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Soccer PIX: No quick fix for Atletico; Inter held again

January 26, 2020 20:33 IST

Atletico draw against Leganes

Atletico Madrid

IMAGE: Leganes' Unai Bustinza, centre, in action. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters

Atletico Madrid’s dire run of results continued with a dismal goalless draw at home against 19th-placed strugglers Leganes in La Liga which ended with farcical scenes after visiting goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar was sent off for time-wasting on Sunday.

Atletico are now seven points behind pacesetters Barcelona and Real Madrid. Leaders Barca were beaten 2-0 at Valencia on Saturday while second-placed Madrid play away to Real Valladolid later on Sunday.

 

Atleti went into the game on the back of a chastening league defeat to Eibar and a Copa del Rey loss to third division Cultural Leonesa, but the home crowd still showed loud support for coach Diego Simeone at the start.

They had little to cheer about as the match progressed, however, as their side struggled to create any real chances and had to rely on two impressive saves from goalkeeper Jan Oblak to prevent Leganes from taking the lead.

Leganes looked the more likely to break the deadlock in the second half too as a deflected shot from midfielder Recio narrowly fizzed over the bar while Atleti, who badly missed creative midfielder Koke, continued to lack inspiration.

“We are disappointed, we haven’t got the three points which we were looking for. Things didn’t come off for us and when that happens you have to be humble, work hard and give everything to get better results,” goalkeeper Oblak told reporters.

Leganes had to play the final minutes of the game with 10 men as Cuellar was sent off in added time for a second booking for time-wasting, which saw him also clash with a ballboy.

The keeper further riled the frustrated home fans by slowly trotting off the pitch and he was confronted by a number of Atletico players before his opposite number Oblak intervened as a peacemaker.

But Atletico never looked like taking advantage and this latest setback puts more pressure on Simeone, who is dealing with the biggest crisis of his eight-year spell with the club.

“It was a difficult moment for all the players. I don’t think we were more angry because we are under pressure but we all know we can do more to win matches like today’s,” Oblak added.

“What happened at the end was the result of that tension but we have to keep on fighting. People are talking a lot about Simeone but we are only talking about improving. Simeone wants to win as much as anyone but recently it hasn’t been happening.”

Inter held again after on-loan Nainggolan scores against them

Inter Milan

IMAGE: Cagliari's Radja Nainggolan celebrates scoring their first goal. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Second-placed Inter Milan were held to a third successive 1-1 draw after Radja Nainggolan, a player they loaned to Cagliari for this season, scored a second-half equaliser for the Sardinian side in their Serie A match on Sunday.

The fiercely competitive Belgian, who was told by Inter coach Antonio Conte that there was no place for him this season, stunned the San Siro with a 78th-minute goal to cancel out Lautaro Martinez’s first-half opener for Inter.

Martinez was sent off in stoppage time for his furious reaction after being given a yellow card for a foul and had to be ushered away by team mates as he continued to remonstrate with the referee.

The game ended in chaotic scenes as Inter staff, including Conte, surrounded the referee to protest. A livid Conte refused to give any interviews.

Chinese-owned Inter have 48 points from 21 games, three behind Juventus who were away to Napoli later on Sunday, and three more than third-placed Lazio who meet AS Roma.

“On the one hand, I’m sorry I scored, I have a lot of respect for Inter, their fans and my team mates,” said Nainggolan. “But, on the other hand, I’m happy — they treated me a little badly, as if I were a little player.”

Inter’s players wore shirts with their names written in Chinese characters to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

With a midfield depleted by injuries and suspensions, Inter gave Ashley Young his debut and the former Manchester United player set up their goal in the 29th minute with a cross which Martinez met with a powerful header.

Sixth-placed Cagliari protested that Martinez had pushed a defender and VAR officials finally confirmed the goal after a two-minute delay.

Alessio Cragno saved another Martinez effort with his feet but Inter did not have it all their own way and goalkeeper Samir Handanovic had to palm away a looping header from Paolo Farago before halftime.

Stefano Sensi was twice close for Inter in the second half but they failed to add a second goal and paid the price.

Joao Pedro pulled back the ball from near the corner and it ran on to Nainggolan whose low drive from 25 metres took a deflection and went in off the foot of the post.

Romelu Lukaku was centimetres away from putting Inter back in front but their frustration boiled over in stoppage time with Martinez’s red card.

“We certainly didn’t draw because of the referee,” said Handanovic, the Inter captain.

“We only complained because their forwards were given fouls and ours weren’t. We should have finished off the match, and then we wouldn’t be talking about all this.”

Sassuolo held on for a 0-0 draw at Sampdoria despite having Federico Peluso sent off in the 25th minute for denying an opponent a clear scoring chance in a match between two teams just above the relegation zone.

Seventh-placed Parma beat Udinese 2-0 in a mid-table clash and Verona eased past lowly Lecce 3-0.

Toko-Ekambi scores on Lyon debut, health scare for Terrier

Lyon

IMAGE: Olympique Lyonnais' Karl Toko Ekambi celebrates scoring their third goal with teammates. Photograph: Emmanuel Foudrot/Reuters

Karl Toko-Ekambi scored on his Olympique Lyonnais debut to help them snatch a 3-0 home win against bottom side Toulouse and move up to a provisional fifth in the Ligue 1 standings on Sunday.

Cameroon forward Toko-Ekambi, on loan from Villarreal, added to Maxwel Cornet and Moussa Dembele’s earlier goals to put OL on 32 points from 21 matches.

Toko-Ekambi came on for Martin Terrier in the first half after his team mate collapsed on the pitch before being carried off on a stretcher to a standing ovation.

“Martin Terrier was a victim of a vasovagal attack earlier during the first half,” Lyon said.

“Our player is better and has regained consciousness.

Toulouse, who have now lost their last 11 league matches, have 12 points.

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