Lautaro Martinez scored a second-half brace as Inter Milan moved top of Serie A after easing to a 4-0 victory over Fiorentina to extend their 100 per cent start to the season at San Siro.

The hosts began to press from the off and Denzel Dumfries half-tested returning Fiorentina goalkeeper Oliver Christensen – who missed Thursday’s Europa Conference League qualifying play-off with Rapid Vienna – with an easy shot.

Marcus Thuram headed Dumfries’ cross straight at Christensen after 11 minutes as Inter looked for an opener.

Eight minutes later, the home side came close with their first real chance of note as Thuram continued to cause Fiorentina problems but he fired over the crossbar after a nice run.

The summer signing from Borussia Monchengladbach did finally break the deadlock with his first goal for Inter midway through the first half.

Federico Dimarco whipped in a well-timed cross to pick out Thuram, whose powerful header from the centre of the box beat Christensen.

The hosts came close to doubling their lead on the half-hour mark and Thuram was again well placed to claim his brace but he could not turn Alessandro Bastoni’s cross home as he fired over.

The Viola were pushing hard for an equaliser as the half started to draw to a close but were yet to really test Inter goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

While – at the other end – a brilliant Inter free-kick from Turkey midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu was well kept out by the diving Christensen and Thuram fired another wasted chance over on the stroke of half-time.

Fiorentina looked like they might try their luck early in the second half but were easily thwarted by the Nerazzurri, who proved too strong for their opponents and found their rhythm soon afterwards.

The hosts doubled their lead – following a chance where Dumfries struck the post – after 53 minutes as Martinez went on a run from outside the box and slotted home Thuram’s cross with a great strike straight down the middle.

Inter were given the chance to extend their lead further before the half-hour mark as they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Christensen on Thuram.

Calhanoglu made no mistake to score his first goal of the season as he sent his powerful spot-kick to the keeper’s bottom-left, leaving Christensen diving down to his right.

Inter continued to dominate and put the result beyond doubt with 17 minutes remaining as Martinez tapped the ball home after beating his opponent to substitute Juan Cuadrado’s inch-perfect cross into the box.

Fiorentina could find no reply as the hosts kept their clean-sheet record intact for the season while moving above rivals AC Milan at the top of the table.

Simone Inzaghi knows Inter Milan will need to maintain their standards against Fiorentina at San Siro on Sunday.

Inzaghi’s side have picked up maximum points from their first two Serie A matches after 2-0 wins over Monza and Cagliari.

He told the club’s official website: “We’ve started with real determination; the lads have been excellent. We’ve played two matches, and tomorrow we have another very important game. We’ll be as determined as we always are whenever we take to the pitch.

“We know we’ll be facing an excellent side who are well coached and have excellent players. In the past couple of years, we’ve played them many times and they’ve all been difficult games. We’ll need to approach the match in the best way possible.

“In terms of playing principles, both teams make use of the flanks, which will obviously be the case tomorrow, too. We’ll need to cover the pitch in the best way possible because we know that Fiorentina occupy all areas of the pitch very well.”

Inter Milan, Champions League runners-up last term, had a major overhaul of players in the summer.

The likes of Andre Onana, Marcelo Brozovic, Robin Gosens and Edin Dzeko all went to new clubs while Romelu Lukaku’s loan stay expired.

The arrivals of Benjamin Pavard, Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Thuram along with others have boosted the squad and Inzaghi is happy with the options he has at his disposal.

He added: “For 50 days now, the lads have been working on our principles and many other things that we know we need to improve.

“My staff and I are very satisfied because we see on a daily basis how the boys try to follow our instructions.

“They’re working very well. We know that there have been some big changes this year. We’ve lost some important players who did very well for us, but we’ve brought in some equally important players. Some of them are more experienced, and they’ll help our younger lads to integrate as quickly as possible.”

Inter Milan lost 1-0 to Manchester City in last season’s Champions League final.

On Thursday, they learned of their 2023 group-stage opponents and Inzaghi thinks his side will face a “competitive” start to the tournament.

