Head coach Simone Inzaghi warned Inter not to rest on their laurels after continuing their impressive form with victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Nerazzurri moved to the brink of qualification for the Champions League last 16 as Edin Dzeko scored both goals in a 2-0 win at San Siro.

After making it two wins from two following the hard-earned 3-2 victory over Napoli on Sunday, the reigning Serie A champions are now unbeaten in their last eight matches in all competitions.

And Inzaghi urged his players to ensure they continue their momentum.

"We needed this victory," he said. "We had created a lot in the first half and a bit of tension had built up, so Dzeko's first goal was a release. 

"Qualifying for the knockout stage would be a great achievement.

"I think that we played a great game and let's not forget that we are just over 48 hours away from a match [against Venezia on Saturday] like the one with Napoli in which we have spent a lot of energy, including mental energy. 

"We are in a good moment, but we must continue on this path."

Dzeko's brace secured the points on Wednesday, the striker netting his 50th European goal along the way.

Inter previously had two goals disallowed with Ivan Perisic and Lautaro Martinez denied, but Dzeko believes the hosts were rewarded for their patience and perseverance.

"Inter signed me to score goals and I'm trying to make my contribution," the former Manchester City forward added.

"In the first half, we made a lot of mistakes, but their goalkeeper was also good. 

"We earned three crucial points.

"The ball did not want to go in in the first half, but also the second half seemed cursed with the goals disallowed.

"You have to be patient, without conceding a goal, and then in the second half, we finally managed to score two."

Edin Dzeko scored his 50th European goal as Inter took a huge stride towards the Champions League knockout stages with a 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk.

The former Manchester City striker netted a brace at San Siro as the Nerazzurri moved to the brink of the last 16.

Dzeko opened the scoring with a clinical finish in the 61st minute, before sealing the win six minutes later with a close-range header.

Simone Inzaghi's side move to the summit of Group D and will secure a top-two finish if Real Madrid beat Sheriff Tiraspol later on Wednesday.

Inter asked Shakhtar plenty of questions during the first half with 14 shots on goal.

The visitors had Anatolii Trubin to thank as the goalkeeper made strong blocks to deny Lautaro Martinez and Dzeko, while Andrea Ranocchia headed a decent opportunity wide from a corner.

Inter thought they had taken the lead when Ivan Perisic drilled home in the 24th minute, but the effort was ruled out after Hakan Calhanoglu strayed offside.

Chances for Shakhtar were few and far between at the other end, although Samir Handanovic was called into action to deny Fernando following a strong run.

Inter had the ball in the net again 12 minutes after the restart, Martinez volleying past Trubin, only for his strike to be ruled out for a push.

But there was no denying the hosts four minutes later as Dzeko fired home from just inside the box after Matteo Darmian's initial effort ricocheted kindly into his path.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina international doubled his tally within six minutes, popping up at the far post to head home Perisic's inviting cross and secure the points.

As a goalkeeper, Donjae Jackson of St George’s College has often been called on to soar through the air to pull off a spectacular save. It comes as no surprise then that he wants to become a pilot.

Bayern Munich confirmed on Wednesday that Joshua Kimmich has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Germany star, who has stated he is unwilling to receive a coronavirus vaccine until more is known about possible long-term effects, missed Bayern's matches against Augsburg and Dynamo Kiev after being deemed a close contact of someone with the virus.

"Joshua Kimmich is self-isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19. The FC Bayern midfielder is doing well," the Bundesliga champions said in a short statement.

The club previously announced forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting had also returned a positive test and could continue isolating at home.

The 32-year-old had already quarantined along with Kimmich, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala and Michael Cuisance amid concerns about possible infection.

It was reported by Bild last week that any Bayern players who were forced to isolate having not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 would have their pay withheld for the duration of their absence from first-team duties.

Head coach Julian Nagelsmann had insisted he did not fear any such measures could cause friction within the squad.

Germany boss Hansi Flick told reporters he expected Kimmich to receive his vaccine when possible and defended the player from criticism.

"I think that it is going in this direction. We talked and I think it was a very good conversation. Now we have to wait and see," he said when asked if Kimmich would get the jab.

"Jo Kimmich is not to blame for the high number of infections. I don't think it's good that he is being pilloried in this way. It's not that easy for young people to deal with something like that."

Germany has recently seen a spike in coronavirus infections, with nearly 67,000 recorded on Wednesday, a record daily figure since the start of the pandemic.

The return of restrictions to halt the spread of the virus have been considered, while public spaces in some states have already introduced rules limiting access only to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus.

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta remains optimistic Marcelo Brozovic will follow Nicolo Barella and Lautaro Martinez by signing a new deal with the Serie A champions.

Brozovic is due to be out of contract at the end of the season and has been touted as a target for the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Newcastle United.

