Hellas Verona ignited the Serie A title race with a dramatic 2-1 win over champions Juventus on Saturday, scoring twice in the final 14 minutes after Cristiano Ronaldo had netted in a 10th successive league game.

Ronaldo had seemingly secured Juve a hard-fought win with his fine individual goal 25 minutes from time, but Verona – who certainly had their fair share of opportunities – levelled through Fabio Borini and then astonishingly completed the turnaround with a Giampaolo Pazzini penalty.

An action-packed first half brought a host of chances but no goals, as Marash Kumbulla had an early header disallowed and Juve hit crossbar and post respectively through Douglas Costa and the Ronaldo.

The second period was generally a cagier affair until Ronaldo claimed a club record in the 65th minute, taking his Serie A tally to 20 for the season, but Borini scored for only the second time this term and Pazzini converted from 12 yards to give Juve's title challengers Inter and Lazio a boost after Leonardo Bonucci handled.

A gripping start saw both sides go close early on, with Davide Faraoni forcing Wojciech Szczesny into an acrobatic stop before Costa's rasping drive hit the bar at the other end.

Kumbulla then had a marginal offside call deny him the opening goal in 21st minute, with a VAR review sparing Juve.

Despite Verona's undoubted threat, Juventus continued to worry them at the back – Ronaldo almost putting the Old Lady ahead three times in the nine minutes before half-time, including with a 20-yard effort that hit the right-hand post.

Ronaldo eventually broke the deadlock when he was played in over the top by Rodrigo Bentancur, the Portugal great holding off Amir Rrahmani before a stepover gained him just enough space to clinically pick out the bottom-left corner.

But Borini swept home an excellent finish to equalise 14 minutes from time, capitalising on Miralem Pjanic's error, and Pazzini emphatically made the most of a penalty late on – Bonucci penalised for deflecting Kumbulla's header on to the bar with his arm, and Juve failed to mount a response.

Cristiano Ronaldo set a new Juventus record by scoring in Saturday's Serie A clash with Hellas Verona.

Last week, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner became the first Juve player since David Trezeguet in 2005 to score in nine matches in a row in Italy's top flight.

Ronaldo, who turned 35 this week, has now made Bianconeri history by becoming their first player to find the net in 10 consecutive league games.

The Portugal star opened the scoring in Verona with a measured finish on the break to give Juve a 1-0 lead.

The forward now has 20 Serie A goals in 2019-20 and 23 in all competitions.

Giorgio Chiellini is close to making his Juventus return, head coach Maurizio Sarri has confirmed.

The 35-year-old had surgery in September on a ruptured cruciate ligament and was ruled out for six months.

Sarri hopes to have Chiellini ready to return as soon as the experienced centre-back feels physically comfortable, with Juve entering a potentially decisive part of the season in which they play five games in 16 days.

The Bianconeri head to Hellas Verona in Serie A on Saturday before two games next week, including a Coppa Italia clash with Milan on February 13. The first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Lyon is on February 26.

"He's proceeding as scheduled. Giorgio is alternating between individual and team training," Sarri said to reporters.

"The progress that he is making is very important. The most important thing right now is to listen to what he says to us. Clinically, he is totally healed. All that matters now is how he feels."

Sarri has no concerns about the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo, who turned 35 this week and struggled in the first part of the season with a knee problem.

"Cristiano was in excellent condition in today's training and has been ever since he got over his knee trouble," he said.

Sarri plans to give more playing time to Adrien Rabiot, who has started four Serie A games in 2020 after starting just five times in the league before the turn of the year.

However, he insists Blaise Matuidi will have an important role to play during the remainder of the season.

"Rabiot is improving a lot and is in a very good moment, so I've picked him rather than other midfielders, but we can't forget who Matuidi is and what strengths he has," said Sarri.

"In the long run, Matuidi is one of those players who is always useful. This is just one period; there are lots of games to play.

"But now, I honestly think we have to give this guy [Rabiot] some consistency. He's finding confidence and form. I think he can improve further. I think it's important now to let him play four or five games to find consistency."

