Milan "have to be a little more ambitious" and aim to win more than just the Serie A title, according to director and club legend Paolo Maldini.

The Rossoneri won the Scudetto last season for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign after beating Sassuolo 3-0 on the final day, wrestling the trophy back from city rivals Inter.

Milan's attempts to lift the Serie A trophy for a second straight season have seen them win 10 of their opening 15 matches.

Yet despite sitting second in the table, leaders Napoli are yet to lose a game and already hold an eight-point lead over Stefano Pioli's men.

Milan have fared well in Europe, though, making it into the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

Maldini, who won seven Serie A titles and five Champions League trophies with the Rossoneri as a player, feels they should be looking for continental success to add to their domestic triumph of last term.

Maldini told MilanTV: "The match played in Sassuolo [to clinch the title on the final day] ended a three-year period that started in 2019 with a very specific project, which did not envisage the victory of the Scudetto, but envisaged the return to be competitive.

"Of course, we're talking about Milan, and we can't be satisfied with having won a Scudetto, we have to be a little more ambitious.

"We can and must be protagonists in the four competitions that remain to us, because little by little, they will be very intense months."

The World Cup has seen several Milan players undertake a starring role for their national teams in Qatar. France duo Theo Hernandez and Olivier Giroud are set to play in Sunday's final against Argentina.

Hernandez scored in the semi-final victory over Morocco and Giroud has become Les Bleus' all-time leading marksman, while winger Rafael Leao also netted twice for Portugal.

"Rafa [Leao] did his part," Maldini added. "Two goals in a World Cup is no small thing. Unfortunately, he didn't play much, but I think it was still a good and high-level experience for him. 

"Olivier and Theo have been stars since the beginning. I must say that we are proud to see them in the starting line-up having reached the final of a World Cup."

Milan return to competitive action on January 4, when they take on Salernitana in Serie A.

Milan's Portuguese forward Rafael Leao will be a key player of interest in the January transfer window.

The 23-year-old helped Milan clinched the Italian Serie A title last term, netting 11 goals for the Rossoneri.

According to reports, Leao is unwilling to pen a contract extension with Milan, who failed to meet his demands.

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA GET JUMP IN RAFAEL LEAO CHASE

Chelsea have emerged as the frontrunners in the hotly contested pursuit of Milan forward Rafael Leao, claims GiveMeSport's Dean Jones.

Leao enters the final 18 months of his Milan contract in January, with interest also reportedly coming from Real Madrid and Manchester City.

Milan may be willing to let the Portuguese depart in January if they cannot convince him to sign a new deal, rating him at £86million (€100m).

 

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Chelsea's planned mid-year move for RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku will not be brought forward to January despite a season-ending ACL injury for Armando Broja, reports Fabrizio Romano.

– CBS's Ben Jacobs claims Dusan Vlahovic exiting Juventus in 2023 is a "very real possibility", including a possible January move, with Chelsea among the clubs in contact with the Serbian's representatives.

Real Madrid have joined the race for Netherlands international Cody Gakpo, claims AS. Manchester United are also interested in the PSV forward, who was pursued by Leeds United in the last transfer window.

– ESPN claims Manchester United will enquire with Benfica about the status of Portugal striker Goncalo Ramos, who netted a hat-trick against Switzerland at the World Cup.

Bayer Leverkusen are interested in signing West Ham full-back Vladimir Coufal, claims Sky Sports. The Czech, who is contracted until 2024 with the option of another year, also has interest from two other Premier League clubs.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has urged his Milan team-mate Rafael Leao to reject interest from other clubs and stay at San Siro in order to realise his "scary" potential.

Leao played a key role as Milan ended an 11-year wait to win the Scudetto last term, while no other Rossoneri player can match his tallies of six goals and four assists in Serie A this season.

The winger, who scored in Portugal's World Cup wins against Ghana and Switzerland, has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool in recent months.

However, Ibrahimovic insists Milan is the best place for Leao to develop, highlighting the strides he has made since breaking into Stefano Pioli's team.  

