Luciano Spalletti Praises Lautaro Martinez for ‘Great Performance’ as Inter Eek Out First Leg Win

Luciano Spalletti singled out Lautaro Martinez for praise after the striker scored the winner in Inter’s 1-0 Europa League victory at Rapid Wien on Thursday.

The Argentine smashed home a penalty after being brought down in the box, sealing an important victory for the Nerazzurri who were without star man Mauro Icardi after the forward was stripped of the club’s captaincy and fell injured before the game.

Speaking after the game, Spalletti praised the 21-year-old, stating his performance was one of the key factors in I?nter’s ?victory.

He said, as quoted by Inter’s ?official w?ebsite: ?“He had lots of responsibility and we have to give him credit because he put in a great performance.

SK Rapid Wien v FC Internazionale - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: First Leg

“He often helped the team get forward with the ball at his feet, he pressed, he won the penalty and he took it. A lot from the result is thanks to his desire to fight for every ball. 

“Centre forward is his role, he’s in his element there and he needs to show that he’s always lethal inside the area. But he’s a strong player and he has quality in tight spaces, he can turn with an opponent on his back and get a shot away.”

Inter now have a great chance to secure qualification to the last 16 in the return leg at San Siro next week and Spalletti also thanked the club’s fans for their turnout in Vienna.


He added: “For them, it’s always Saint Valentine’s Day because they always show their love for Inter. They’re always there for us wherever we go. They were also here in huge numbers today.”

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Rapid Wien 0-1 Inter: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Martinez Gives Inter Victory in First Leg

Inter proved they could cope without star player Mauro Icardi as they defeated Rapid Wien 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash at the Allianz Stadion on Thursday.

The Nerazzurri dominated the first half without posing too much of a threat to the Rapid goal, until referee Tobias Stieler awarded the Italian side a penalty after Lautaro Martinez was fouled by Manuel Thurnwald.

??Martinez picked himself up to take the penalty, smashing the ball down the centre of Strebinger’s goal to put ?Inter a goal to the good in Austria with his seventh goal of the season.

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Rapid should have scored when Valon Berisha worked his way to the byline before sliding a ball across the box to an unmarked Knasmullner, whose first time drive was terrifically stopped by a quick reaction save from Slovenian Samir Handanovic. 

The chance for Knasmuller proved to be Rapid’s best chance of the game, as they failed to muster any other shots on target during the 90 minutes, as Inter held on to take a slender 1-0 lead back to Italy. 


?Rapid Wien

Key Talking Point

With Inter dropping down from the Champions League into the Europa League, Rapid Wien were undoubtedly underdogs going into the game after they qualified for the knockout rounds.

SK Rapid Wien v FC Internazionale - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: First Leg

In truth, Rapid Wien never really threatened an upset as Inter controlled the game. They face a tough task of turning the game around at San Siro in the second leg.


Players Ratings

Starting XI: Strebinger (6), Potzmann (5), Sonnleitner (5), Hofmann (6), Bolingoli-Mbombo (5), Grahovac (5), Ljubicic (5), Thurnwald (4), Schwab (5), Ivan (6), Berisha (5).

Substitutes: Schobesberger (6), Knasmullner (6).


Inter

Key Talking Point

After a disgruntled ?Mauro Icardi refused to travel to Vienna for the game due to being stripped of the captaincy, it was going to be interesting to see how his Inter teammates responded to his absence.

Lautaro Martinez,Joan Miranda

Inter did what they had to do without being spectacular. They grabbed an away goal, which sets them up nicely for the home return leg. Icardi’s replacement Lautaro Martinez also put in a decent display, perhaps showing Nerazzurri fans that the club could cope without their top scorer.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Handanovic (6), Asamoah (7), Miranda (7), De Vrij (7), Cedric (5), Valero (6), Vecino (7), Perisic (7), Nainggolan (6), Politano (6), Martinez (8*).

Substitutes: Candreva (5), D’Ambrosio (5).


STAR MAN – Argentinian striker Lautaro Martinez lead the line in the absence of former club captain Mauro Icardi and took his opportunity to impress, winning and converting a first half penalty to give Inter the advantage going into the return leg.

The 21-year-old showed bags of energy and flair, as he proved a constant threat for the Rapid defenders.

SK Rapid Wien v FC Internazionale - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: First Leg


WORST PLAYER – It was a clumsy performance from Portugal international Cedric. The on-loan Southampton full-back looked rusty as he mistimed several challenges during the game.


Looking Ahead


Rapid Wien have a Austrian Cup quarter final to contest on Sunday, as they take on Hartberg at the Allianz Stadion.

Inter travel to Sampdoria on Sunday in ?Serie A as they continue to try to establish their position within the top four.