He added: “We were eagerly anticipating the draw. Last year, we knew how difficult our group was.

“This year, meanwhile, we’re in a very competitive group. We know all about Benfica, who we faced in the quarter-finals last season, while Salzburg are a strong and young side who have been involved in the Champions League for many years now.

“Real Sociedad play some excellent football and did really well in LaLiga last year. It’ll be very competitive, and we’ll try to ensure that we’re ready when the time comes.”

AC Milan have signed Serbia striker Luka Jovic from Fiorentina.

Jovic spent one season in Florence, scoring 13 goals in 50 appearances, after a three-year spell at Real Madrid.

“AC Milan is delighted to announce the signing of Luka Jovic on a permanent transfer,” read a statement from the Serie A club.

“The Serbian striker has signed a contract with the club until 30 June 2024.”

Jovic, 25, began his career at Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade before spells at Benfica, Eintracht Frankfurt and Real.

Forward Lorenzo Colombo, meanwhile, will spend the 2023/24 season on loan at Monza after extending his AC Milan contract until June 2028.

West Ham face Fiorentina in the final of the Europa Conference League in Prague on Wednesday night.

Here, the PA news agency shines a spotlight on the Italian outfit.

Pedigree

In qualifying for the showpiece in Prague, Fiorentina became the first team to reach all four finals of the major European competitions. They lost in the European Cup final to Real Madrid in 1957 and won the inaugural Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961 by beating Rangers 4-1 on aggregate in the final. Their last appearance in a European final was a defeat by fierce rivals Juventus in the 1990 UEFA Cup final.

Coach

Vincenzo Italiano, 45, spent most of his playing career as a midfielder with Verona. As a coach he led Spezia to promotion to Serie A in 2020 and kept them up the following season before moving to Fiorentina, where he guided ‘I Viola’ back into Europe for the first time since 2017.

Form

Fiorentina have enjoyed a fine end to their league campaign, winning eight, drawing four and losing just two matches since March, securing an eighth-placed finish in Serie A. They also reached the final of the Coppa Italia, where they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Champions League finalists Inter Milan.

Style

Italiano’s free-flowing side are the top scorers in the Conference League with 36 goals, at an average of just over two-and-a-half per match. Italiano also deploys a high defensive line in a bid to squeeze the opposition and control the tempo of the match while dominating possession.

Key men

Morocco World Cup star Sofyan Amrabat could be playing his final match for the Italians amid reported interest from Barcelona and Manchester United. Fellow midfielder Antonin Barak is one of Serie A’s most creative players but could be an injury doubt for the final.

Lautaro Martinez was Inter's hero as his two goals saw them retain the Coppa Italia with a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina.

Martinez produced two fine first-half finishes – the first for his 100th Inter goal – as the Nerazzurri rallied following Nicolas Gonzalez's third-minute opener at a raucous Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.

Vincenzo Italiano's Viola piled on the pressure after the break, but Inter captain Samir Handanovic made a string of crucial saves, the most impressive of them to deny Luka Jovic.

That rear-guard action from Inter ensured they clung on to retain the trophy, and with a Champions League final against Manchester City to come next month, the Nerazzurri are in the hunt for a double.

It was a dream start for Fiorentina. Jonathan Ikone found space to send in a low cross from the left, allowing his opposite winger Gonzalez to tap home at the far post.

Edin Dzeko missed two chances to level for Inter, but it was his partner-in-crime Martinez who stepped up just before the half-hour mark, latching onto Marcelo Brozovic's pass to finish low across goal.

Martinez doubled up just eight minutes later, volleying Nicolo Barella's delicate cross beyond Pietro Terracciano.

Arthur Cabral headed straight at Handanovic from close range, before Inter substitute Romelu Lukaku tested Terracciano at the other end.

Handanovic remained alert to deny Gonzalez a double of his own from a tight angle, while Robin Gosens somehow failed to prod Lukaku's cross into a gaping net to kill the contest.

