Simone Inzaghi is adamant the Serie A title race is far from over after Inter bounced back from defeat to Bologna by beating Udinese on Sunday.

Inter's 2-1 victory came after Milan had secured a late 1-0 win at home to Fiorentina, temporarily putting them five points clear at the summit.

A shock 2-1 loss to Bologna last week saw Inter lose their place at the top of the table, and Milan have a relatively kind run-in.

But Inzaghi is not giving up as Inter look to win back-to-back Scudetti after first-half goals from Ivan Perisic and Lautaro Martínez were sufficient to see off Udinese.

"At 2-0 we conceded [Ignacio] Pussetto's goal, that made us dip slightly, but we stayed in the game and risked almost nothing," he told DAZN.

"I think it's the 50th game since the beginning of the season but we play well, we want to win. There are three games to go plus the final of the Coppa Italia.

"We played seven games in 22 days but the team is healthy and wants to believe until the end."

Udinese offered very little until Pussetto's 72nd-minute goal, but Inter did then come under slightly more pressure in the closing stages.

But Inzaghi felt their ability to see out the win and bounce back from a bitterly disappointing defeat last week was a evidence of Inter's mentality.

"It was a great proof of character against a team that in April was second only to mine [in terms of points], and I want to thank the fans, who followed us in large numbers," said the former Lazio coach.

"It made us feel almost as if we had San Siro behind us to the end."

Inter face Empoli at home next on Friday, while Milan go to Hellas Verona two days later.

Inter bounced back from their shock defeat to Bologna with a 2-1 win away to Udinese that ensured Milan's lead at the Serie A summit was trimmed back to two points.

Stefano Pioli's side last week usurped Inter at the top of the table and then clinched a late 1-0 win over Fiorentina earlier on Sunday, but the Nerazzurri responded with a professional showing in Udine.

Ivan Perisic and Lautaro Martinez scored Inter's goals in the first half to give them a commanding lead, with the hosts offering little attacking threat.

The champions continued to dominate after the break without creating a great deal, and although Udinese pulled one back out of the blue through Ignacio Pussetto, Simone Inzaghi's side completed the job.

Inter looked sharp at the start and that translated to an early lead as Perisic met Federico Dimarco's corner delivery with a glancing header that beat Marco Silvestri at his near post.

The visitors looked to have wasted a chance to double their lead just past the half-hour mark when Martinez's close-range chip was saved by Silvestri, but Pablo Mari fouled Edin Dzeko as he attempted to convert on the rebound.

Martinez's subsequent penalty hit the post and then Silvestri before allowing the Argentinian a simple finish following up.

Clear-cut chances were more of a rarity in the second half until Udinese forced a tense finish through Pussetto, who bundled over the line after Samir Handanovic saved Gerard Deulofeu's free-kick after 72 minutes.

But Inter successfully protected their one-goal lead to seal three precious points in the title race.

Simeone Inzaghi expects the Serie A title race to provide more surprises as Inter look to chase down rivals Milan, although he admits the Nerazzurri camp was in low spirits after a loss to Bologna.

Despite scoring their fastest goal of the Serie A season to take the lead at Bologna when Ivan Perisic found the net after 2 minutes and 53 seconds, Inter fell to a 2-1 defeat after goals from Marko Arnautovic and Nicola Sansone, leaving them two points adrift of the Rossoneri.  

The Nerazzurri had been unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions prior to the defeat, and it represented their first league loss at bottom-half opponents since January 2021. 

Inter will now require at least one slip-up from Stefano Pioli's team in order to retain the title, and although Inzaghi acknowledges Wednesday's defeat was a deflating result, he believes there are more twists to come.

"The mood was not the best, the disappointment has been strong," Inzaghi said. "In these days, however, I have seen an excellent team spirit, they want to believe until the end. 

"Every match will be tough for everyone, at the end of the season we will do the count. We will try to give satisfaction to the fans after doing it [winning a trophy] with the Super Cup [which Inter lifted in January].

"When you lose games, you always make mistakes. In Bologna we had to be more clinical in the first half, and we didn't succeed. 

"Winning would have given us primacy and instead we have to chase. With my staff we can [only] affect ourselves: every Sunday there are surprises and there are still four games to go.

"In Bologna we didn't have to finish the first half level, we needed more goals given the many opportunities we created. Now, anything can happen."

Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic started on the bench at Bologna after struggling with a back injury, and remains a doubt for the clash with Udinese on Sunday.