The Croatia midfielder, who has spent nearly seven years at San Siro, is able to discuss a pre-contract arrangement with clubs from January if not tied down by Inter beforehand.

According to reports from Italy, Inter directors Marotta, Piero Ausilio and Dario Baccin met with Brozovic's representatives last week.

After recently tying down Barella and Martinez to new deals, Inter boss Simone Inzaghi last week urged the club to do likewise with Brozovic.

And speaking ahead of Inter's Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, Marotta reiterated he is hopeful an arrangement can be agreed.

"We are aware that we are offering the right ingredients for him, ones that cannot easily be found at other clubs," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia. 

"I am optimistic about the renewal. We did Barella and Lautaro and I think we will continue with the others as well."

Brozovic featured in 33 of Inter's 38 games en route to Scudetto success last season and has started all 13 Serie A games this campaign.

He leads the way among Inter players in the league in 2021-22 for passes (806) and successful passes (741), while only Barella (18) has won more tackles than Brozovic's 11. 

Switzerland kept their word and thanked Northern Ireland for helping them to reach the World Cup – by sending the team chocolate.

In one of the sweeter football stories of the week, Switzerland posted a video to social media on Wednesday showing head coach Murat Yakin boxing up some confectionery treats to send to Belfast.

It was their way of showing their gratitude for Northern Ireland's goalless draw with Italy in the final round of European World Cup qualifying group games, a result that, combined with Switzerland's 4-0 win over Bulgaria, saw Yakin's men seal their place at Qatar 2022.

Ian Baraclough's side are to receive 9.3 kilograms of Swiss chocolate in recognition of preventing the European champions from scoring for 93 minutes.

Switzerland had previously promised a gift after initially paying tribute in their post-match celebrations at the team hotel in Lucerne, where they sung Sweet Caroline, the 1969 Neil Diamond hit that has become a staple song at Northern Ireland matches.

The Euro 2020 quarter-finalists drew 1-1 with Italy in their penultimate qualifier, in which Jorginho missed a 90th-minute penalty for the Azzurri. That result ensured they were able to finish two points clear at the top of Group C after the final round of games.

Italy, meanwhile, must now contend the play-offs alongside teams including Portugal, Sweden, Wales and Russia. The draw for the semi-finals takes place on Friday.

Toronto FC have appointed Bob Bradley as head coach and sporting director.

The former United States coach left his role as Los Angeles FC boss last week and has not had long to wait for his next challenge.

Toronto announced on Tuesday that Javier Perez would not be staying on as head coach and they have wasted no time in replacing him.

Perez departed after the club finished second-bottom of the Eastern Conference, with only six wins from 34 matches.

Toronto FC president Bill Manning said: "We are excited for Bob to get to work. We are entering an extremely important off-season and know we have a team that needs a significant makeover.

"Bob has experience putting teams together and in getting them to perform at a high level. He understands the expectations and standards of TFC and is ready to take on this challenge."

A spell in Canada will see Bradley, whose son Michael is captain of Toronto, work in a sixth country.

The three-time MLS Coach of the Year spent four years in charge of LAFC, leading them to top spot in the Western Conference in their second season following their introduction to the competition in 2018.

Bradley helped LAFC reach the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League final, where they were beaten 2-1 by Mexican side Tigres UANL.

Bayern Munich forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has tested positive for coronavirus.

Choupo-Moting had already been self-isolating, along with team-mates Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich, Jamal Musiala and Michael Cuisance, after coming into contact with a person who had contracted the respiratory illness.

Bundesliga leaders Bayern confirmed on their official website on Wednesday that the 32-year-old has also now tested positive and will continue to quarantine.

"Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has tested positive for COVID-19," the statement read. 

"The FC Bayern forward is self-isolating at home in accordance with the relevant health authorities and doing well under the circumstances."

German media outlet Bild reported last week that Bayern have told players they will have their pay withheld for time missed in quarantine if they have not been fully vaccinated.

Choupo-Moting, who has made 11 of his 12 appearances for the German champions this season from the bench, is reported to be among those yet to receive both doses.

However, speaking on Monday, head coach Julian Nagelsmann insisted he does not see the issue of players potentially going unpaid causing any friction in the camp.

"It's always a group's distinction that you don't always agree," he said.

"In a functioning team, however, everyone has to be there for everyone. I don't think it will break the team, we have to grow from it. 

"By not vaccinating, they are more likely to fail. But we have to be there for each other, we should grow from that.

"You often have conversations, if the person is positive, you have to be in quarantine as an unvaccinated person.

"The players are doing fine though, they are being tested. Josh could return earlier than the others because he was quarantined earlier."

In better news for Bayern, Niklas Sule and Josip Stanisic returned to individual training on Wednesday after completing their own periods of self-isolation.