Jovic had two chances to send the game to extra time after entering the fray, but Handanovic thwarted the former Real Madrid striker with a brilliant one-on-one save before watching a header from the Serbian spin just wide as Inter claimed a ninth Coppa crown.

Victor Osimhen saw one penalty saved before scoring another as Napoli marked their Scudetto celebrations with a 1-0 win against Fiorentina amid a carnival atmosphere.

Having ended a 33-year wait to win Serie A on Thursday, Luciano Spalletti's men were greeted by a jubilant crowd at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, but two much-changed lineups made for a low-key opening. 

Osimhen thought he had missed the Partenopei's best chance for victory when he had a second-half spot-kick saved by Pietro Terracciano, but a foul on Khvicha Kvaratskhelia gave him the chance to atone.

Serie A's top goalscorer hammered home at the second time of asking, ensuring Napoli's long-awaited Scudetto party was capped with three points.

Fiorentina gave Napoli a pre-match guard of honour, but they were determined not to extend similar levels of hospitality after kick-off, Luka Jovic heading narrowly over early on.

Eljif Elmas shot wide as Napoli – who started with Kvaratskhelia and Stanislav Lobotka on the bench – were slow to click into gear.

Jovic went close again when his deft header was turned away by Pierluigi Gollini, before Osimhen fired into the side netting from a tight angle as half-time approached.

Both Kvaratskhelia and Lobotka were introduced as Napoli looked to step things up, and the latter had an immediate impact when he tempted Sofyan Amrabat into a clumsy foul after the restart, handing Osimhen his first spot-kick. 

Osimhen was denied on this occasion as Terracciano pushed his effort around the left-hand post, but he was to get another chance with 16 minutes left.

Nicolas Gonzalez tripped Kvaratskhelia as he darted into the area, and Osimhen made no mistake second time around, blasting into the roof of the net.

Christian Kouame missed Fiorentina's best chance to level when he lifted over late on, ensuring the champions clung on.

Fiorentina sealed their place in the Coppa Italia final after a 0-0 draw against Cremonese on Thursday at Stadio Artemio Franchi, securing a 2-0 aggregate win.

A frantic start to the game did not lead to any goals, with few clear-cut chances for either team despite the pace of the play in the first half.

It took until the 73rd minute for Cremonese to have anything that could be called a chance, with Charles Pickel seeing a close-range header closed down by Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano.

Nicolas Gonzalez curled a shot wide at the other end moments later, but on the whole, it was a match devoid of any serious opportunities.

The hosts hit the target just once from 13 attempts, while Cremonese could only muster two shots at all as Vincenzo Italiano's men comfortably kept them at bay.

Fiorentina will be hoping to rediscover the form that recently saw them win 10 games in a row, having not claimed victory in four, but have almost a month to prepare for Inter, when they will look to lift their seventh Coppa Italia.

La Viola will face the Nerazzurri in the final on May 24 after Simone Inzaghi's men dumped out Juventus in the other semi-final on Wednesday.

Fiorentina have one foot in the Coppa Italia final after a dominant away performance saw them record a 2-0 win against ten-men Cremonese in the first leg of the semi-final. 

Arthur Cabral's header and Nicolas Gonzalez's penalty wrapped up a comfortable victory for La Viola, who are now unbeaten in their last 11 games in all competitions. 

Fiorentina were much the better team in the first half and took a deserved lead when Cabral rose highest to head home Cristiano Biraghi's cross in the 20th minute. 

Gonzalez should have doubled his side's lead before the break, but the winger saw his close-range header expertly saved by Mouhamadou Sarr's save.

Half-time substitute Cyriel Dessers forced a good save from Pietro Terracciano but Fiorentina found their second when Gonzalez slotted home from the spot after Cabral's effort was blocked by Emanuel Aiwu's hand, with the centre-back sent off after a VAR check. 

Vincenzo Italiano's side take their two-goal advantage into the second leg, with the fixture taking place on April 27 at the Artemio Franchi Stadium.

