Stefano Sensi's second international goal rescued Italy a Nations League draw as their 11-game winning streak came to an end in a 1-1 stalemate with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Azzurri arrived in Florence looking to extend their record-breaking run of consecutive victories to 12 but found themselves up against a resolute defence and undone by the visitors' veteran Serie A striker Edin Dzeko, who scored from close range after 57 minutes.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini opted to leave last season's European Golden Boot winner Ciro Immobile out of his starting line-up and watched as his forwards squandered the few chances that came their way.

But Sensi applied a cool finish to Lorenzo Insigne's cross after the talented attacker teed him up in the 67th minute to avoid a shock defeat.

Federico Chiesa hit the side-netting from six yards as Italy probed for an opener and Insigne whipped a 20-yard free-kick just over the crossbar after 17 minutes.

Bosnia-Herzegovina wingers Armin Hodzic and Edin Visca made their presence felt, linking up in a fast break before the latter lashed a fierce shot high and wide from 12 yards shortly before the half-hour mark.

The Azzurri survived a scare when Hodzic rounded Gianluigi Donnarumma seven minutes into the second half before hitting the outside of the post from an extremely tight angle.

After Insigne had a close-range header saved by Ibrahim Sehic, Dzeko broke the deadlock with a simple left-footed finish into the bottom right corner of the net after Toni Sunjic's knockdown found him six yards out.

Ten minutes later, Insigne's cross found Sensi unmarked just inside the penalty area and he side-footed a low shot that took a deflection on its way past Sehic into the bottom corner of the net.

Florenzi should have won it when he burst into the box with 19 minutes left but his low drive from 12 yards was well saved by the diving Sehic.

Napoli head coach Gennaro Gattuso joked that he can only mark Lionel Messi in his dreams or on PlayStation as he looked ahead to the upcoming Champions League showdown with Barcelona.

Saturday saw Napoli end their 2019-20 coronavirus-hit Serie A season with a 3-1 victory at home to Lazio – Fabian Luiz, Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Politano fuelling the win.

Attention now turns to the second leg of Napoli's Champions League last-16 tie against LaLiga giants Barcelona, scheduled for August 8 at Camp Nou following February's 1-1 draw.

Asked about six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi post-match, former Milan midfielder Gattuso told reporters: "I can mark Messi only in my dreams.

"Or if I set Napoli vs Barcelona on my son's PlayStation, trying to catch him there when I played for Milan with 10-15 kilograms less than today."

On Napoli's planned approach against Barca after seeing off fourth-placed Lazio in Serie A, Gattuso said: "I think they are very different teams [Lazio and Barcelona] with two different styles.

"Lazio mixes technical and physical skills. Barcelona are all about quality. I think it will be a different game. We don't have to think about score or not.

"We must play as a team, being confident that we can have our chances. We know that it will be an enterprise. Our mind must be free in order to express our qualities."

Napoli will be sweating on Insigne's fitness for the Barca trip after the star captain hobbled off against Lazio with six minutes remaining due to a thigh problem.

"Insigne spoke to the doctor, we'll evaluate it over the next 48 hours when we have the test results," Gattuso added. "Hopefully, it's not as serious as we first thought."

Lorenzo Insigne had no interest in comparing Lionel Messi to Diego Maradona ahead of Napoli's clash with Barcelona, saying the latter was "divine for Neapolitans".

Messi and Barcelona make the trip to the Stadio San Paolo, where Maradona starred as a player in the 1980s and '90s, for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Like Maradona, Messi is considered among the best players of all-time, but Insigne preferred not to compare the Argentine duo.

"I had an interview and I said Messi is the best player in the world," he told a news conference.

"However, I do not want to compare him with Maradona, who is everything for us. I do not want to compare him.

"Maradona is divine for Neapolitans, with all respect for Messi who is the best right now."

Despite some off-field issues, Barca are top of LaLiga and will go into the last-16 tie as favourites.

But Insigne said Napoli simply needed to focus on themselves heading into the first leg.

"I do not know what kind of problem Barcelona have got. I read some things as other people did," he said.

