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Cristiano Ronaldo’s second-half goal secured a record eighth Italian Super Cup victory for Juventus as they beat AC Milan 1-0 in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on Wednesday.
The trophy, which was being contested outside of Italy for the 10th time, is traditionally a clash between the Italian league and cup winners, but Milan qualified as Coppa Italia runners-up after Juve clinched the domestic double last season.
Striker Gonzalo Higuain was dropped to the Milan bench amid media rumours of an imminent move to Chelsea, with some pre-match reports suggesting he was struggling with a fever.
Yet it was Juve’s Portuguese talisman Ronaldo who again stole the show with a winning goal that sealed the Turin club’s eighth Supercoppa win to make them the competition’s most successful team with one more trophy than Milan.
“It was a very difficult match, it’s very warm and hard to play in these conditions,” Ronaldo told Italian broadcasters.
“It was my intention to start 2019 with a trophy, I have my first title with Juve and I am very happy," he added.
“It is only the start, we take it one step at a time. We’ve got this cup, now we must keep working hard to achieve the next trophy.
“Serie A is always Juve’s principal objective, we are top of the table, but it’s a very long competition and it’s going to be tough, so we need to keep working.”
There were few clear chances in a balanced first half, Ronaldo going closest with an acrobatic volley that bounced off the ground and skimmed the crossbar before Milan winger Hakan Calhanoglu’s snapshot drew a smart save from Wojciech Szczesny.
Patrick Cutrone was inches away from putting Milan in front when his powerful shot cannoned back off the crossbar just three minutes after the break.
But it was Juve who struck first as Ronaldo latched onto Miralem Pjanic’s clipped through ball to head past Gianluigi Donnarumma with just over an hour played.
Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso introduced Higuain for the final 20 minutes as he looked for a route back into the game, but his side’s challenge petered out after Franck Kessie was sent off for a stamp on Emre Can following a VAR review.
There were furious protests from Milan late on when their appeals for a penalty were ignored after Can challenged Andrea Conti inside the box.
Chelsea agree Higuain loan from Juventus - reports
Chelsea have agreed a deal to sign striker Gonzalo Higuain on loan from Juventus until the end of the season, according to reports in the British media.
The Argentina international joined the Italian champions in 2016 but was loaned to AC Milan at the start of the current season where he has scored eight goals in 22 appearances this term.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is keen to strengthen his options in attack after dropping misfiring Spain forward Alvaro Morata to the bench and being forced to deploy playmaker Eden Hazard as a 'false nine' in recent games.
Sarri worked with Higuain when he was manager at Napoli and it was under the Italian that the striker scored 36 goals to equal the Serie A record for most goals in a season in 2015-16.
Sky Sports reported on Wednesday that the loan deal for Higuain could be extended for another 12 months subject to certain conditions.
Higuain's arrival could see Chelsea sanction a loan move for Morata, who is in talks with boyhood club Atletico Madrid about a return to Spain's La Liga.
Barca deny breaking rules by playing Chumi
Barcelona have denied that they broke Spanish football federation (RFEF) rules by fielding defender Chumi Brandariz in last week's Copa del Rey last-16 first leg game away to Levante, a club source told Reuters on Thursday.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that Chumi, who started the 2-1 defeat by Levante, was not eligible to play the game as Federation rules state that a suspended player cannot play for the senior team until he has completed a sanction.
Chumi, 19, earned a fifth yellow card for third-tier Barca B in a game against Castellon on Jan. 6, meaning he was suspended from the team's next game against Alcoyano, which took place on Jan. 13, three days after the Copa del Rey game at Levante.
A Barcelona source said Barca were relaxed about the story, saying the rules had changed and they had not fielded an ineligible player.
A source at the Spanish federation said the organisation were looking into the matter and would provide further information later on Thursday.
Barca, who have won the last four editions of the Copa del Rey, host Levante in the return leg at the Nou Camp on Thursday.
Real Madrid were expelled from the 2015-16 Copa del Rey for fielding Russian winger Denis Cheryshev in a last-32 match against Cadiz when he was supposed to be serving a suspension earned from the previous season when he played for Villarreal.
Monaco frustrated as Wenger boys draw in Ligue 1
Thierry Henry’s Monaco stretched their winless run in Ligue 1 to four games as they drew 1-1 with Patrick Vieira’s Nice on Wednesday as the two former Arsenal greats did battle in the dugout.
Former France internationals Henry and Vieira played 313 games together at Arsenal, under the Premier League club’s former boss Arsene Wenger, and with Les Bleus, but their former loyalties were put to one side as Monaco chased a first league win since Dec. 4.
The result left Monaco second from bottom with 15 points from 20 games while Nice, who played the second half with 10 men following Ihsan Sacko’s red card, stayed sixth on 30 points.
Olympique Lyonnais edged closer to second-placed Lille as Nabil Fekir’s late strike salvaged a 2-2 draw at Toulouse in one of five rescheduled matches while Olympique de Marseille’s winless streak stretched to five games in a 2-1 defeat at St Etienne. The limelight, however, was on 1998 World Cup winners Henry and Vieira.
Henry had to make do without Cesc Fabregas as the Spanish midfielder, who joined the club last week from Chelsea, was not qualified to play when the game was initially scheduled.
Allan Saint Maximin put the visitors ahead with a low shot from inside the box after easing past Jemerson, exposing Monaco’s weak defence.
Benoit Badiashile headed the equaliser home from a Rony Lopes corner as Monaco made their dominance count following the exclusion of Sacko on the stroke of halftime.
Lyon went 2-0 down in Toulouse after a Jimmy Durmaz double but Moussa Dembele pulled one back in the 75th, and substitute Fekir levelled with a perfectly curled free kick in the 87th.
Lyon are fourth on 34 points, three behind Lille with runaway leaders Paris St Germain on 50 points with two games in hand.
St Etienne are third on 36 points after a Wahbi Khazri double helped them beat a Marseille side who were without a proper striker in their starting 11.
The visitors went ahead, however, when Kevin Strootman headed home in the 16th minute, only for Khazri to equalise with a 58th-minute penalty and then give St Etienne all three points with a fierce shot into the top corner one minute from fulltime.