Simone Inzaghi did not hide his frustration at Romelu Lukaku's struggles in front of goal after Inter lost 1-0 to Fiorentina on Saturday.

Inter's losing streak in Serie A was extended to their worst in six years as Giacomo Bonaventura's second-half header proved decisive at San Siro.

The Nerazzurri have now lost three straight top flight matches, with Bonaventura's winner coming shortly after a woeful miss from Lukaku.

Having rediscovered his goalscoring touch while on international duty with Belgium, Lukaku was unable to transfer that form across to his club side as he failed to hit the target from close range with the goal gaping.

No Inter player had more shots than his three, with Lukaku not managing to get any of them on target, despite accumulating 1.2 expected goals.

While not pinning the blame entirely on Lukaku – who is reported to have confronted Inzaghi about a lack of opportunities while he has been fit this season – Inter's coach was quick to point out the importance of those misses.

Speaking to DAZN, Inzaghi said: "If he had scored those chances, Lukaku's performance would be judged in a very different way.

"His role is to create the opportunities, make the movements that the team needs.

"He wasn't the only one who had chances today, so I wouldn't focus only on Romelu."

Inzaghi also stressed he is ultimately responsible for turning Inter's fortunes around. 

"There is great disappointment, we lost two consecutive home matches," he said. "We need to work more, starting with me.

"At the moment, we need to be more determined, because we had so many chances to score and we should have done.

"I cannot ask for more in terms of effort, as the players did everything I asked of them."

Inzaghi is not wrong. While Fiorentina had more shots (19 to 16) and got the same number of attempts on target (three each), Inter finished with a 2.8 xG compared to the visitors' 1.2, suggesting the quality of opportunities that went their way was far greater.

Lukaku's glaring miss came from by far the best opportunity of the match, with Opta's model estimating the chance would be converted 92 per cent of the time (0.92 xG).

The 29-year-old's future is uncertain. He is on loan at Inter, but due to return to parent club Chelsea at the end of the season.

Before the match, Inter chief Giuseppe Marotta told DAZN: "[Lukaku's] love for the Inter jersey is 10 out of 10, we'll evaluate the prospects with Chelsea."

Inter's losing streak extended to their worst in Serie A in six years with a 1-0 defeat to Fiorentina at San Siro on Saturday.

Giacomo Bonaventura's second-half header was enough to down Simone Inzaghi's side, inflicting a third consecutive defeat upon the Nerazzurri.

The game's only goal came shortly after a woeful miss from Romelu Lukaku, failing to hit the target with the goal gaping from inside the six-yard box.

Inter came closest to an equaliser when Nicolo Barella struck the crossbar from long range but failed to restore parity and suffered their 10th league defeat of the season.

Andre Onana was called into action with a diving save to keep out Gaetano Castrovilli's bouncing volley, the goalkeeper then staying alert to the danger to quickly punch away the loose ball before Arthur Cabral could pounce on the rebound.

Fiorentina's Jonathan Ikone had the best chance of the half seven minutes before the interval with the goal at his mercy but failed to connect with the ball after Riccardo Saponara's scuffed shot fell into his path.

After the break, it was Inter's turn to spurn a glorious opportunity, Lukaku just yards from goal with Pietro Terracciano out of the picture but only able to slice a poor effort wide of the mark after Alessandro Bastoni put the ball on a plate for the striker.

Inter were made to pay for that missed chance, Cabral flicking on a corner at the near post that Onana palmed away, only for Bonaventura to nod in the rebound and give the visitors the lead.

Barella led Inter's search for an equaliser, firing a ferocious effort at goal that had Terracciano beaten but cannoned back off the crossbar, with later appeals for a penalty for a foul on Lautaro Martinez waved away and the referee's decision upheld after a VAR check.

Chelsea have underwhelmed this season and may look to offload players to ensure they meet financial fair play requirements, but could Reece James really leave Stamford Bridge?

The Blues have spent big money over the past 10 months since Todd Boehly took over ownership from Roman Abramovich.