Milan lack the personality required to play for the club when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is absent, according to Fabio Capello.

Ibrahimovic was ruled out of the Serie A meeting with Hellas Verona on Sunday due to illness and Milan were held to a 1-1 draw at San Siro.

Verona played the last 22 minutes with 10 men after Sofyan Amrabat was shown a red card following a VAR review of his lunge on Samu Castillejo, but the Rossoneri were unable to score a winner.

Capello - who won the Scudetto with the club as a player in 1979 and in the 1990s coached them to four league titles and Champions League success - feels Ibrahimovic is the only player with sufficient character for the club.

"He is an important player, the point of reference for the whole team. When he's there, two defenders are focused on him," he told Radio Anch'Io Sport.

"I saw a timid Milan again at San Siro. When Ibrahimovic is there instead, he does different things.

"But it's not [coach Stefano] Pioli's fault. The players go out with fear and this means they don't have the personality to play for Milan."

Juventus have a three-point lead over Inter at the summit as they seek to win Serie A for the ninth straight season.

Lazio are two points behind Inter, but Capello believes they lack the depth required to compete with Juve and Inter in the long term.

"Inter have added many players to the squad who do not make a difference like the two strikers, but who can help Conte keep things fresh until the end of the season," he said.

"Lazio don't have that. They are two teams that want to try to win and this is a very important thing. Juventus must be very careful."

Milan coach Stefano Pioli is hopeful the Maldini 'dynasty' will continue with Daniel after the 18-year-old made his first-team debut in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Hellas Verona.

The attacking midfielder emulated his father Paolo and grandfather Cesare in representing the Milan first team when replacing Samu Castillejo in stoppage time, though he has big boots to fill with respect to the legacy left behind by his relatives.

Cesare was a key player for Milan in the 1950s and 60s, later going on to manage them in two spells almost 30 years apart.

Paolo is widely regarded as the most important player in the club's history, starring for and captaining Milan during a trophy-laden era across the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s.

With 902 appearances for Milan, Paolo boasts the record for most matches at the club, while he now holds a crucial position on the board as technical director.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact Daniel has at San Siro but, after already succeeding where his brother Christian – who never played for the senior side – could not, Pioli is optimistic.

"I hope that the dynasty continues with Daniel," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"The boy has quality and talent. Talent alone is not enough, but he is working well. I hoped that maybe he could have found the right ball.

"I told him the position he had to hold – but I was not a good viewer!"

Milan coach Stefano Pioli applauded the "team spirit" shown by his players even though they only claimed a 1-1 draw at home to a Hellas Verona side that had a man sent off.

A lacklustre start contributed to Milan falling behind early on, with Marco Davide Faraoni converting from close range after a left-wing cross.

Hakan Calhanoglu's 29th-minute free-kick deflected in off Valerio Verre to restore parity, though Verona looked the more threatening in the initial stages of the second period.

That was until Sofyan Amrabat was shown a straight red for a high tackle on Samu Castillejo. Yet, although they piled the pressure on towards the end, Milan – who were without the ill Zlatan Ibrahimovic – had to settle for a point.

Pioli acknowledged it was frustrating, but he opted to focus on the team's attitude and the positives.

"We conceded six shots on goal and we were not very careful because they were all dangerous occasions," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"Verona attacked us so much. The regret is having not won after the equaliser and having not taken advantage of the numerical superiority.

"There was a lot of time to put things right, instead it seemed that there were five minutes left. We had some opportunities, and we could've won even in a moment of difficulty given the many absences.

"I believe that even now the team spirit has been seen and it is making a difference. We are building something, the next four games are important, so we are recovering energy and players to be able to make the right choices in view of the next matches."

Up next for Milan is the Derby della Madonnina against bitter rivals Inter and Pioli is hopeful Ibrahimovic will be back in contention, with their central striking options somewhat limited following the departure of Krzysztof Piatek.

"I hope he [Ibrahimovic] is available in the derby," Pioli said. "He suffered a little with fatigue and flu, but there is a good chance [he can face Inter]."

