Monday 18 December 2017

Pressure mounts on Benitez as Inter fall short again

Jamie Holland

PRESSURE continues to mount on Rafa Benitez at the San Siro after Inter Milan slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Chievo yesterday.

And fallout from the defeat may grow further as the already depleted Italian champions look set to be without Samuel Eto'o in the coming weeks after his second-half Zinedine Zidane-style headbutt on defender Bostjan Cesar was missed by the referee but picked up by TV cameras.

Goals from Sergio Pellissier and Davide Moscardelli did the damage, and while Eto'o showed his worth with a brilliant consolation goal, it may be the last domestic action he sees for some time.

Despite declaring he needs a rest in midweek, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the only goal to send AC Milan top of the table with a 1-0 win over Fiorentina, while former Lazio hero Hernan Crespo struck against his old club for Parma in a 1-1 draw that sees the Rome club lose ground in second.

The superlatives continue to fly Barcelona's way in Spain as their international stars put the disappointment of a midweek hammering to Portugal to one side and put eight goals past Almeria away from home.

Leo Messi opened the scoring en route to a hat-trick, while Bojan Krkic bagged a brace for Pep Guardiola's side who were 5-0 up before half-time. It all proved too much for the bottom club who sacked coach Juan Manuel Lillo after the game.

But the champions still cannot get back on top of the table until next Monday's El Clasico after Real Madrid responded by beating Athletic Bilbao 5-1 at the Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo matched Messi with a hat-trick of his own for Jose Mourinho's men for whom Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring. Madrid transfer target Fernando Llorente struck back for the Basques, but goals from Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos proved too much while third-placed Villareal were held by rivals Valencia.

Ex-Real star Raul scored a hat-trick for Schalke as they thrashed Werder Bremen 4-0 in the Bundesliga, but a 2-1 win at Freiburg leaves Borussia Dortmund seven clear on top. Bayern were held 1-1 at Bayer Leverkusen, as Mainz's 3-2 win at Monchengladbach kept the pace with the leaders.

Irish Independent

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