Enzo Fernandez, Wesley Fofana, Mykhailo Mudryk, Marc Cucurella, Raheem Sterling, Benoit Badiashile, Kalidou Koulibaly, Noni Madueke and Malo Gusto were all signed in lucrative moves.

TOP STORY – MADRID CONSIDER SHOCK MOVE FOR CHELSEA'S JAMES

Real Madrid are plotting a shock swoop to sign Chelsea full-back Reece James as the Blues plan a clean-out, claims AS.

James, 23, is contracted with the Blues until 2028, making any deal complicated, but Los Blancos are reportedly hoping Chelsea's need to balance the books can work in their favour.

Madrid previously landed Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard from Chelsea, albeit in different circumstances with both only having shorter terms remaining on their contracts.

AS claims Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham remains Real's priority signing.

ROUND-UP

– The Evening Standard claims Arsenal are making West Ham midfielder Declan Rice a transfer priority, amid plenty of interest from Premier League clubs. Rice is expected to leave the Hammers at the end of this season, with ChelseaManchester City and Manchester United also reportedly in the hunt.

– Manchester United are keeping an eye on Eintracht Frankfurt's Randal Kolo Muani and Atalanta's Rasmus Hojlund should their advances for Tottenham's Harry Kane fail, claims the Manchester Evening News.

– Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat is eager for a move to Barcelona, claims Footmercato. The Blaugrana had interest in the Moroccan during the last transfer window.

– Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have lodged initial bids for 16-year-old Hajduk Split defender Luka Vuskovic, according to 90min.

– Footmercato reports Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is set to sign a new five-year contract with Napoli, having been linked with PSG recently.

– El Chiringuito claims Manchester City are eyeing a move for ex-Spain boss Luis Enrique amid talk Pep Guardiola could opt for a sabbatical at the end of the season.

Top Premier League clubs Manchester United, Newcastle United and Chelsea are said to be monitoring Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele ahead of his release clause activating.

Dembele is in his sixth season with Barcelona, having racked up a total of 40 goals in his 178 appearances.

He remained a first-team regular to start this campaign, with 14 starts from his 18 LaLiga appearances, before suffering a serious hamstring injury in late January.

The France international is yet to return nearly two months later, but despite his troubling physical problems, England's elite believe he could represent terrific value due to his contract situation.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA'S DEMBELE AVAILABLE AT A DISCOUNT

Dembele was purchased from Borussia Dortmund for €105million plus add-ons back in 2017, but according to Calciomercato he will be available for just €50m (£44m) in the upcoming transfer window.

His contract is set to expire after one more season, and if the club do not secure a long-term extension, Dembele will have his release clause activated.

The €50m figure is said to be more than enticing to England's wealthy clubs, as it is considered a bargain compared to the going rate for other world-class wingers.

Serie A giants Juventus and Inter are also said to be fans of Dembele's, but the price tag is too rich for their current financial situation unless they sell some players to raise funds.

 

ROUND-UP

– Foot Mercato is reporting Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi is considering a move back to Barcelona next season, with his father said to be in regular communication with the club.

Real Madrid are monitoring 29-year-old Tottenham striker Harry Kane as a potential successor to Karim Benzema, per the Daily Mail.

– According to Calciomercato, Barcelona and Tottenham are both fans of 26-year-old Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat, who is expected to leave the club in the upcoming transfer window.

– Goal is reporting Brighton and Hove Albion are prepared to make 25-year-old winger Kaoru Mitoma the highest earner in club history, in order to fend off interest from Real Madrid, Manchester City and Arsenal.

– Former player Jose Enrique revealed on his live stream that Liverpool have agreed to terms for 20-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, who Enrique shares an agent with.

West Ham will face Gent in the Europa Conference League quarter-finals as they bid to reach a European semi-final for the second straight year.

The Hammers made it to the Europa League final four last season, suffering a heartbreaking 3-1 aggregate defeat to eventual champions Eintracht Frankfurt.

But they thumped Cypriot side AEK Larnaca 4-0 at home on Thursday to seal a 6-0 aggregate win, before being matched with Belgian club Gent in Friday's quarter-final draw.