"I think after four goals scored by Messi against Eibar ... they have no problems.

"We do not have to think about them. We have to think about ourselves. They have to play a great game from the beginning until the end. That's it."

Kylian Mbappe appears unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are continuing to track the forward.

Mbappe was unhappy with head coach Thomas Tuchel after being substituted during PSG's 5-0 Ligue 1 win over Montpellier on Saturday.

The pair were apparently part of talks that seemingly did not go that well on Sunday, once again sparking Madrid's interest.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE MBAPPE AMID PSG TROUBLES

Real Madrid are tracking the situation of Kylian Mbappe at PSG, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The France international is out of contract in 2022 and Madrid would hope to land the forward for less than €300million next year.

Le Parisien reports Mbappe, Tuchel and PSG sporting director Leonardo met on Sunday, but the relationship between coach and player may be at the point of no return.

ROUND-UP

- Lautaro Martinez has starred for Inter this season, scoring 11 Serie A goals. Corriere dello Sport reports the Italian giants are keen to offer Martinez an improved contract amid reported interest from Barcelona, with the Argentina international's deal expiring in 2023.

- Despite scoring only four Serie A goals this campaign, Lorenzo Insigne could be set to earn a new deal at Napoli. Corriere dello Sport says the forward is set for talks over a contract extension, with his deal set to expire in 2022.

- Lille forward Victor Osimhen is attracting interest from LaLiga's two biggest clubs. The 21-year-old is already up to 16 goals this season and Lille were contacted by Real Madrid and Barcelona at the end of the January transfer window, according to Le10sport.

- Christian Eriksen apparently could have ended up at Juventus. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A leaders were seriously considering the midfielder in December before they landed Dejan Kulusevski, leading to Inter making their move for the Tottenham star.

Juventus suffered a 2-1 loss at Napoli on Sunday, ending the Serie A champions' run of five straight wins in the league.

Piotr Zielinski scored the opening goal of the game midway through the second half, finishing on the rebound after Wojciech Szczesny pushed Lorenzo Insigne's shot back into the danger zone.

Napoli had lost four home league games in a row but climb to 10th in the table after Insigne volleyed in a second, Maurizio Sarri's return to Stadio San Paolo ending in Juve's second league defeat of the season. 

Cristiano Ronaldo hit a late reply but Juve missed the chance to move further ahead of nearest title rivals Inter and remain three points clear in top spot.

August's reverse fixture was a seven-goal thriller, Juve 2-0 ahead inside 20 minutes though needing Kalidou Koulibaly's late own goal to seal a 4-3 win, but this time half-time arrived with a single shot on target.

Arkadiusz Milik's tame header was comfortably saved by Szczesny with Napoli having had the edge in a strangely low-key opening 45 minutes.

Juve lost Miralem Pjanic to injury shortly after the break, the midfielder having been hurt in a tackle from Diego Demme before the break with Adrien Rabiot introduced in his place.

A late offside flag denied Ronaldo a 53rd-minute opener, the Portuguese then tricking his way past Elseid Hysaj to set up Gonzalo Higuain, whose low drive was stopped by Alex Meret.

Juve appeared in control but Napoli broke the deadlock on the counter in the 63rd minute when Szczesny parried Insigne's 25-yard drive and Zielinski was on hand to convert the rebound.

Napoli had penalty appeals rejected when Juan Cuadrado appeared to handle inside the box but the points were sealed by Insigne's strike that deflected in off Matthijs de Ligt in the closing stages.

Ronaldo gave Juve hope, extending his scoring streak to eight games, but when Higuain's overhead kick flew straight at Meret in the 94th minute, Napoli had secured a famous win.


What does it mean? Hope for Inter in title race

Juve - who started with Ronaldo, Higuain and Paulo Dybala all in attack - would have been six points clear had they won, with yet another title surely within their grasp. 

This result will be welcomed by Inter, who earlier in the day were held to a third straight league draw, while Lazio moved five points behind Juve after they drew with rivals Roma.