"Of course, Milan is the right environment for him," Ibrahimovic told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Just look at his growth, when he arrived, he was far from the decisive player he is today. 

"Here he is very important for us. Elsewhere, would he be as important? He would have to start from scratch, you can't be sure he would be ready right away.

"At Milan he has confidence, space and freedom, which is not a given at another club, it's up to you. 

"Besides, you can see that he is happy here, by now he is laughing even before scoring. He is the young man who has grown the most."

Several young players came to the fore as Milan edged out rivals Inter to win Serie A and Ibrahimovic believes Leao is the most exciting talent of all.

"Theo [Hernandez] has improved so much, [Charles] De Ketelaere is strong, and patience is needed. But Leao is on another level, above average," he added.

"He lacks a step, he will only do it when he is fully convinced of his abilities. Today, even he doesn't really know how strong he is. Then he will be really scary, and the price will go up."

Milan resume their Serie A campaign with a trip to Salernitana on January 4, having entered the World Cup break eight points adrift of leaders Napoli.

Arsenal will reportedly launch a move for Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk in January, with his price now said to be more negotiable than the initial demand of €100million.

The 21-year-old has been a revelation this season for the Ukrainian club, announcing his arrival with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win against RB Leipzig to kick off his side's Champions League campaign.

He scored both home and away against Celtic, while also racking up seven goals and six assists in 12 league fixtures, emerging as one of the most talented young forwards outside of Europe's big five competitions.

Earlier reports had claimed Shakhtar would hold out for a fee matching what Manchester United paid for Antony, but new information states that is no longer believed to be the case.

 

TOP STORY - ARSENAL PLOT JANUARY MOVE FOR UKRAINIAN SENSATION

According to The Athletic, there is a "good chance" Mudryk's move to Arsenal will materialise, with the publication claiming he is "determined to make the Emirates Stadium his destination".

The report says Arsenal will investigate what other deals they could potentially accomplish for a similar fee, but that "interested parties are of the understanding that a lower fee [than the initial €100m demand] would be deemed acceptable".

Adding fuel to the fire is the belief that the Kroenke family are willing to throw their trust into Edu and Mikel Arteta's decisions amid an unexpected Premier League title challenge, increasing the chance of such a significant January investment.

 

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– Marca is reporting Arsenal have become the favourites to land 23-year-old Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix in January, providing further indication the Gunners plan on making a splash in the upcoming transfer window.

– According to Sky Sports Germany's Florian Plettenberg, Milan rejected a €70m bid from Chelsea for Rafael Leao, and are holding firm on his €150m release clause with just over 18 months remaining on his contract.

– La Capital is reporting Liverpool have signed a pre-agreement for 21-year-old Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who is believed to be valued at €100m.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in signing 25-year-old Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, per El Nacional.

– Foot Mercato claims Manchester City have joined Manchester United and Chelsea in the pursuit of 20-year-old Croatia and RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol.

Milan president Paolo Scaroni is "calm" about Rafael Leao's future amid talks over a new deal for the in-demand forward.

Leao has been a revelation for the Rossoneri and played a big part in their Serie A title triumph last season.

The Portugal international has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool.

Leao is contracted to Milan until June 2024 and Scaroni is optimistic the 23-year-old will extend his stay at the San Siro.

He told Gazzetta dello Sport: "I am told that he feels good in Milan and that he is motivated.

"I know that [Milan technical director Paolo] Maldini is negotiating with him and as far as I just said if he negotiates, I'm calm."

Leao scored against Ghana and Switzerland in the World Cup before Portugal were knocked out by surprise package Morocco at the quarter-final stage in Qatar.

 

Barcelona and Chelsea are reportedly moving Borussia Dortmund teenager Youssoufa Moukoko to the top of their priorities as he approaches the end of his contract.

Moukoko, who turned 18 in November, has been with Dortmund since he was 12 years old, making his first-team debut in the Champions League as a 16-year-old, breaking the record as the youngest player in the history of the competition.