Ionut Radu started in the place of Handanovic, who has kept 14 clean sheets and recorded a save percentage of 77.39 per cent in Serie A this term, but gifted Bologna's Sansone a last-gasp winner after failing to control a back-pass. 

Although Inzaghi did not rule out a return for Handanovic against Udinese, he reiterated his confidence in Radu.

"He [Handanovic] has an important problem, today he has done a partial customized training and there is some hope. Tomorrow we will see, he will try," Inzaghi added.

"[If not], for sure Radu will play, he has my utmost confidence and I think he will have an important career ahead of him even though he has played very little this year."

Victor Osimhen matched the Serie A feat of Mohamed Salah, Samuel Eto'o and George Weah as the striker's double dragged Napoli to a 2-1 win over Udinese.

Gerard Deulofeu's first-half strike edged Udinese ahead at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, before Osimhen came to the fore after the interval.

Not only did that keep Napoli, temporarily at least, on level terms with leaders Milan, but the two goals took him to 11 for the campaign in Serie A.

That makes Osimhen the first Nigerian to achieve double figures in two consecutive Serie A seasons, while he became just the fourth African player to achieve the feat in the Italian top flight, after Weah for Milan, Eto'o for Inter and Salah for Roma.

The 23-year-old labelled the victory as essential in the hunt for Napoli's first Scudetto since the 1989-90 season.

"The atmosphere was incredible. We had a good reaction after the first half. It was essential to win and I thank the fans for their support," he told DAZN.

"We have to believe we can win the league. There are still eight games and we have to continue like this."

Napoli will look to continue their title charge after the international break when they visit top-four chasers Atalanta.

Victor Osimhen matched the Serie A feat of Mohamed Salah, Samuel Eto'o and George Weah as the striker's double dragged Napoli to a 2-1 win over Udinese.

Gerard Deulofeu's first-half strike edged Udinese ahead at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, before Osimhen came to the fore after the interval.

Not only did that keep Napoli, temporarily at least, on level terms with leaders Milan, but the two goals took him to 11 for the campaign in Serie A.

That makes Osimhen the first Nigerian to achieve double figures in two consecutive Serie A seasons, while he became just the fourth African player to achieve the feat in the Italian top flight, after Weah for Milan, Eto'o for Inter and Salah for Roma.

The 23-year-old labelled the victory as essential in the hunt for Napoli's first Scudetto since the 1989-90 season.

"The atmosphere was incredible. We had a good reaction after the first half. It was essential to win and I thank the fans for their support," he told DAZN.

"We have to believe we can win the league. There are still eight games and we have to continue like this."

Napoli will look to continue their title charge after the international break when they visit top-four chasers Atalanta.

Manchester United's search for a new permanent manager continues.

The Red Devils parted ways with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last year after an underwhelming campaign despite the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ralf Rangnick has taken over on an interim basis, buying United time to get the right man for the job.

TOP STORY - MAN UTD 'SOUND OUT' TEN HAG

Manchester United have "sounded out" Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag through intermediaries with no formal approach yet, claims Sky Sports.

Ten Hag along with current Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino are believed to be the two lead candidates for the top job at Old Trafford.

The report claims the Dutchman would be keen to speak to United if they make a formal approach.

 

ROUND-UP

- Italian champions Inter are ready to allow Alexis Sanchez to exit the club in mid-year reports Calciomercato. The 33-year-old's contract at San Siro runs until 2023 but Inter are keen to get his hefty wages off their books.

- England international Joe Gomez will seek a move away from Liverpool at the end of this season, claims 90min, as he seeks more regular game-time, having been a bit-part player this term. Leicester City, Tottenham, Newcastle United and West Ham are all interested.

- Brighton and Hove Albion are leading the race to sign Chile international Ben Brereton Diaz from promotion hopefuls Blackburn Rovers, claims TEAMtalk. Crystal Palace, Everton, Leeds United and West Ham are also interested.

- Mundo Deportivo reports that West Ham are interested in signing former Barcelona, Milan and Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu from Udinese.

- Fichajes claims Wolves are in talks with Shakhtar Donetsk's Pedrinho about a move to England, with players from Ukrainian clubs able to seek free transfers.

Milan produced a flat display as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Udinese on Friday, handing the initiative in the title race to Inter.