As for Napoli, a first home league win since October may prove a turning point in their season with results having failed to improve since Gennaro Gattuso was appointed as Carlo Ancelotti's successor.


Di Lorenzo stars as Koulibaly's deputy

Giovanni Di Lorenzo was excellent in the heart of the Napoli defence, showing a calmness in possession and helping to keep Ronaldo and ex-Napoli striker Higuain quiet.


Szczesny error proves costly

With Gianluigi Buffon back on the bench after starting the midweek win over Roma, his replacement Szczesny made a bad mistake to hand Napoli the opening goal. Insigne's strike was not easy to deal with but Szczesny made a mess of his save, presenting Zielinski with a tap-in.


What's next?

Juve will aim to bounce back when they return to action at home to Fiorentina next Sunday, with Napoli away to Sampdoria a day later.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to be linked with a move from Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are the latest European heavyweight reportedly interested in the forward.

Aubameyang, 30, is reportedly a target for Barcelona after scoring 16 goals in 26 games for struggling Arsenal this season.

However, with Edinson Cavani potentially leaving, PSG are also eyeing the Gabon international.

 

TOP STORY – PSG INTERESTED IN AUBAMEYANG AMID BARCELONA LINKS

PSG are considering a move for Aubameyang, according to Foot Mercato.

Cavani may leave the Ligue 1 giants for Atletico Madrid during this transfer window and Aubameyang could be his replacement, the report says.

PSG are reportedly discussing a loan with an option to buy Aubameyang.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal are close to a deal for Flamengo defender Pablo Mari, according to ESPN and other reports. The Premier League club will reportedly pay £8.4million (€10m) for the Spaniard.

- Marcos Rojo could be on his way out of Manchester United. After just three Premier League appearances this season, the defender is heading back to Estudiantes – where he started his career – on loan, according to the Mirror.

- Carles Perez is set to join Roma. Sky Sport Italia reports the Barcelona forward will join the Serie A club on loan until the end of the season, with a mandatory purchase option for €13m to be part of the deal.

- Inter are already preparing for a period of dominance, including next season. Sport Italia reports Napoli star Lorenzo Insigne has been offered to Inter, who may land the forward ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

- Inter and Napoli seem to have a decent relationship. CalcioMercato reports Matteo Politano will swap Milan for Naples, where he will sign a deal until 2024 with a medical set for Monday.

- Mauricio Pochettino remains without a job after being sacked by Tottenham in November. The Mirror reports Spurs will be entitled to £10m in compensation if the Argentinian finds another job before the end of the season.

Lorenzo Insigne's fine solo goal proved the difference in an enthralling encounter as Napoli beat in-form Lazio 1-0 to advance to the Coppa Italia semi-finals.

Elseid Hysaj and Lucas Leiva were dismissed in the opening period, the latter shown a straight red after protesting against a booking, as Napoli handed Lazio just their third loss in 17 games in all competitions.

Insigne guided a cool finish past Thomas Strakosha after dribbling in from the left in the second minute, but Ciro Immobile missed a chance to equalise from the spot eight minutes later - Serie A's leading goalscorer losing his footing and looping his penalty over the crossbar.

Arkadiusz Milik saw a header come back off the post with 20 minutes remaining, with Immobile volleying against the bar before Mario Rui curled an effort against the woodwork in a frantic finale.

However, Napoli held on for a win - just their third since Gennaro Gattuso took over in December - that set up a last-four meeting with Fiorentina or Inter.

Manchester United may be eyeing Everton forward Richarlison, but Carlo Ancelotti has other ideas.

Brazil international Richarlison, 22, is reportedly among numerous attackers being targeted by United.

However, the arrival of Ancelotti at Goodison Park could mean Richarlison is going nowhere.

 

TOP STORY – ANCELOTTI TO BLOCK MAN UTD'S RICHARLISON BID

Ancelotti will block any Manchester United bid for Richarlison, according to The Sun.

The report says Everton would even reject a £70million bid for the forward, who signed a five-year deal earlier this month.