If they can get past Gent, David Moyes' men will face either AZ or Anderlecht to reach the final on June 7 after those two were pitted against each other in the last eight.

AZ have avoided defeat in seven of their last eight European clashes with Belgian opponents, with Anderlecht looking to win their first game against the Eredivisie side in three attempts having lost their previous two meetings.

On the other side of the draw, Lech Poznan stand between Fiorentina and their first European semi-final since the 2014-15 season.

History does not bode well for Poznan, with Fiorentina winning four of their six encounters with Polish clubs in European competitions.

The winner of that tie will play either Basel or Nice to see who will take their place in the showpiece match in Prague's Fortuna Arena.

The first legs of the quarter-finals will be played on April 13 before the return fixtures on April 20.

Stefano Pioli insisted Milan did not already have their eyes on their Champions League clash with Tottenham after a deserved defeat at Fiorentina.

Milan saw a three-game winning run in Serie A come to an abrupt end after Nicolas Gonzalez and Luka Jovic inflicted a 2-1 defeat, despite Theo Hernandez's well-taken late strike on Saturday.

That left the Rossoneri's top-four hopes in danger with fifth-placed Roma able to move level on points with victory at home to Juventus on Sunday.

Milan visit Tottenham with a slender 1-0 lead ahead of the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash on Wednesday, though Pioli refused suggestions that match impacted the Rossoneri at Fiorentina.

When asked by Sky Sport Italia if Milan were already thinking about Tottenham, Pioli said: "No no no, that was absolutely not the case.

"Fiorentina played better than us, but not because we were thinking of Tottenham.

"We never thought of Tottenham. We had to do things better. It was a defeat that we didn't want."

Milan had reeled off four straight wins across all competitions without conceding, aiming for just a fifth instance in their history of winning five in a row without their defence being breached.

That never came to fruition after Fiorentina were in the ascendancy from the start at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, where Pioli acknowledged Milan were slow to get going.

"We prepared the match as if it were very important. Fiorentina did better than us in the first half in terms of quality and energy," he added.

"We did better in the second half but the first half was not played well and we were punished."

Only Cremonese, Sampdoria and Salernitana (all six) have lost more Serie A matches than Milan's four in 2023, though Pioli expects the Rossoneri to respond when they travel to Tottenham.

"It will be a different match because tonight's match doesn't count," he continued. "It will be two teams that will play at their best; Milan will certainly be ready."

Milan saw their Serie A top-four hopes dealt a blow after Nicolas Gonzalez and Luka Jovic proved the difference in a 2-1 win for Fiorentina on Saturday.

Stefano Pioli's side had reeled off three straight league wins but came unstuck at Stadio Artemio Franchi with an underwhelming display.

Gonzalez's 49th-minute penalty was no less than Vincenzo Italiano's hosts deserved before substitute Jovic put the game beyond Milan, despite Theo Hernandez's stoppage-time strike.

Defeat left Pioli's men 18 points adrift of runaway leaders Napoli and looking over their shoulders at fifth-placed Roma, who could move level with victory against Juventus on Sunday.

Fiorentina were unable to reap the rewards of their first-half dominance against a Milan defence that had not conceded since February 5.

Giacomo Bonaventura was a constant threat against his former side, with Mike Maignan pushing away his free-kick and Fikayo Tomori clearing the midfielder's bobbling close-range finish off the line.

Milan offered little in response yet Pietro Terracciano still had to be alert to thwart Olivier Giroud's inventive left-footed volley.

Fiorentina's pressure told after the interval, though. Tomori dragged down Jonathan Ikone inside the area and Gonzalez rolled into the bottom-right corner from 12 yards.

An apparent Arthur Cabral handball seemed to offer Milan late hope, but the referee overturned his original penalty decision.

Jovic then headed in from Dodo's right-wing cross soon after, rendering Hernandez's subsequent thumping left-footed effort a mere consolation in a disappointing Milan defeat.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.