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Mauro Icardi: Ranking 6 Potential Next Destinations Following Inter Captaincy Strip

It’s been a chaotic couple of days for Mauro Icardi. Well, in truth, a chaotic campaign altogether. 

Marred by his ongoing contractual saga, which has apparently seen him lose the Inter captaincy, Icardi has struggled to maintain his usual consistency. However, he has still been at the heart of everything the Nerazzurri have done well, notching 15 goals and three assists in 28 appearances. 

He remains the most clutch number nine in football right now, and at 25 is the hottest striking commodity that appears somewhat available on the market. 

So, if Inter can’t meet his (and Wanda’s) demands here are six suitors who just might, ranked for suitability:

6. Paris Saint-Germain

Kylian Mbappe,Neymar,Edinson Cavani

Ahh, Paris Saint-Germain. Guaranteed dominance of the league goes hand in hand with European ignominy and a load of cash. 

Plus there’s the added complication of a competitive field, with the Parisians already in possession of a highly potent frontline. Of course, whether that will stay this way beyond the summer remains to be seen. However, Kylian Mbappe only seems to growing into the number nine position. 

As I said, if you fancy cash and trophies for old rope, then by all means. But if you value competition and team success, as it seems you do, Mauro, then give it a miss.

5. Bayern Munich

Bayern Munchen v Schalke 04 - German Bundesliga

Ok, Bayern have clearly got a loyal following, a decent enough atmosphere and some sturdy team spirit. But do they have the quality of depth to truly challenge on the biggest stage? 

It’s an ageing squad over in Bavaria, and while that leaves some spots open for rebuilding, the man up top – Robert Lewandowski – remains almost as sharp as ever. Also, their record transfer fee is still just €41.5m. Are they really going to sufficiently invest around you if they’ve already coughed up €100m or more? Doubt it. 

4. Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo

The Auld Enemy. I mean, the Old Lady, but still, same thing really. It’s a dirty, dirty move to switch Milan for Turin, but it’s certainly not unprecedented. 

Perhaps more pressing for a man who’s had no qualms squabbling with Inter’s ultras in the past, is that man up there. Sure, he’s a 34-year-old now, but he’s also still an alien. So can you really take a chance on someone like that slowing down. 

Yes, there’s always the potential for two up top, but I can’t see Cristiano Ronaldo being too accomodating, can you?

3. Chelsea

Gonzalo Higuain

What’s not to like? 

Well, maybe quite a lot, but still, Mauro, give love a chance. Because Chelsea fans would unequivocally love you, no holds barred. Gonzalo Higuain? He’s just warming your seat. But, if you want him to stay for some nice compatriot company, that can definitely be arranged. Higuain’s great too. 

Yes, there’s upheaval, managerial uncertainty, and the potential for no Champions League football and no Eden Hazard, but apart from that, it’s the dream! Honest. You’ll be a legend.

2. Barcelona

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Copa del Rey Semi Final

Old haunts. Old flames. Reconnection. Redemption. 

There’s nothing quite like it, is there? It’s a story told thousands of times over, yet it never gets old. And this is the opportunity that awaits at Barcelona – the chance to play for the team that forgoed you, a chance to play with the player you sought to emulate all those years ago. Lionel Messi. 

But also, a less overwhelming Messi. A latter-day Messi, willing to share the limelight. Yes, he’s ‘best buds’ with Luis Suarez right now, but how long can that last, especially with the Uruguayan’s knees. It’s time for a new Sheriff at the Nou Camp.

1. Real Madrid

Real Madrid CF v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga

Conversely, you could shove all that lovey-dovey sh*te in the bin, and opt for sustained European excellence instead. 

Because you know what’s an even more prevalent story being told in this day and age? Revenge. And it’s best served ice cold, baby. You just saw it yourself, Barca abandoned you. They left you to rot. Fed you to the dogs. They didn’t care if they ever saw your face again. 

And now they want to backtrack? They want to bring you back? F*@& THAT. And, if you think Luis Suarez is dispensible, then look no further than Karim Benzema. Sure, he may be in the form of his life, but do you think Real Madrid care? Not a jot. He’s 31. He’s washed. He’s out of there the second you arrive. So, where’s your pen? 

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Valentine’s Day 2019: Picking a Starting XI of Football’s Dreamiest Men for Your Superhunk Clubhouse

?Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! 

This has become a bit of an annual ritual, hasn’t it? But it’s been two years now since we started and – like some relationships two years in – things have gone a bit stale and need spicing up. What? No, you’re projecting. Shut up. 

Anyway, this year we’re including nobody who’s ever made it into the fit XI in past years. Change is coming. ?2017 lads, ?2018 hunks, you’re in the past now. 