Richarlison has scored six Premier League goals this season, having netted 13 in 2018-19.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Everton and Ancelotti would seriously consider a move for Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne, according to Le 10 Sport. Ancelotti and Insigne worked together in Naples before the former was sacked earlier this month.

- Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Juventus full-back Mattia De Sciglio, according to CalcioMercato. Emre Can has been linked with a move to PSG and Leandro Paredes to Juve, with De Sciglio potentially being included in those talks.

- Inter are moving quickly for Arturo Vidal. Sport reports the Serie A club have offered €12m for the midfielder, although Barcelona want €20m, amid reports Vidal has agreed to terms with Inter ahead of a possible move in January.

- Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is a wanted man. The Spain international is a key target for Real Madrid for the 2020-21 season, according to AS, which says Fabian wants a move to the Santiago Bernabeu despite interest from the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City.

- Mikel Arteta is not ready to let Granit Xhaka leave. Amid reports the midfielder has told Arsenal he wants to join Hertha Berlin in January, The Sun suggests Arteta is in no rush to sell Xhaka as he assesses his squad.

- After links to numerous coaches, it seems Inter Miami have found their man. ESPN reports the MLS club – which will make their debut next year – have reached an agreement with former Monterrey and Pachuca coach Diego Alonso.

A host of Napoli players have paid tribute to Carlo Ancelotti following his sacking, with the Italian lauded as a "special person" by Lorenzo Insigne and others.

Ancelotti was dismissed on Tuesday despite guiding Napoli to a 4-0 win over Genk earlier in the day, securing their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

It has been a difficult first half of the season for Napoli, with underwhelming league form combining with tension between Ancelotti and the club's hierarchy.

Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis was reported to have ordered Ancelotti and the players to attend a training retreat in early November, but the squad failed to show up in what was deemed by the Italian media to be an act of open rebellion.

Napoli threatened sanctions in the wake of that situation and Ancelotti's days seemed to be numbered from then, with Tuesday's win over Genk their first win in any competition in well over a month.

After Napoli confirmed Ancelotti had been dismissed following a meeting with De Laurentiis, it seems he has retained the respect of the players.

Club captain Insigne – who acknowledged an up-and-down relationship with Ancelotti in October – wrote on his Instagram account: "Thank you boss - it was an honour to have worked with you and your staff. In these two years I met a special person. I wish you the best!"

Spanish midfielder Fabian Ruiz has developed into an important player for Napoli and Spain under Ancelotti. He also saluted the three-time Champions League-winning coach.

"Boss, thanks for everything you did," he wrote. "You have been a special person for me, I wish you the best, wherever you go you deserve the best. A big hug and good luck."

Allan added: "You were a special person, much more than a coach... I thank you for everything you've done in almost two years together... I wish you and all the staff good luck."

Kostas Manolas, Arkadiusz Milik, Kalidou Koulibaly and Hirving Lozano were among the others to post their thanks to Ancelotti, who has been strongly linked with the vacant managerial positions at Premier League duo Arsenal and Everton.

Gennaro Gattuso is expected to be announced as Ancelotti's successor on Wednesday.

Lorenzo Insigne will miss Napoli's Champions League trip to Liverpool due to an elbow injury.

The 28-year-old suffered the problem during Saturday's Serie A game with AC Milan; he was replaced after 65 minutes of the 1-1 draw at San Siro.

Insigne has four goals and five assists in all competitions this season but has not been included in Napoli's 20-man squad for the match at Anfield.

Fabian Ruiz and Faouzi Ghoulam have been selected, however, despite training separately from their team-mates on Monday.

Carlo Ancelotti's side beat Liverpool 2-0 in the opening round of fixtures and can make certain of a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with victory over the Premier League leaders on Wednesday.

Italy earned a record 10th consecutive victory with a convincing 3-0 win at Bosnia-Herzegovina in Friday's Euro 2020 qualifier.

The Azzurri were already assured of top spot in Group J and were in control at the break in Zenica thanks to Francesco Acerbi's first Italy goal and Lorenzo Insigne's effort.