Milan failed to extend their recent resurgence with a fourth successive Serie A win as they slumped to a 1-1 draw at home against 10-man Hellas Verona.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing due to illness and Krzysztof Piatek sold to Hertha Berlin, Milan were short of options in attack and that was telling on Sunday, as they created significantly fewer clear-cut opportunities than Verona with Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao the pair leading the line.

Perhaps suffering from a hint of over-confidence after their recent form, Milan lacked lustre early on and fell behind to Marco Davide Faraoni's neat finish, though the Rossoneri did manage to recover to equalise through Hakan Calhanoglu's fortuitous free-kick.

Milan were second best for much of the second half and only remained on level terms due to the frame of the goal sparing Milan twice, and they were then unable to make the most of Sofyan Amrabat's dismissal, passing up the chance to go sixth.

Milan's desperation led to a first-team debut for Paolo Maldini's 18-year-old son Daniel, but the visitors dug deep and just about did enough to earn a draw, despite Samu Castillejo hitting the post in stoppage time.

Verona were rewarded for a purposeful start as they opened the scoring in the 13th minute – Faraoni turning in Mattia Zaccagni's teasing left-wing delivery after proving more alert than the Milan defence.

But they could only keep Milan at bay for another 16 minutes, as Calhanoglu's free-kick took a significant deflection off Valerio Verre and beat Marco Silvestri.

Milan should have got a second soon after, Rebic ultimately trying too much after a devastating counter-attack left the hosts with a one-man advantage on the edge of Verona's box.

Fortune smiled on Milan at the back just after the break, though, as Darko Lazovic floated an inviting cross in from the left and Matteo Pessina's glancing header struck the right-hand post.

The opposing upright came to Milan's rescue just past the hour – Zaccagni the one denied this time after goalmouth scramble.

Verona's chances took a massive hit 22 minutes from time as key midfielder Amrabat was shown a straight red card after a VAR review for a high challenge on Castillejo.

 

What does it mean? Milan short in attack

It is fair to say that Milan's January transfer dealings have raised a few eyebrows. The departure of Piatek leaves them with a single natural striker in Ibrahimovic – who is 38 years old – and they were hardly blessed with creative options on the bench after seeing Suso leave as well.

They were lucky to come out of this with a point in the end, with Rebic and Leao often struggling to impose themselves in central positions.

Castillejo continues to improve

In recent weeks, the former Villarreal winger has showed glimpses of the form that had him so highly rated in LaLiga. On Sunday he was a creative force, laying on a match-high five key passes. They may have failed to get the three points, but he cannot be accused of not trying to inspire Milan.

Amrabat almost costs Verona

If there was one player Verona would have wanted on the pitch for the entire game, it would have been Amrabat. Until his sending-off, the Fiorentina-bound midfielder was everywhere, but a moment of recklessness left the visitors hanging on towards the end.

What's next?

There is the small matter of the Derby della Madonnina in a week's time for Milan, as they face bitter rivals Inter. Verona go to high-flying Lazio on Wednesday, with Simone Inzaghi's men aiming to go second.

Milan are set to be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they face Hellas Verona on Sunday, Stefano Pioli has confirmed.

Ibrahimovic's return to San Siro has coincided with a marked upturn in form from Milan, who have won five of their past six matches in all competitions.

But the 38-year-old – who has scored two goals since his move to Milan, including one in extra-time in the 4-2 Coppa Italia win over Torino last time out – is unlikely to feature in Sunday's encounter after coming down with an illness.

"Over the last two-three days, Ibrahimovic and [Simon] Kjaer have been suffering from flu and I doubt we're going to be able to call them up," Pioli told a news conference.

"There are muscular problems for [Rade] Krunic too, so yes, we have more than a few problems.

"Hellas Verona are in good shape, doing great work this season and will arrive at San Siro very determined. They run hard and it has been a difficult week for us."

Ibrahimovic's absence means Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic are Milan's forward options, with the club having sold Krzysztof Piatek to Hertha Berlin late in the January transfer window.