Stefano Pioli's men were rarely dominant in San Siro and subsequently passed up the opportunity to potentially finish the weekend five points clear at the summit.

Rafael Leao gave Milan the lead with a well-taken goal, but clear-cut chances for the home side were otherwise a rarity.

Udinese were good value for their equaliser through Iyenoma Udogie just past the hour, and Milan were lacking the requisite drive to retake the lead as they slumped to a disappointing draw.

Milan's start was hardly emphatic but they weathered some early pressure and went ahead before the half-hour mark, Leao brilliantly bringing down Sandro Tonali's deep cross before coolly slotting past Marco Silvestri.

The contest opened up more as the half progressed but Beto wasted a decent opportunity for the visitors as he headed straight at Mike Maignan.

Tolgay Arslan shot just wide of the right-hand post and Rodrigo Becao saw a deflected effort saved by Maignan as Udinese threatened twice in quick succession around the hour.

Another opportunity went begging soon after as Nahuel Molina questionably attempted a cut-back in the box when he had only Maignan to beat, albeit from a slightly tight angle.

The deserved equaliser did arrive in the 66th minute, though, Udogie nudging over the line after fellow substitute Roberto Pereyra sent an overhead-kick goalwards.

Leao might have made it 2-1 14 minutes from time, but the ball would not drop quickly enough for him after flicking over Silvestri, and Nehuen Perez cleared for Udinese.

Stefano Pioli believes Zlatan Ibrahimovic has the desire to help Milan beyond the end of this season, although his future still is not settled and the forward's immediate focus is on aiding the Rossoneri's 2021-22 title bid.

Ibrahimovic signed a one-year contract extension in April last year, meaning his Milan deal is again up in June.

And the superstar forward, who is now 40, is increasingly struggling for fitness, even if his goalscoring form has not deserted him.

Ibrahimovic has eight goals in all competitions this season, with no Milan player scoring at a greater rate than his average of one every 133 minutes.

However, Ibrahimovic has been limited to 12 starts and has not featured in over a month since injuring his Achilles tendon against Juventus.

Milan coach Pioli was asked for an update on both the striker's future and fitness before Friday's match against Udinese and offered a mixed response, with his recovery not as rapid as anticipated.

"[His future] would be a question for Zlatan," the league-leading coach told a news conference. "His will is very important.

"As I know him, for the determination he has, for the ambition he has and for the desire he has to help the team, I am convinced that he would want to continue playing.

"His condition is improving, albeit a little slower than we expected, but he is better.

"His path is day by day – you have to understand how the tendon responds when he starts to run. Between today and tomorrow he will return to running on the grass; in these days he has done individual work and ran on the sand."

Mikel Arteta has urged his Arsenal players to do their talking on the field against Liverpool after accusing unnamed parties of "lying" about the reasons behind Sunday's north London derby postponement.

The Gunners had a request to call off the match against fierce rivals Tottenham accepted by the Premier League on Saturday due to having a lack of players available to choose from.

However, Arteta's side were accused of exploiting the Premier League's rules for a game to be postponed, with the majority of their players absent due to injury, suspension or Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Arsenal had only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the time of lodging an application to get the derby called off, but the Premier League deemed they were unable to meet the required number of available players – 13 outfielders and a goalkeeper – despite their Under-23s having a squad of 16 for a game on Friday.

Speaking on Tuesday, Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte felt the decision to postpone the match was "very, very strange".

But Arteta hit back at Arsenal's critics in response to Conte's remarks and added: "We're not going to let anybody damage our name or try to spread lies."

Doubling down on those comments, Arteta said: "We have to defend ourselves. The best way to do that is demonstrate who we are, and the best way to do that is on the pitch.

"Whoever is saying we are trying to do something we are not, that's a lie. We have all the evidence we have to provide. 

"You have to provide evidence individually, all the MRIs, all the COVID cases that you have, you have to put it on the table, you have to explain it, you have to answer more questions and you have to go again and do it. We've done all the right things."

As the fallout from Sunday's derby cancellation continues, Arsenal have a crucial EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool to prepare for on Thursday.

The tie is delicately poised following last week's goalless draw at Anfield, where Arsenal held on with 10 men for more than an hour after Granit Xhaka's sending off.

And for Arteta, the match at Emirates Stadium represents a chance for his young squad to continue their development by reaching a major final.

"I can sense the excitement when they're training. They're really looking forward to it. The majority of them have not experienced [a semi-final]," he said.

