European Leagues Roundup: AC Milan thrash Inter, PSG equal unbeaten record, Bayern win
AC Milan 3-0 Inter Milan
The Derby di Milano, Italy's blockbuster fixture, has lost it's sheen over the last few years, but nonetheless provided terrific excitement as AC Milan ran out 3-0 victors over their bitter rivals Inter Milan at the San Siro, with goals from Alex, Carlos Bacca and M'Baye Niang giving the Rossoneri a rare win over their rivals in recent history.
Roberto Mancini made the bemusing decision to drop Mauro Icardi to the bench, opting to start with Stevan Jovetic as a lone striker, with new signing Eder playing off him. The decision came into stark focus as Eder missed a golden chance in the opening stages, making a mess of a header from five yards out after Juan Jesus had sent in a sumptous cross from the left.
Inter made the early running with Brozovic shotting twice towards Donnarumma's goal, but the youngest keeper to ever play in a Milan derby was not unduly worried. The deadlock was broken in the 35th minute from the unlikeliest of sources. Milan's short corner made it's way to Keisuke Honda, and the Japanese maestro whipped in an inswinging cross with his left foot from the right wing, which Alex met with a thumping header into the top corner, giving the Rossoneri the lead.
A mad dash up the pitch by Donnarumma nearly allowed Inter to equalize, but the chance went a-begging, which meant that Milan went into the break with a 1-0 lead, after a keenly fought first half.
The most exciting Milan derby in years lived up to it's reputation in the second half, as Donnarumma gave Milan fans another stroke with a foul on Eder in the box, but the referee awarded a goal kick. This incensed Inter boss Mancini, who made his displeasure know in a rather unbecoming manner and was duly sent to the stands by the referee.
Mancini continued to call the shots behind the scenes, and finally brought on Icardi for Jovetic in the 64th minute, and Inter's Argentine captain made an immediate impact, as Alex scythed him down in the box after Icardi had shot at goal and looked to be reaching the rebound, which led to the Nerrazzuri being awarded a penalty.
That was as good as it got for the 'visitors', as they completely imploded after that. Icardi hit the post with his penalty, and to compound the error, Carlos Bacca scored moments later to give Milan a 2-0 lead in the 73rd minute. The striker brought back memories of Pippo Inzaghi as he made a darting run to divert in a cross from Niang, his 11th goal from only 21 shots this season.
Inter's implosion was complete 4 minutes later, as Niang served up the icing on the Rossoneri cake, as the Frenchman danced his way around the Nerazzuri defence only to see his shot saved by Handanovic. Niang made sure with the rebound, as he lashed it into the top corner to give Milan an unassailable 3-0 lead in the 77th minute.
The final whistle sparked off huge celebrations at the San Siro, as the defeaning noise meant that the home side ended up victors, which takes them closer to the European spots while Inter's title challenge looks on its last legs.
Saint Etienne 0-2 Paris Saint Germain
Paris Saint Germain opened up a 24 point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table with a 2-0 win away to Saint Etienne. A brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave the Parisians the victory after a goalless first half.
The first half was a keenly fought contest as both sides traded chances, with the hosts coming close with Tabanou excelling on his return from Swansea. PSG should have taken the lead in the 36th minute as Ibrahimovic was clean through and his ingenious back heel beat Ruffier in goal but was heading wide; Lucas chased it down and looked set to score, but Bayal Sall cleared the ball of the line, ensuring the two sides went into the break level.
In a familiar story, PSG broke the deadlock after the break on the hour mark, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored to give the visitors the lead. The Swede owed a lot to Serge Aurier for his goal, as the Ivorian was set free down the right wing by a pass from Lucas which gave him the time to pick out Ibrahimovic who had drifted in between the Saint Etienne centrebacks, allowing him to divert the ball home uncontested.
The home side battled hard but were unable to break down PSG's defence, and the Parisians added gloss to the scoreline in the final minute of the game, as Ibrahimovic scored his 14th goal against Saint Etienne since arriving in France. Terrific work from Serge Aurier down the right wing released Edinson Cavani into the box, and his cut back found Di Maria, only for the Argentine to miskick his shot straight to Ibrahimovic who tapped in at the far post give PSG the win.
The French champions have now gone 32 games unbeaten, thus eqaulling Nantes's 21 year old record in Ligue 1.
Bayern Munich 2-0 Hoffenheim
Bayern maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table as they beat relegation-battling Hoffenheim 2-0 at the Allianz Arena on Sunday. Two goals – one in each half – from star striker, Robert Lewandowski sealed three points for the Bavarians.
Bayern dominated proceedings as they had 69% possession and had 29 attempts on the Hoffenheim goal. The home side's persistence paid off in the 32nd minute as Douglas Costa's low speedy cross into the box was gladly tucked into the net by a sharp Lewandowski.
Bayern extended their lead in the 64th minute after captain Philipp Lahm picked up a loose ball and sent a perfect ball into the box that Lewandowski finished with aplomb to seal the match for the league leaders.