Milan did not get a deal for Wigan Athletic defender Antonee Robinson over the line but recalled Diego Laxalt to fill the void left by Ricardo Rodriguez, who departed on loan to PSV.

Suso also left for Sevilla, with Alexis Saelemaekers joining Milan on Friday to add to the signings of Ibrahimovic, Kjaer and Asmir Begovic.

"We brought in players of quality and experience, but also interesting young prospects," Pioli said of Milan's business. 

"Whoever plays instead of Ibrahimovic, he will do well, and it's not the system that decides victory.

"We've turned a corner lately because the team understood that only with the spirit of sacrifice can we achieve a win. It was a good January, but that is behind us now and we have new important games to play."

Manchester United left it very, very late, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was given the extra striker he wanted in the form of Odion Ighalo.

With a move for Bournemouth's Joshua King dead in the water, the Red Devils focused their efforts on a loan deal for the 30-year-old, who has been playing for Shanghai Shenhua since last February.

Ighalo's deal, which Omnisport understands does not include a purchase option, will give Solskjaer another option up front during the injury absence of Marcus Rashford.

He is expected to travel to England in the coming days before United publicly announce the signing.

Ighalo was far from the only major deal to be concluded late in the transfer window, though, as West Ham just managed to finalise the signing of Jarrod Bowen from Hull City for a reported initial fee of £22million.

Aston Villa also announced a new striker signing about 10 minutes before the window closed, Borja Baston joining on a free transfer from Swansea City.

Elsewhere in England, Tariq Lamptey took the decision to leave Chelsea and sign for Brighton and Hove Albion on a contract until 2023. The Seagulls have also brought back Alexis Mac Allister from Boca Juniors, where he was on loan.


LOANS GALORE

Sheffield United had a busy end to the window, securing the arrival of Panos Retsos - initially on loan but with the option of a permanent deal - from Bayer Leverkusen, while Ravel Morrison has been sent on loan to Middlesbrough, having made one Premier League appearance this season.

Leicester City have loaned Ryan Bennett from Wolves, with Filip Benkovic allowed to leave for Bristol City for the remainder of the campaign with a view to earning regular game time.

Everton have sent Jonas Lossl back to Huddersfield Town on loan, while Connor Wickham is also heading to the Championship, the Crystal Palace striker moving to Sheffield Wednesday on loan.

Wolves have secured the signing of Luke Matheson, who famously scored at Old Trafford in September as a 16-year-old, and loaned him back to Rochdale for the remainder of the season.

Leverkusen have also brought in a signing for the future, with Edmond Tapsoba arriving from Vitoria SC for a fee said to be between €16m and €18m.
 

SERIE A FLURRY

Italy's window closed a little earlier than some others and there was a flurry of deals around the deadline.

Marko Pjaca will get the chance to kick-start his career with Anderlecht, Juventus having allowed the winger to leave on loan for the remainder of the season as he looks to earn regular first-team football.

Milan have signed Alexis Saelemaekers, a highly rated 20-year-old from Anderlecht who arrives on loan with the option of a permanent move.

Fiorentina have had a busy end to the window. Kevin Agudelo has joined the Viola from Genoa on an 18-month loan deal, while Valentin Eysseric has been sent to Hellas Verona until June.

Maya Yoshida secured a switch to Sampdoria from Southampton, while Gaston Pereiro's move from PSV to Cagliari was ratified. He will be joined in Sardinia by Alberto Paloschi, with Alberto Cerri heading the other way to SPAL.

Gervinho, meanwhile, has taken another step in his nomadic career by moving to Al Sadd from Parma, who brought in Vasco Regini on loan from Samp.
 

BUSY BARCA

Barcelona will give new €10m signing Matheus Fernandes for time to acclimatise to LaLiga, spending the rest of 2019-20 with Real Valladolid.

Barca have also sent Moussa Wague on loan to Nice, who have the option of a €10m permanent deal, while Ligue 1 rivals Lyon have signed Camilo Reijers de Oliveira for €2m.

Kevin-Prince Boateng was a shock signing for Barca 12 months ago and the experienced forward is on the move again, this time heading to Besiktas on loan from Fiorentina.

