.

    "If you're not getting the results, and particularly if you're not getting consistent Ws [wins], then it does come around: 'Why is the team not performing?' That was definitely the case with Six Nations where there's patches of really good performances.

    "But then obviously some things also which can get taken out of your hands, which is decision-making, you lose plays in the bin, all that kind of stuff. But that's rugby. And so how do you adapt? And how do you adjust? But they're all good experiences and learning experiences.

    "I know there was no Jonny May, there was no Owen Farrell, there's a lot of players missing in that Six Nations campaign, they'll probably take part in this coming tour. And then he's built a nice squad."

    Gregan is supporting The Open Championship Claret Jug Tour, partnered with HSBC UK, and he added: "I think you've always got your eyes a little bit ahead for the World Cup. And that's definitely the case for someone like Eddie and all coaches, but it's also the here and now, and they'll be looking to really improve and try not to drop out of games. I think every good team wants to do that."

     

    England may have struggled for consistent form, but they have won their last eight Tests against Australia since October 2015, conceding an average of just 14 points per game across the last four of those matches.

    Jones is undefeated against his country of birth during his near-seven-year England tenure, meanwhile, and famously oversaw a series whitewash in 2016.

    Gregan believes the England boss will have the full backing of his dressing room.

    "Eddie is a real players' coach. He's really driven to create the best environment for his players to perform," Gregan said. "He's the hardest marker on the team's performance on himself. I think you see that a lot.

    "He'll deflect to the team when it's doing well, and he’ll take ownership when it's not doing well. That's a classic head coach, and he's never wavered from that. And I think that's why the players really respect him.

    "He's hard, he's very consistent in terms of his messaging. He's very clear on what he wants the team to do. But he also empowers the playing group to try and do that. And that's the coach's coach.

    "And ultimately, I think from my experiences with Eddie, he really wants the players to be sort of taking the reins on the field and making sure they're really comfortable making decisions to provide support.

    "But as you know, coaches are sort of in the grandstand, there's only a limited amount that they can do once the players are on the pitch. I think that's what he tries to do, and all good head coaches try to encourage those leaders and the players on the field to make good decisions, which hopefully put you on the right side of the ledger."

    Australia have lost three straight Tests heading into their first fixture with England this weekend, two of those by a margin of no more than two points – the last time they lost more successive games was a four-game stretch from June to August in 2018.

    However, the Wallabies have won their last four matches on home turf, and four of their past seven when hosting European opposition, which Gregan believes will make for an entertaining series.

    "England playing Australia in any sport is always exciting – particularly rugby," Gregan said. "Obviously there's that little touch with Eddie being a former Wallabies coach and obviously Australian. And he's had a great record against the Wallabies since he's taken over the helm in English rugby.

    "It's gonna be a fantastic series, Dave Rennie, the Wallaby coaching staff and the playing group will be really targeting the series as something, which is another step in the right direction for being consistent and beating some of the top international teams.

    "Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, on the bounce. So, three big Test matches over three consecutive weeks. And I think both teams, stating the obvious, will want to get off to a pretty hot start in Perth, because it's always good to be one up in those types of series."


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  • Wimbledon: Brilliant Boulter breaks new ground with Pliskova upset Wimbledon: Brilliant Boulter breaks new ground with Pliskova upset

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    Boulter has been blighted by injuries but broke new ground in her home major with a 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 defeat of the sixth seed on Centre Court.

    The 25-year-old beat Pliskova on the grass at Eastbourne last week and got the better of the Czech once again, hitting 25 winners and breaking the former world number one four times.

    Boulter, ranked 118th in the world, dedicated a huge victory to her grandmother, who passed away on Tuesday.

    She will face Frenchwoman Harmony Tan, conqueror of Serena Williams, for a place in round four at the All England Club.

    Boulter became only the sixth female British wildcard to progress beyond the second round of the grass-court major at SW19.

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