He is also the youngest goalscorer in the history of the Bundesliga, and after being used primarily off the bench up to this point in his career, he started seven consecutive league fixtures leading into the World Cup break.

With six goals and three assists in his 14 Bundesliga appearances this season, he has emerged as one of the top prospects in world football, but his time in Dortmund could be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY - MOUKOKO SET TO DECIDE BETWEEN EUROPE'S ELITE CLUBS

Moukoko's contract expires at the end of this season, and if he does not sign an extension to remain with Dortmund, he will be able to leave as a free agent.

According to Sport, Barcelona believe Moukoko's history as a childhood Lionel Messi and Barca supporter puts them in the prime position at the front of the line to secure his services. The report claims the Spanish giants view themselves as the only landing spot if Moukoko decides against remaining at Dortmund.

Meanwhile, the Express states Chelsea feel more confident about their chances with Moukoko than they ever did about Palmeiras prospect Endrick, a player who journalist Fabrizio Romano is reporting has chosen Real Madrid.

Chelsea's willingness to propose a five-year deal with the option of a sixth year is said to be a key selling point, per the Secret Scout on Twitter, while Sport also added Chelsea "would be willing to pay a fortune".

 

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– According to Revelo, Real Madrid are interested in 18-year-old Manchester United talent Alejandro Garnacho.

– ESPN is reporting United are working on a deal to sign 33-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Milan should give 23-year-old winger Rafael Leao an ultimatum in January that he must agree to a new contract or be sold, per Calciomercato.

– Fichajes is reporting Milan are interested in bringing in Barcelona's Ferran Torres but prefer Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli if he becomes available.

– According to Sky Sport Italia, Inter and Juventus could both attempt to sign Roma centre-back Chris Smalling when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Jack Grealish's future at Manchester City has been the subject of speculation lately despite being only 18 months into a six-year contract.

The 27-year-old England attacking midfielder has not quite met expectations since his big-money switch from Aston Villa.

Grealish has scored one goal in 16 appearances this season, after netting five times in 33 games in his maiden season at City.

 

TOP STORY - MILAN PLOT SHOCK MOVE FOR GREALISH

Serie A champions Milan are set to launch a shock transfer bid for Grealish, according to Calciomercato.

City are open to selling the playmaker, who they signed from Villa last year for £100 million, the most expensive transfer of an English player.

The Premier League champions are willing to let Grealish go to fund their bid for Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham. Milan would likely make a move for Grealish at the end of the season.

ROUND-UP

Bellingham's management have informed Real Madrid that Liverpool are ahead in the race for the Dortmund midfielder's signature, according to Bild.

Liverpool have joined the pursuit of Valencia's United States international Yunus Musah, competing with Premier League rivals Arsenal and Chelsea, reports Calciomercato.

– 90min claims both Tottenham and Liverpool are considering a move for Fiorentina's Morocco international midfielder Sofyan Amrabat in January.

Milan may be interested in Barcelona target Gabriel Martinelli, should the Italian giants sell Rafael Leao in January, claims Calciomercato. Martinelli is contracted with Arsenal until 2024.

Marseille are interested in a move for Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha when his contract is up at the end of the season, reports 90min.

– Bild reports that Bayern Munich are close to agreeing a new deal for 19-year-old whizzkid Jamal Musiala.

Rafael Leao believes the hat-trick heroics of Goncalo Ramos in Portugal's 6-1 rout of Switzerland show what quality lurks in the squad's ranks as they chase a first World Cup triumph.

Even the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, joined in the praise of Fernando Santos' team as they sped through to the quarter-finals in Qatar.

Ramos started Tuesday's game ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, with the 21-year-old Benfica forward proving far from unnerved by that prospect, hitting the first, third and fifth goals of Portugal's handsome win.

It may mean Ramos keeps his place for the clash with surprise quarter-finalists Morocco, who upset Spain with a penalty shoot-out victory.

Leao came off the bench in the late stages and struck the team's exquisite sixth goal, staking his own claim for place in the side to tackle the Atlas Lions.