"It's why you play football, it's why you want to play for this club, to win trophies. We want to go through and then go and win it, which is the best memory you can have."

Arsenal confirmed on Thursday that defender Pablo Mari has completed his loan move to Serie A side Udinese.

Mari, who has made 22 appearances for the Gunners in all competitions, will remain at the Dacia Arena for the remainder of the season. 

Massimiliano Allegri warned that his Juventus players sometimes become too relaxed as he implored for improvements after defeating Udinese.

Goals from Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie saw Juve claim a 2-0 triumph on Saturday, lifting fifth-placed Juve onto the same points as Atalanta, who occupy the last Champions League qualification spot.

Atalanta do have two games in hand, however, as the race for the final place in Europe's premier competition hots up.

Despite Juve's victory, Allegri outlined his reasons for frustration with some parts of the performance at the Allianz Stadium.

"We held out mentally and technically for 120 minutes on Wednesday, but there was a moment tonight when we just left the game," Allegri told Sky Sport Italia.

"That's not right, we always have to be fully focused, especially when there aren't enough fans to keep us on our toes, because for 10 minutes we ran some big risks.

"The thing we absolutely cannot do without is intensity, tempo and aggression, because if we don't drop the intensity level, then we don't get distracted and can make our technique count.

"I looked at the line-up, we had Matthijs de Ligt born in 1999, [Dejan] Kulusevski 2000, [Moise] Kean 2000, [Luca] Pellegrini 1999, the oldest was [Juan] Cuadrado and the others all between 20 and 23 years old. 

"You can lack some experience and understanding in those moments of when to hold off and when to control it."

Allegri assured, though, that with experience will come the understanding of how to control such moments in any given fixture.

"We made a mistake in the second half, thinking we were relaxed and in charge, so we drifted out of the game. It's not about finding a leader, it's about the general maturity as a whole," he said.

"You need experience in every profession, nobody is born knowing everything.

"We need patience. I did get very angry at that moment, but I talked to them afterwards and tried to make them understand. The important thing is they understand quickly and it has to be done on an individual level, whether they are at Juventus or elsewhere."

Juve are next in Serie A action on Sunday when they travel to face Milan.

Paulo Dybala said Juventus "don't play good football" after refusing to celebrate his goal in Saturday's 2-0 Serie A win over Udinese.

Dybala's future is in doubt as the Argentina forward's contract expires at the end of the season and the 28-year-old has been linked with a move to Serie A rivals Inter.

He did not celebrate his opener in the victory at the Allianz Stadium, instead glaring intensely towards the stands.

Asked if that was a signal to the club's directors over contract negotiations, Dybala dryly told Sky Sport Italia: "I invited a friend and couldn't see him. There are many people up there watching and I couldn’t find him."

After being asked if he was telling the truth, Dybala responded: "I don't know, that's up to you. There have been a lot of stories, and many things happened that I prefer not to talk about."

The result stretched Juve's unbeaten streak to eight games – only Inter have a longer run (12) – while they moved level on points with fourth-placed Atalanta as they chase a Champions League qualification spot.

Since the start of November, Juve have gained 26 points in Serie A – more than any other side in this period, although Inter (25) and Atalanta (22) have played two fewer games.

Dybala was less than complementary about Juve's playing style, though, and said they need to focus on working harder than their opponents during the closing months of the season.

"I think we played well. We must try to be more consistent after scoring goals, as too often we score and then start to defend more, become afraid of attacking, and we can't keep doing that," he added.

"We are Juventus, of course we are in the running for the Champions League spots and must try to win. We don't play good football; that is not our strength, so we need to focus on hunger and trying to run harder than anyone else."

Juve are next in action on Tuesday when they host Sampdoria in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia. 

Juventus maintained their push for a Champions League qualification spot as goals from Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie sealed a 2-0 win over Udinese at the Allianz Stadium.

Massimiliano Allegri's side produced a stirring fightback to beat Roma 4-3 last weekend, but they needed no such drama to record a 10th win in their last 13 top-flight games against Udinese on Saturday.

Dybala was comfortably Juve's brightest spark and he put them ahead in composed fashion, with McKennie adding a second late on. 

The result lifted fifth-placed Juve onto the same points as Atalanta, who occupy the last Champions League qualification spot, although Gian Piero Gasperini's men do have two games in hand. 

Juve were dominant in the early stages and deservedly went ahead in the 19th minute courtesy of Dybala's seventh Serie A goal of the season.