Andrea Belotti's fine strike early in the second half ensured Italy retained their 100 per cent record, while Bosnia-Herzegovina already knew they were destined for the play-offs.

It means Roberto Mancini breaks new ground as the first Italy coach to oversee 10 straight wins, while it also marks the first time they have won six away games in a row.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was sharp to keep out Ermin Bicakcic's close-range header and defender Zoran Kvrzic made a great block to deny Insigne before Italy went in front.

The visitors worked the ball into the box and Nicolo Barella teed up Acerbi, who showed quick feet before rifling into the bottom-right corner.

Things got better when Belotti wormed his way into the area to pick out Insigne and his effort found the bottom-left corner despite not making clean contact.

Donnarumma made fine saves from Gojko Cimirot and Adnan Kovacevic to protect the two-goal lead and Belotti put the match to bed after 52 minutes.

The Torino forward raced onto Barella's throughball and his sweetly hit 20-yard effort curved past Ibrahim Sehic.

Kovacevic was perhaps fortunate to escape with just a yellow card for a challenge that caught Belotti high and Mancini made the rare decision to sub a keeper when Pierluigi Gollini made his Italy bow late on, as the closing stages passed largely without incident.

 

What does it mean? Mancini has history-making Italy in great shape

After the ignominy of missing out on the 2018 World Cup under previous boss Gian Piero Ventura, Mancini has quietly gone about rebuilding Italy's shattered confidence. In Federico Bernardeschi and Insigne they have creativity in forward positions, while Jorginho, Sandro Tonali and Barella are a work in progress in midfield. Tougher tests lay in wait but a winning mentality has returned to the Azzurri.

Barella the fella making Italy tick

There were a lot of things to like for Italy, but Barella was particularly impressive pulling the strings in the heart of midfield. The Inter star finished the evening with four key passes and two assists.

Dzeko has his Ed-in his hands

Having spent the past four years in Serie A, Edin Dzeko is no stranger to Italy, but he unusually snatched at his chances and was unable to hurt the visitors.

What's next?

Italy will look to make it 10 wins from 10 in Group J when they host Armenia in their final qualifier on Monday, while Bosnia-Herzegovina's last group game is at Liechtenstein on the same day.

Lorenzo Insigne mounted a strong defence of Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti following the frustrating 1-1 Champions League draw against Salzburg.

Hirving Lozano cancelled out Erling Haaland's early opener at Stadio San Paolo but the Serie A side failed to find the winner that would have confirmed their place in the knockout rounds.

Tuesday's draw extended Napoli's winless run to four games in all competitions and Ancelotti's failure to appear for the customary post-match news conference did nothing to dispel rumours of division at the club.

The former AC Milan and Real Madrid boss has reportedly been at odds with Aurelio de Laurentiis over the outspoken president's decision to order the first-team squad into a training retreat.

Ancelotti appears to be under an increasing amount of pressure but retains the backing of his captain. 

"We're a close-knit group and that's down to the coach as he maintains calm and has tried to take the pressure off us in this difficult spell," Insigne said.

"We're grateful to him and we all want to perform well for him. He helps us so much and he deserves success.

"We must look forward and think positive. Everything is in our hands and we're determined to wrap up qualification in our two remaining games."

Napoli are a point behind leaders Liverpool in Group E and four ahead of third-placed Salzburg, who were on the back foot for much of Tuesday's match.

"We deserved to win the game – we created loads of chances but needed to be more clinical with our finishing," Insigne added.

"We have to play with this same spirit and belief all the time because our luck will turn."

Despite his exceptional pedigree, Ancelotti has struggled to extract the best from Napoli since taking over in the wake of Maurizio Sarri's acrimonious exit.

The Partenopei finished well off the pace of Serie A champions Juventus last term and sit seventh – 11 points behind the titleholders – after 11 games of the new season.

Carlo Ancelotti is pleased to have the full backing of Aurelio De Laurentiis and has thanked Napoli's chairman for clarifying "lies" that surfaced in the media.

Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport this month reported Ancelotti is considering his future at Stadio San Paolo following a difficult run of form.