Asked about Ramos, Leao told Sport TV: "We have a lot of players of great quality, and he is another young man who showed a lot of quality.

"Today he had the opportunity to be in the starting line-up, he helped the team and we are very happy for him."

Before Ramos, the last player to hit a hat-trick on his first World Cup start went on to become the tournament's 16-goal all-time record scorer: Germany's Miroslav Klose.

The Morocco game will take place on Saturday, so the imperative for Portugal is to move on as quickly as possible and prepare for that tussle.

"We're going to celebrate, but calm spirits, respecting the Moroccan team," Leao said. "Now it's time to prepare for that game and for sure we'll come in strong."

Leao has showed outstanding form for Milan in Serie A across the last 18 months, but such are the resources available to Santos he is not a certain starter for his country.

There will be games when the coach prefers other options, but Leao has a long-term future in the team.

"Even though I'm not the first option, when I come on I try to help the team," Leao said. "I have to respect the coach's decisions."

President Rebelo de Sousa told television broadcaster RTP3 it had been one of Portugal's finest nights.

There have been others that have topped it, notably their Euro 2016 title triumph, and there might yet be better days ahead in Qatar.

"I think the selector's choices in general worked well," said Rebelo de Sousa. "The team played well in the first half and also in the second half. The substitutions happened naturally and we still had more goals.

"It was one of the best nights in Portuguese football."

Cody Gakpo's reputation has grown exponentially during the World Cup having netted three goals for the Netherlands in the group stage.

Manchester United, who are managed by ex-Ajax boss Erik ten Hag, were keen on the 23-year-old during the off-season but no move materialised.

The Red Devils have since parted ways with five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and are eager to bolster their forward options.

TOP STORY – PSV UP GAKPO ASKING PRICE

Manchester United are ready to make their move for Netherlands forward Cody Gakpo in January, according to The Sun.

However, Gakpo's Dutch club PSV will demand £50million (€58m) for him, claims The Mirror, which is double what they wanted in the off season.

If that asking price is prohibitive, United may opt to switch their attention to Milan's Rafael Leao, who is contracted until 2024.

 

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Real Madrid's plans to sign Leao will be deferred until 2024, according to Sport. Madrid's sights are set on chasing Manchester City's Erling Haaland, who reportedly has an exit clause from 2024, and Palmeiras teenager Endrick, who cannot move to Europe until he is 18, in 2024.

– Atletico Madrid are looking to sell Portuguese forward Joao Felix in January, reports Marca. Manchester United and Chelsea have been linked with the 23-year-old who is contracted until 2026.

– GiveMeSport's Dean Jones claims Newcastle United are considering Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic, who is currently the subject of plenty of speculation.

Arsenal are not making plans to sign a replacement for Gabriel Jesus whose World Cup was ended prematurely by a knee injury, despite there being no certainty on how long he will be out injured, claims Football Insider.

– La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Inter are in the hunt for a midfielder and weighing up a move for Valencia's United States international Yunus Musah, who caught the eye at the World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo became a free agent earlier this week after mutually agreeing with Manchester United to terminate his contract.

Ronaldo's availability has prompted numerous clubs to weigh up moves for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Brazilian giants Flamengo and Saudi Arabian powerhouse Al Hilal have been linked with Ronaldo in recent days.

AL NASSR OFFER LUCRATIVE DEAL TO FREE AGENT RONALDO

CBS claims Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr have offered Cristiano Ronaldo a three-year deal worth £186m.

The deal would see Ronaldo play into his 40s, with Al Nassr having resumed talks with his representatives having initiated them in the close season.

An unnamed Saudi Arabian club reportedly made an offer for the 37-year-old Portuguese prior to the start of this campaign.

Al Nassr are nine-time Saudi Arabian champions and ex-Lyon and Roma boss Rudi Garcia is their head coach.

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Cody Gakpo and Milan's Rafael Leao are top of Erik ten Hag's wish list to replace Ronaldo at Manchester United in January, claims ESPN.