Leganes bolstered their attacking depth with two loan deals, bringing in Roger Assale from Young Boys and former player Miguel Angel Guerrero from Olympiacos.

Getafe have landed Erick Cabaco on a permanent deal, the defender joining from Levante, Granada have signed Gil Dias on loan from Monaco, and Real Sociedad have sold Ruben Pardo to Bordeaux.

Celta Vigo, meanwhile, have loaned Emre Mor to Olympiacos, while a late, late deal that saw Nicolas Gaitan sign for Lille for the rest of the season was completed in time.

Kick-off for the Serie A clash between Hellas Verona and Genoa was delayed by 15 minutes because the lines to mark the penalty areas were not straight.

The teams were made to wait to get the game under way at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on Sunday while the lines were re-painted by groundstaff.

Originally scheduled to start at 18:00 local time (17:00 GMT), kick-off was pushed back to 18:15. 

Verona went into the game 13th in Serie A, eight points clear of the relegation zone and 18th-placed Genoa.

Italian police have handed a five-year ban from sports events to a supporter who racially abused Mario Balotelli in Brescia's match at Hellas Verona.

The fan has not been named, with Italian media describing him as a 38-year-old from the city of Agrigento.

Widespread reports in Italy said the police commissioner of Verona, Ivana Petricca, imposed the ban after an investigation into the events of November 3, when Balotelli reported hearing monkey chants.

Italy international Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch in the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi, where he scored a late consolation goal for his team.

The abuse led to Serie A ordering a one-match partial stadium closure for Hellas Verona, while the club handed their head ultra an 11-year ban for defending the discriminatory chants.

Italian news agency ANSA said video footage and testimonies from those at the game led to the identification of the supporter, whose ban will apply to all sport events in Italy and within the European Union.

The man will be barred from parts of the city of Verona on football match days, ANSA said.

Roberto Mancini will not recall Mario Balotelli to the Italy squad just to make an anti-racism statement but is adamant the Brescia striker is still young enough to make an impact for the Azzurri.

Balotelli, 29, was subjected to racist abuse by Hellas Verona fans in a 2-1 defeat this month and threatened to walk off the pitch.

Verona were ordered by Serie A to play a match with a partial stadium closure, while the club banned head ultra Luca Castellini for 11 years after he defended the fans' actions in a radio interview.

Balotelli returned to the Italy fold in 2018 after a four-year absence but has been back in the international wilderness since a 1-1 draw with Poland last September.

Mancini, the coach who gave him his big break at Inter in 2007, insists he is eager to see Balotelli play his way back into the squad, but he will not call up the forward for anything other than his performances.

"Football is a sport and as such it must unite people and not get destroyed by those few who make mistakes," Mancini told reporters.

"I love Mario. I played him when he was a teenager. He is still young enough to give much to the sport, but for me it is important to state that if I am to call him up, it's because he deserves it and can help us.

"Then, after what happened, I could have called him up, as the [Italian Football Federation] president [Gabriele Gravina] said, but I think it's important I call him when he technically deserves it, not to send a message. He still has other chances.

"We are nearly in 2020 and skin colour... It is not very easy for some people to change their attitude, unfortunately.

"We called up some young players [instead] because from now until March we will not have the chance to see them live [for Italy]."

Italy are due to face Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia in their final two Euro 2020 qualifiers on Friday and the following Monday, respectively.

The Azzurri are already assured of a place at next year's tournament.

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta insisted head coach Antonio Conte and the club "share common objectives" as the Nerazzurri look to strengthen their squad in January.

Conte hit out at Inter's management over his squad following Tuesday's 3-2 Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund, accusing the Serie A side of failing to plan sufficiently for the season ahead.

Inter signed club-record recruit Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Diego Godin and Valentino Lazaro for the 2019-20 campaign, but Conte wanted more in his bid to overhaul Serie A champions Juventus.

Barcelona pair Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal have both been linked to Inter, as well as out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic.