Napoli entered the international break on the back of one win in four matches in all competitions and already trail Serie A leaders Juventus by six points.

De Laurentiis this week rubbished suggestions he had fallen out with Ancelotti and assured the veteran coach he can stay on for another decade should he wish.

Ancelotti has reiterated he is happy in Naples and is keen to get his side's campaign back on track, starting with victory at home to Hellas Verona on Saturday.

"De Laurentiis' comments cleared up the rubbish we've heard people saying about us," he said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"We have an excellent relationship and I'm very happy here. What the president said came from the heart. 

"I'm pleased he has confidence in me and I'm also happy he cleared up some of the lies that have been going around.

"What matters now is that we look forward and get back to winning again. We have a very important game tomorrow which gives us the chance to pick up three points and get going again."

Back-to-back goalless draws have been compounded by tension between Ancelotti and captain Lorenzo Insigne, who was left out of the squad for the stalemate with Genk.

Insigne admitted this week he does not always see eye-to-eye with his coach, though Ancelotti has talked up the forward's importance.

"The situation with Lorenzo is not at all complicated," he said. "He made an excellent start to the season then he had a dip in form and I decided to rest him. 

"He's a key player when he's relaxed, happy and able to fire up the team as he does so well. He's less effective when he's on edge because he's not able to express his full potential.

"I didn't think he looked sharp in training and decided that it was best [to leave him out against Genk] - a strong decision perhaps but it's all cleared up. I repeat, Insigne is a hugely important player for us."

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis admitted there will be a time when he will have to sell star defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

Koulibaly has established himself as one of the best and most in-demand defenders in the world since joining Napoli from Genk in 2014.

The 28-year-old Senegal international was heavily linked to Manchester United before the Premier League giants signed Harry Maguire in a world-record transfer prior to the transfer window closing.

Koulibaly continues to be linked to United and when asked about Napoli's centre-back, De Laurentiis told Sky Sport Italia: "I loved Koulibaly the man so I refused €105million, but a time will come when I'll have to sell him. Whoever says we didn't improve our defence is wrong."

Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is also attracting plenty of interest amid links to LaLiga pair Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in a €30m deal in 2018-19 and the Spaniard has starred in Serie A.

"Fabian's always been a top player," De Laurentiis said. "If I convince myself to pay a stranger €30m, I do it for a reason and now I know why.

"It's one thing to play for your country and another to do it for a team who play every three days. We found Fabian, but we'll find more like him. The door's always open. I don't get attached to players."

The futures of Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon are also uncertain, with the Napoli duo linked with moves to the Chinese Super League.

"I'm absolutely not prepared to make a major effort for them," De Laurentiis added. "Each player has a value, depending on where they play, how they play, how old they are and what they do.

"If they want to sell themselves out in China, overpaid to live a life of s*** for two or three years, it's their problem. I can't consider China to be competitive. China's far away. If they consider it to be close, it's their problem.

"In life, you have to choose whether to be happy and find a job you enjoy doing or work just for money. For me, money is a means and not an end; if it's an end for them then they should go to China."

De Laurentiis also said Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne must "change his attitude" as he threw his support behind head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Amid reports of a tense relationship between Insigne and Ancelotti, De Laurentiis added: "I didn't fight with Ancelotti, he can stay here for another 10 years. In cinema, my relationships, like my one with [director Carlo] Verdone, last a long time.

"Insigne's an excellent sportsman, but he must stay calm, change his attitude and lay off certain things. He's always had an attitude of discomfort in Naples. I understand him, I protect him and I like him a lot, but he's always found his situation in Naples to be uncomfortable. Therefore, I just want to say that he needs to calm down and become a more peaceful person, but that's his problem. Neither [agent Mino] Raiola nor Ancelotti can resolve that.

"He's a great player and he can be in good form or bad form. If he's less so, it's up to the coach not to play him. Insigne can't come out cracking jokes or with an 'almost' defiant attitude. The coach is a family man, 60 years old, and won't tell you to get lost because he's three times your age."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.