- Arsenal are set to beat Newcastle United to sign Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Mykhailo Mudryk for approximately £40 million, reports The Mirror.

- Bayern Munich are the latest club to enter the race to sign West Ham's England international Declan Rice, according to El Nacional.

- Juventus are planning a move for Athletic Bilbao winger Nico Williams, reports AS. Williams is contracted with Athletic until 2024.

- Milan are keen on Salzburg forward Noah Okafor, with the Austrian club asking €35m for him, according to Calciomercato.

Marcel Desailly believes Rafael Leao must become "ruthless" and "forge his character" following comparisons between the Milan winger and Thierry Henry.

Leao, directly involved in 10 of the Rossoneri's 29 Serie A goals this season (scoring six and assisting four), opened his Portugal tally in their World Cup win over Ghana on Thursday.

Desailly won the Champions League and two Scudetti during his five-year stint at Milan between 1993 and 1998 - the same year he was a team-mate of Henry's in France's first World Cup triumph.

When asked if he thought Leao was similar to Henry, whose national record tally of 51 goals was equalled by Olivier Giroud in Les Bleus' victory over Australia on Tuesday, the former defender told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Calm down.

"It seems to me that Leao became a star before he even became a star. He has enormous potential, but he doesn't give me the idea of being ruthless. I ask Leao to forge his character."

Meanwhile, Desailly praised another Milan player in compatriot Theo Hernandez, who appeared as a substitute in France's 4-1 triumph over the Socceroos and could remain at full-back for the remainder of the World Cup following injury to his brother Lucas.

"Theo Hernandez can become the strongest in the world," he added. "He is a chameleon, he has the ability to change his function within the team."

Having regained the Serie A crown last season, Stefano Pioli's side are eight points adrift of leaders Napoli after the opening 15 matches in the Italian top flight.

The Partenopei are unbeaten so far in their quest for a first Scudetto since the 1989-90 season, but Desailly does not believe they will maintain their momentum throughout the campaign.

"I love Napoli’s energy," he said. "But I doubt they can hold on psychologically until the end. They don't have the squad to hold up."

Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score in five World Cups, but Portugal required a couple of late goals to rescue a nervy 3-2 win against Ghana on Thursday.

Just two days after having his Manchester United contract terminated by mutual consent, free agent Ronaldo converted a penalty to break down a stubborn Ghana side in their Group H opener. 

Ghana were furious with the awarding of the 65th-minute spot-kick for Mohammed Salisu's challenge on Ronaldo, but they hit back through Andre Ayew in the 73rd minute.

However, Joao Felix fired Portugal back in front and substitute Rafael Leao added a third, which proved important when Osman Bukari scored a late consolation for Ghana, who missed a glorious chance to snatch a point through Inaki Williams.

 

Ronaldo was denied by Lawrence Ati-Zigi after a heavy first touch and headed wide from the best of Portugal's limited first-half chances, before having a goal ruled out for a foul.

Alidu Seidu was lucky to only be shown a yellow early in the second half after locking heads with Joao Felix, but Ghana were less fortunate when a penalty was given to Portugal

Salisu was penalised for his challenge on Ronaldo, despite appearing to touch the ball before the player, and the superstar forward made no mistake from the spot.

That sparked some life into Ghana and Ayew steered home a leveller after Mohammed Kudus pulled the ball back into his path, but Portugal's own response was equally as swift.

Joao Felix raced onto Bruno Fernandes' throughball and dinked over Ati-Zigi, before Leao – on the field for just 45 seconds – curled in a delightful third for Fernando Santos' side.

Bukari, himself introduced from the bench, headed in from a Baba Rahman cross to set up a tense finish and Williams almost snuck an equaliser when he took the ball off the feet of an oblivious Costa before slipping at the crucial moment. 

Liverpool are reportedly the favourites to land prized Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham after rumours that Real Madrid are not willing to meet the €150million asking price.

Bellingham, 19, has emerged as one of the top prospects in world football, scoring in four consecutive games to begin his side's Champions League campaign this season, including one against Manchester City.