Asked about Conte and his relationship with Inter prior to Saturday's 2-1 Serie A win over Hellas Verona, Marotta – who worked alongside the Italian boss at Juve – told Sky Sport Italia: "I know Antonio very well, he is very severe and demanding. His culture of victory is very strong and he has his own special way of communicating.

"We share the desire to seek excellence and victory. That is going to be a gradual process, so we are aligned with the desire to improve the squad in the January transfer window, where we'll look at every opportunity. We agree with Conte's requests for a strengthening of mentality and are all on the same page."

Marotta added: "Experience tells me the January transfer market tends to be fairly quiet. We agree with our coach that we'll see what opportunities there are.

"We have a strong club, an excellent coach and he is very transparent when dealing with everyone. We share common objectives.

"We are looking for a player with experience, but not at the end of his career. We want to create a good mix of experience and youth. What we lack somewhat at the moment is many players with Champions League experience, so we want to keep raising the bar, making this a more competitive side with players who fit the profiles that the coach is looking for.

"To be honest, I did not expect to be just one point off Juventus at this stage of the season. We aim to raise the bar constantly, that is the desire of the club, the coach, the players and the fans."

Inter bounced back from their Champions League collapse by rallying past Verona at San Siro, where Conte's team emerged triumphant thanks to Barella's stunning 83rd-minute winner.

Matias Vecino had cancelled out Valerio Verre's 19th-minute penalty before Barella produced a moment of magic in Milan to move Inter two points clear of Juve – who are due to face AC Milan on Sunday.

"Look, to be honest after four months we must be proud looking at the table," Conte told reporters. "All we, players, staff, all who works for Inter must be.

"31 points after 12 matches are important. But, the guys have been great, even in the Champions League. We proved we are able to look in the eyes of important teams like Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. We have to make many steps more to improve our experience. We worked a lot in these four months."

Antonio Conte lauded his side's response to the midweek Champions League defeat at Borussia Dortmund as they came from behind to beat Hellas Verona 2-1 on Saturday.

A penalty from Valerio Verre gave the visitors a surprise lead at San Siro but Inter stormed back in the second period thanks to Matias Vecino's header and a stunning strike from Nicolo Barella.

The win moves Inter to the Serie A summit and Conte was delighted with his players' response so soon after the disappointment of throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 in Germany.

"I saw an important response to the game in Dortmund, despite the fact we went behind and faced an uphill struggle against a team that man-marks," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"It was a great situation for them as they could defend and counter. We did very, very well not to lose our patience, to keep faith and not lose our heads. We rebelled against the result and the situation.

"The team are doing something important, as 31 points from 12 games is a good tally to have in our pockets. I thank the players, as once again they threw themselves into this and overcame every obstacle.

"The disappointment in Dortmund was very painful as we had the game in hand, but that is part of the maturation process and this response was what I wanted to see.

"After Dortmund, going down here could've killed us, but we fought back and must continue like this. Our fans also pushed us on to the end as they could tell we wanted to win it at all costs."

Barella whipped home a wonderful strike from 25 yards seven minutes from time to seal all three points, the midfielder describing it as the best goal of his career.

"It was a pretty difficult first half as Verona play good football, have intensity and caused us problems," he said.

"After the break, our intensity emerged over time and we deserved the victory. We are all giving our best and are highly motivated so that's the most important thing.

"It has been a tough time for all of us with so many games in a row, but that's why we trained so hard over the summer, to be ready for this.

"I think it was the best goal of my career!"

Juventus can leapfrog Inter back to the top of Serie A if they overcome AC Milan at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

Nicolo Barella scored a wonderful winner with seven minutes left as Inter came from behind to defeat Hellas Verona 2-1 and move top of Serie A.

Valerio Verre scored a 19th-minute penalty, his first Verona goal, to give the visitors a surprise lead at San Siro.

Inter piled on the pressure but could not find a breakthrough until Matias Vecino headed in to score for the second straight game with 25 minutes remaining.

And just as it looked like Verona would come away with a point, Barella produced a moment of magic.

The victory moved Inter two points clear of champions Juventus, who will attempt to respond when they host AC Milan in their game in hand on Sunday.

Page 4 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.