Dayot Upamecano also took part in training a day on from missing Bayern's 2-1 Champions League win at Dynamo Kiev that clinched top spot in Group E.

Karim Benzema will not be excluded from France selection despite being handed a one-year suspended prison sentence on Wednesday, French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet has said.

Real Madrid striker Benzema was also fined €75,000 after being found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former Les Blues team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema, who has always denied the accusations and was not present in court in Versailles when the verdict was given, intends to appeal the decision.

The case dates back to June 2015 when Benzema is said to have put pressure on Valbuena to pay off blackmailers in order to keep a sexually explicit tape out of the public eye.

Benzema and Valbuena, who now plays for Greek side Olympiacos, were both dropped from the France national team in the wake of the scandal.

However, Benzema was recalled earlier this year ahead of the rescheduled Euro 2020 – ending a six-year absence – and has been a regular for Didier Deschamps' side ever since.

The 33-year-old will continue to remain available for Les Blues when the national team reconvenes for their next batch of fixtures in March 2022.

"I don't know what Karim and his lawyers will decide, but as far as the Federation is concerned, there is no change," La Graet said, as quoted by L'Equipe. 

"He remains selectable, while regretting this unfortunate record. He did not play for several years with the France team. This sanction does not change anything for me. 

"He is selectable. Even if he does not appeal, for me, that does not change anything. He has the right to work." 

Benzema is part of Real Madrid's squad for Wednesday's Champions League tie with Sheriff.

Karim Benzema has been handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and fined €75,000 after being found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena.

The Real Madrid and France striker was one of five people standing trial over the attempt to extort former international team-mate Valbuena in a case dating back to June 2015.

He has always denied the accusations and one of his lawyers, Antoine Vey, expressed shock after Wednesday's verdict, before confirming that an appeal will be lodged.

Benzema was not present at court in Versailles as he prepares for Real Madrid's Champions League clash with Sheriff later on Wednesday.

Valbuena, who now plays for Greek side Olympiacos, was also not in attendance.

Benzema had been accused of helping the four other men blackmail Valbuena over an intimate video that had been taken from Valbuena's mobile phone.

The other four defendants were also found guilty. Axel Angot received two years in prison, Mustapha Zouaoui two years and six months in prison, Karim Zenati fifteen months in prison and Younes Houass and eighteen months suspended sentence.

Emerging Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic has a long list of admirers.

The 21-year-old netted 21 Serie A goals last season.

Vlahovic scored a double in Fiorentina's 4-3 win over Milan last weekend too.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE STILL KEEN ON VLAHOVIC

Cashed-up Newcastle United will still pursue hot property forward Dusan Vlahovic despite Fiorentina's €80million (£67m) asking price according to Corriere Fiorentina.

The bottom-of-the-table Premier League club are determined to land the Serbian who has also attracted interest from Juventus.

Juventus want Vlahovic in January and are still front-runners to land the 21-year-old, who has already netted 12 goals this term.

 ROUND-UP

- Sky Germany reports that Borussia Dortmund are preparing a new contract offer for Erling Haaland to keep him at the club, amid interest from Real Madrid, BarcelonaChelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

- Barcelona are considering moves for either of Chelsea pair Timo Werner or Hakim Ziyech as an alternative to Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling claims ESPN.

- Liverpool, Leicester City and Newcastle are all monitoring Olympiacos' 20-year-old midfielder Aguibou Camara reports The Sun.

- Milan have entered the pursuit to sign Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette claims Calciomercato. Atletico MadridBarcelona and Newcastle are all interested.

Real Salt Lake produced a major upset to knock out Seattle Sounders on penalties and secure their spot in the MLS Cup Western Conference semi-finals.

The Sounders, who led the Western Conference for long periods of the season and let top spot slip on the final day, went down 6-5 on penalties after a goalless draw where RSL did not have a shot on goal across 120 minutes on Tuesday.

RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa was the hero, denying Kelyn Rowe with the first spotkick in sudden death, before Justen Glad's effort went in off the post to clinch their progress to a Western Conference semi-final against Sporting Kansas City.

Seattle appeared on their way to victory in the shootout when Stefan Frei saved from the second kick from Pablo Ruiz but it was re-taken, and converted, due to the goalkeeper coming off his line prematurely.

The Sounders had come closest to scoring during regulation time, with Raul Ruidiaz's second-half effort hitting the crossbar.

Hany Mukhtar's double earned second-year franchise Nashville a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Orlando City in their MLS Cup first round clash.

US international Daryl Dike had headed Orlando into a 14th-minute lead, but Nashville equalised seven minutes later via Mukhtar's deflected strike from just outside the box.

Mukhtar put Nashville ahead in the 74th minute after a spectacular run into the box before unleashing a low left-foot shot which beat Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

Jhonder Cadiz added another deep into stoppage time to seal Nashville's passage into the Eastern Conference semi-finals where they will face Philadelphia Union.