What better way to feel great about your life on Valentine’s Day than to look at a bunch of genetically perfect millionaires, alone, on your phone or laptop? Exactly.


Goalkeeper: Paulo Gazzaniga

If you haven’t seen Paulo Gazzaniga before – and to be fair, it’s not like he’s played week in, week out anywhere in this country – you’re welcome. 

We ignore that he’s shaved his head and looks about 70% worse recently, he’s still got the eyes. Ah, the eyes…

Bonus fact: His middle name is Dino. 


Right-Back: Ramin Rezaeian

?If there was a competition for best looking national team, Iran would win hands down. Sorry Spain. But apparently it’s ‘not editorially justifiable’ to do a bit where every single player on this list is in the Iranian World Cup squad, so Ramin Rezaeian is the nod. Obviously. Look at him! 

Also? Four consecutive vowels in his name. That’s cool. 


Centre-Back: Joe Gomez

?He does a good line in smouldering looks, he’s a bit injury prone so he’ll have more time to spend at home with you…Joe Gomez, on the plane. 

Honourable mention for Fabian Schar, if only to shut up the *squints* 7,185 people on Twitter who kept going on about him. 


Centre-Back: Maya Yoshida

?Strong. Tall. Experienced. Serious. Distinguished. Maya Yoshida…is daddy? 


Left-Back: Jose Gaya

Dark eyes, thick hair, boyishly handsome face (to be fair, he is only 23) and – most importantly – a basically generically good looking left-back when there are so few out there. 


Right Wing: Keita Baldé Diao

?Oh yeah, now we’re getting to it. A wicked smile, a glint in the eye and the kind of upper body that makes everyone else in the gym locker room look down at themselves and ask ‘honestly, what’s the point of bothering?’


Central Midfield: Ruben Loftus-Cheek

?Roftus Loftus-Choftus is so wonderfully, ‘take home to mum’ safe in his inarguable handsomeness that he’s almost a doubt for this team. Sometimes you want a bit more of an edge, you know? 

But nah. He’s too good looking. He stays. 


Central Midfield: Andre Gomes

?*insert template of handsome Iberian footballer here*

Honourable mention: Granit Xhaka


Left Wing: Filip Kosti?

?Filip Kosti? has a jaw so strong it could bench the rest of this team single-handedly – and would grow a single hand so that it could do it. This man’s jaw could fight the entire cast of The Expendables in their primes. Filip Kosti?’s jaw absolutely fuc——I’m being told I’m not allowed to write that. 


Striker: Alexandre Lacazette

?If you aren’t charmed to death by this man when he turns his eyes on you and flashes that smile, you should probably go immediately to the nearest hospital because it appears you might be dead. 


Striker: Fernando Llorente

?O captain, my captain. 

Honourable mention: Kelechi Iheanacho


Manager: Herve Renard

?A 50-year-old man is the best looking person in football. Does Herve ‘Jaime Lannister but with crisp, half unbuttoned white shirts’ Renard spark joy? You bet he does. 

Honourable mention: Pepe Bordalas

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Luciano Spalletti Reveals Mauro Icardi Refused to Travel With Squad to Face Rapid Wien

?Inter manager Luciano Spalletti has revealed that it was in fact Mauro Icardi’s decision to not travel for the Europa League clash with Rapid Wien, not a managerial snub. 

It was announced on Wednesday morning that Icardi had been stripped of the ?Nerazzurri captaincy after his drawn out contract talks with club caused a rift in relations, with veteran goalkeeper Samir Handanovic taking over as new club captain.

Mauro Icardi

And subsequently, the matchday squad for the game in Vienna was revealed, with the Argentine absent, in a suspected punishment. 

However, the tactician revealed a different tale in his pre-match press conference, as quoted by ?Calciomercato. Spalletti proclaimed: “There is a very important match on the way, then there will be time to clarify the situation, it is a difficult and painful decision made for the good of the team.

“?Icardi was summoned, it is he who did not come in. After Parma I said certain things because obviously there was a need to speak. I do not deal with contracts, you have to talk to them [the directors]. 

“The decision was made at the right time, it is a painful decision but well-reasoned. Sometimes, to love, things must be said as they think. There are situations in football, in life, that do not go over again.”


And, as quoted by the club’s official ?twitter page, Spalletti continued: “Taking the armband off Icardi was a difficult and painful decision, but we know his worth. However, we took it together with all of the club’s components involved. It was done exclusively for the good of Inter.”

Icardi’s absence ensures Lautaro Martinez of a starring role, and the 59-year-old confirmed: “We’ll see Lautaro tomorrow, a striker who’s just as strong and who already proved this on Sunday. From him, like all of the rest, we expect the same kind of contribution as always.”

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