Already with 17 caps for England, Bellingham is expected to play a major role at the World Cup and a virtuoso performance could sway some of the world's biggest clubs into bidding what would be a world-record fee for an Englishman.

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID SCOFF AT BELLINGHAM ASKING PRICE, LEAVING DOOR AJAR FOR LIVERPOOL

According to a report from Sport, Bellingham is Real Madrid's priority signing at the end of the season, but they have no intention of meeting Dortmund's initial valuation.

Madrid are said to be Bellingham's preference as well, and the club will try to negotiate the final price down to what they deem a more acceptable figure.

Liverpool have no qualms with what would be a club-record signing, and previous reports claim Manchester United also feel they are in with a chance once they get Cristiano Ronaldo's contract off their books.

ROUND-UP

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Paris Saint-Germain have been in communication with Milan's Rafael Leao, although they have not been able to agree on personal terms yet.

- Calciomercato is reporting Leicester City have joined Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen in the chase for 28-year-old Inter left-back Robin Gosens.

- MLS teams may be able to afford Cristiano Ronaldo after the league agreed to a $250m television rights deal with Apple TV, per iNews.

- Mundo Deportivo is reporting Atletico Madrid have strong interest in Braga forward Abel Ruiz, and wish to bring him to the club in a loan deal in January that includes a compulsory buy-clause.

- According to El Observador, 20-year-old Uruguayan talent Facundo Pellistri could leave Manchester United in January in search of first-team football.

Rafael Leao is very happy in Italy, according to his father, though he also credited Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea with an interest in his son.

The Milan forward was named the best player in Serie A last season after his 11 goals in 34 games helped the Rossoneri win their first Scudetto since 2010-11.

Leao's contract at San Siro expires in 2024, with a number of Europe's top clubs consistently being credited with an interest in him, and his father has named three of them but also did not rule out an extension at Milan.

In an interview with Record, Antonio Leao said: "He feels very comfortable in Milan because the cultures are similar. The Italian club has done a lot for him, but he has become the best player in that league. He is simply the best.

 

"There is time until the date of 2024 and we will take care of everything, without necessarily Chelsea, Barcelona or Real Madrid.

"He loves being in Italy. He has a predilection for Italians, the one the Portuguese do not have for him.

"He won the award for best player in Serie A not because he was beautiful, but simply… because he is the best."

Leao has scored six in 14 Serie A games for Milan this season, with a further one in six Champions League outings.

He has been named among the 26-man Portugal squad for the World Cup in Qatar, and could feature in their opening game against Ghana on November 24.

A last-gasp Nikola Milenkovic own goal handed Milan a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina at San Siro on Sunday to cut Napoli's lead at the top of Serie A.

Rafael Leao opened the scoring after just two minutes, but Fiorentina responded fiercely, finding an equaliser before the half-hour mark through Antonin Barak's deflected effort.

It appeared Milan would have to settle for a share of the points, which would have seen them sit 10 behind Napoli, but a remarkable end saved the hosts.

Milenkovic diverted the ball into his own net to deny Fiorentina in cruel fashion, with their appeals for VAR to intervene being waved away.

The hosts came out of the blocks flying, Olivier Giroud flicking a pass for Leao to charge into the box and slot home into the bottom-right corner with just two minutes on the clock.

Fiorentina had a swift chance to equalise, Riccardo Saponara smashing an effort against the frame of the goal, before pulling level minutes before the half-hour mark as Barak's drive took a wicked deflection off Malick Thiaw to beat Ciprian Tatarusanu.

Milan were back on the front foot at the start of the second period, Giroud forcing a close-range save from Pietro Terracciano and Leao thumping an attempt wide of the post.

At the other end, a superb last-ditch tackle from Fikayo Tomori on Jonathan Ikone kept Fiorentina at bay, with a VAR check confirming no infringement from the England international.

Tomori was again on hand to prevent Ikone, clearing off the line, which proved to be decisive when Milenkovic sent the ball into his own net after Terracciano failed to punch the ball away.

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