Jamaica international Andre Blake has finished runner in the voting for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year an award he previously won twice.

Blake finished behind Matt Turner of the New England Revolution who helped the team to its first-ever Supporters’ Shield with a new single-season points record.

Turner secured a total of 43.60 percent of the vote, followed by the Jamaican shot-stopper who claimed 10.43.  Blake has posted another solid season for the Philadelphia Union getting a total of 13 clean sheets and a save success ratio of 76 percent.  Blake previously won the award in 2016 and last year when he finished ahead of Turner.

Turner set a new Revs franchise record with 17 regular season wins, which tied him for the overall MLS lead. The goalkeeper’s 1.25 goals-against average and 74.2 save percentage both ranked in the top-10 among goalkeepers with at least 24 starts, and his two penalty kick saves were the second-most in the league.

The votes are placed by MLS club technical staff, media, and current MLS players.

Kingston Technical produced another impressive performance to remain at the top of group A as Manning Cup action continued today.

Goals from Worrell Nelson in the 2nd minute, Beeko Smythe in the 21st minute, and Tadane Williams in the 63rd minute propelled them to a 3-1 win over former champions, St. Georges College, in the first match of a doubleheader at Stadium East.

Lamonth Rochester got the goal for St. Georges College in the 11th minute.

Kingston Technical head coach, Shaun Charlton, pointed to his team’s discipline as a reason they were able to get the job done.

“We have discipline within the team and persons who want to show Jamaica, and by extension abroad, that there is talent in the inner city,” he said.

The second game of the doubleheader saw Kingston High beat Calabar 1-0 to register their first win of the season.

Bridgeport beat Charlie Smith 1-0 in the other group game at the Spanish Town Prison Oval.

Kingston Technical remains on top of the group with nine points followed by Charlie Smith in second with six and St. Georges College in third, also with six.

Meanwhile, in zone B Dacosta Cup action, a doubleheader at Llandilo saw one goal being scored between four teams.

Green Pond and Petersfield played out a 0-0 draw in the first encounter while the second game saw Godfrey Stewart secure a 1-0 over former champions, Rusea’s.

Frome Technical beat Green Island 4-0 in the 3:30 kick-off at Wespow Park.

Frome now moves to the top of the zone with nine points followed by Mannings in second with seven and Petersfield in third, also with seven points.

In zone D, Bellefield thrashed Alston 7-0 and Manchester beat Belair 2-0 in a doubleheader at Manchester.

In the other zone D game, Christiana secured a 2-1 win over Holmwood at Kirkvine.

Christiana still leads zone D with 10 points. Manchester and Bellefield are second and third with seven and five points respectively.

In Zone F, Garvey Maceo maintained their perfect record in the group stage so far with a 3-0 win over Central High at home.

The second game of the day at Garvey Maceo saw Vere Technical get a 2-1 win over Foga Road.

Garvey Maceo leads zone F with 12 points and Vere are second with seven.

McGrath beat York Castle 4-1 in the first game of a zone H doubleheader at Drax Hall.

Charlemont got a 5-2 win over St. Mary High in the second game.

With the win, Charlemont move to the top of the zone with eight points while Dinthill sits second on seven and Ocho Rios are third on five.

 

 

Xavi has issued a rallying cry to Barcelona as their Champions League hopes hang in the balance following Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Benfica.

The Blaugrana missed the opportunity to seal their progress to the knockout stages of the competition, despite a dominant performance at Camp Nou.

Although Xavi became the 13th consecutive manager to avoid defeat in his first Champions League game in charge of Barca, his side were unable to break down a stubborn Benfica.

The goalless stalemate was only the eighth that Barcelona have recorded in 133 home matches in this competition, while they have mustered just two goals from their opening five games.

They remain second in Group E and two points ahead of their Portuguese counterparts, but face runaway leaders Bayern Munich in two weeks' time with their fate yet to be decided.

Xavi insists his side will travel to Germany with a positive mentality.

"We were far superior to Benfica. If we had scored, we would be talking about a good match," the Barca head coach said.

"We take a point that means very little. We have one day left, and we have to go to Germany to win.

"We have one goal in two games [since I took over] and we have scored it from a penalty. It is clear that we have to be more effective.

"You have to go to Munich to win; we are Barca."

Barca did have the ball in the net through Ronald Araujo in the 83rd minute, but the defender's volley was ruled out for offside.

The Uruguay international was pleased with the mentality demonstrated by the hosts, but admitted the result left a bitter taste in his mouth.

"We missed the goal, which was the golden key to qualify," Araujo said. "The attitude was very good, but they were very tight in defence.

"There is a bitter taste because we wanted to win the three points here, in front of our people, but we have to win now in Munich."

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