The Argentina international did well to adjust his feet after receiving a deflected pass from strike partner Moise Keane before coolly lifting the ball over the onrushing Daniele Padelli.

Udinese's goalkeeper pushed away a Juan Cuadrado free-kick from an acute angle on the hour mark, while Dybala whipped narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area. 

Yet the result was wrapped up when an unmarked McKennie headed in Mattia De Sciglio's left-wing cross from six yards, the United States international's third league goal of the campaign. 

What does it mean? Juve rarely tested by tepid visitors

Juve were miles off their best but they scarcely needed to get out of second gear to ease past a poor Udinese outfit, who have lost two Serie A matches in a row for the first time since September. 

Allegri's men have now won their last six top-flight home games against Udinese, scoring at least two goals in all of them. The last time they registered a longer home winning streak against the Friulians was between 1980 and 1987 (seven).

Dybala proves his worth

Dybala, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has been linked with a move to Serie A rivals Inter and he showed here why Juve are desperate to tie him down.

The 28-year-old was his side's best player and has now scored more times against Udinese than any other side in the Italian top flight (10 goals in 17 games).

Kean off the pace

Kean struggled in attack for the hosts, taking just one shot and failing to play a single key pass before he was hauled off for Morata in the 64th minute. 

He did play a crucial part in Juve's opener, however, with his flick turned into Dybala's path by a defender's accidental touch.

What's next?

Both sides are in Coppa Italia round-of-16 action on Tuesday, with Juve hosting Sampdoria and Udinese visiting Lazio. 

Udinese's Serie A clash with Salernitana did not take place on Tuesday after the visitors failed to turn up at the Dacia Arena.

It was already known that bottom side Salernitana would not make the trip after they were ordered not to travel by the local health authority due to a number of positive coronavirus cases in the squad.

Udinese, however, undertook their normal matchday routine and even named their starting XI.

Udinese director Pierpaolo Marino told DAZN: "The league is right not to postpone the game. They have a duty to protect the regularity of the league season and a game must not be postponed because a player tests positive.

"We went to Rome to play Lazio with seven players and our coach out with COVID-19 last season, and we won 3-1."

A similar situation happened last season when Napoli failed to turn up to face Juventus, with the Partenopei forced to forfeit the match.

Napoli subsequently won an appeal and the match was replayed.

Stefano Pioli was pleased with Milan's character as they salvaged a 1-1 draw at Udinese but warned they must raise their game after slipping up in the Serie A title race.

Four days after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool, the Rossoneri were facing a shock defeat at the Dacia Arena before Zlatan Ibrahimovic volleyed a stoppage-time equaliser.

Ibrahimovic's goal was his 300th combined in Europe's top-five leagues, a landmark only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have also reached this century.

Beto had capitalised on Tiemoue Bakayoko's mistake to give Udinese a deserved lead 17 minutes into their first game under interim head coach Gabriele Cioffi following Luca Gotti's sacking this week.

Isaac Success was sent off for clashing with Mike Maignan following Ibrahimovic's late goal, but there was no time for Milan to force a winner and they could drop to third on Sunday if Inter and Napoli win.

Pioli responded to a poor first-half showing by hauling Bakayoko, Ismael Bennacer and Rade Krunic off at the break and the head coach was left with mixed emotions after watching his side drop points.

He told DAZN: "We start the matches to win and therefore we cannot be satisfied. Let's start with small goals, we can do even better and we will try."

Pioli says Milan must regroup following a difficult week in which they failed to match the sort of standards that lifted them to the summit.

"There was a lack of clarity, we had to force our opponents to move more. It was not a brilliant first half, the goal took confidence away from us," he added.

"I am satisfied with the reaction, it is a sign of character and it is clear that we need to find our rhythm."

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's milestone stoppage-time strike salvaged a 1-1 draw for Serie A leaders Milan at Udinese on Saturday.

Milan's miserable week looked set to take another turn for the worse after Beto gave Udinese a first-half lead at Dacia Arena, four days after the Rossoneri were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool.

But Ibrahimovic rescued a point with an acrobatic volley in time added on, taking his goal tally to 300 in Europe's top five leagues.

Isaac Success was then shown a red card for violent conduct as Udinese had to settle for a point in their first game under interim head coach Gabriele Cioffi, who stepped in when Luca Gotti was sacked this week.

 

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