Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s win at Inter


Managing Madrid 15 September, 2021 - 08:23pm 14 views

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Ancelotti praises Real Madrid duo Rodrygo, Camavinga in win over Inter Milan

ESPN 16 September, 2021 - 08:11am

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Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti praised the side's "quality" youngsters after Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga combined for the late goal that gave the team a 1-0 Champions League group stage win at Internazionale on Wednesday.

The coach brought on Rodrygo, 20, on 65 minutes and then Camavinga, 18, with ten minutes left at San Siro and the game goalless after the Italians had dominated the first half. With time running out, Camavinga -- signed for €30 million from Rennes on transfer deadline day -- was spotted by midfielder Federico Valverde inside the box, and his volleyed first-time cross was buried by Rodrygo.

"We have young players who are strong," Ancelotti said in his post-match news conference. "I have to add experience, that's normal in this kind of game, but this team has youngsters with a lot of quality, a lot.

"[I've told Rodrygo] that how many minutes you play isn't important, it's how you play," Ancelotti added. "He had 20 minutes and did well, not just with the goal, but also defensively. In front of goal he's very cool-headed... His role is important, sometimes he can play from the start, other times he can come on and be decisive."

Rodrygo -- brought in as a €45m teenager from Brazil in 2019 -- has a knack of delivering in the Champions League and gave Madrid a 3-2 home win over Inter in last season's group stage with another late strike.

"Every time I've played in the Champions League I think I've done well, I've done something good for the team," he said. "I'm happy about that. I love playing in the Champions League and scoring goals... Of course I always want to play, whenever I'm on the pitch I can do something for the team, but I respect the coach who takes the decisions."

Midfielder Camavinga has wasted no time settling in at the Bernabeu, scoring a goal on his LaLiga debut last weekend in a 5-2 win over Celta Vigo, and now adding an assist in his first Champions League game for Los Blancos.

"He's a player who can play for Real Madrid, that's why signed him," Ancelotti said. "He's very young but he has a lot of quality. We have to be patient with him so that he has the opportunity to progress well. He has to improve in the defensive aspect and he will in the future."

Player Ratings: Inter Milan 0 - 1 Real Madrid; 2021 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

Managing Madrid 16 September, 2021 - 08:11am

Thibaut Courtois’s heroics in net provided Rodrygo Goes the opportunity for a game-winner in the 89th minute

Full match player ratings below:

Thibaut Courtois—9: Five saves from inside the box to keep Madrid in the match. Without Courtois, Inter would have secured 3 points.

Dani Carvajal—6: Recovered well when Madrid lost the ball. Relatively quiet in the attack, but solid defensively against Perisic, Bastoni, and Lautaro.

Eder Militao—8: His best performance of the season thus far. 4 tackles, 4 clearances, 3 blocked shots and the Brazilian won 5/6 ground duels. Dealt with the threat of Lautaro well.

David Alaba—6.5: Stepped aggressively to Eden Dzeko throughout the match with relative success but struggled against the Bosnian’s aerial presence.

Nacho—6: Surprisingly played at left back, had limited involvement in the attack and was troubled by the off ball runs of Barella and Dzeko in the first half. Defended well against Denzel Dumfries overlapping runs in the second half.

Casemiro—6: Saw a lot of the ball in the first half and struggled to play with the tempo Madrid required to break Inter down. His energy and tactical awareness was crucial in pushing the midfield line in the second half.

Fede Valverde—8: Never stopped running throughout the match. Played the pre-assist to Camavinga on Rodyrgo’s goal with a brilliant chipped through ball over Inter’s back four.

Luka Modric—5: It was an off day for Luka Modric. Was never able to find a hole in the Inter defensive wall.

Lucas Vazquez—5: Far too slow on the ball, needed to take an active first touch to avoid losing possession. Was likely placed a starter to provide width and defensive cover, but the game called for a stronger offensive weapon.

Vinicius JR—7: Despite not managing a goal or an assist, Vinicius was a constant threat to the Inter backline. When Denzel Dumfries entered the match, Vinicius took advantage of his inability to defend 1 v 1 against the Brazilian.

Karim Benzema—6: Headed an opportunity just wide after a lofted cross from Fede Valverde. Still managed 2 key passes in an otherwise quiet performance for KB’s standards.


Rodrygo Goes—9: Did everything you could ask a substitute to do. Worked tirelessly off the ball, created offensive threat out of nothing, and provided a good attitude off the bench. His strong performance resulted in the game winning goal in the 89th minute.

Eduardo Camavinga—8: Played the last 10 minutes and brought a spark to the midfield. Provided the game winning assist with a lovely one time pass out of the air to Rodrygo Goes to finish.

Separatist Transnistria Relishes Champions League 'Fairytale'

The Moscow Times 16 September, 2021 - 08:11am

Fans of European giants Real Madrid and Inter Milan will see their teams face unusual competition this autumn: a club from a tiny separatist region in one of Europe's least-known countries, Moldova.

After a couple of failed attempts, Sheriff FC are making their debut this week as the first club from the ex-Soviet country to reach the group stage of the Champions League.

But their historic success is highlighting divisions in the wake of a brief civil war after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which resulted in the creation of Transnistria.

The tiny breakaway state has its own currency, border police, army, and cellular network but is not recognized internationally, allowing Sheriff to continue playing in the Moldovan league.

The Moldovan football federation celebrated the qualification as "EUROFANTASTIC!!!", a sentiment echoed by sports blogger Sandu Grecu, who called it a "massive achievement for Moldovan football."

"I don't see much reason to be happy," sports journalist Cristian Jardan told AFP.

"The team represents a separatist enclave where corruption, smuggling, and shadow economy deals are rife, which directly damage the budget and state interests of the Republic of Moldova."

The Champions League place, he said, will only benefit the owners of Sheriff — "and nothing more."

Founded in 1997, the young club based in the breakaway region's administrative hub, Tiraspol, has been on a steady climb into the limelight.

They have won six straight Moldovan league titles and 19 out of the last 21.

At a training session last weekend at Sheriff Stadium — soon to host the likes of Karim Benzema and Lautaro Martinez — coach Yuriy Vernydub was still processing Champions League qualification.

"Honestly, I didn't expect it," the 55-year-old Ukrainian told AFP. "It's a fairytale."

He acknowledged there were political overtones to the moment, but was upbeat about the opportunity it presented.

"People say sport isn't politics," the 55-year-old said. "Sport is politics."

The games, he said optimistically, "will probably unite" fans in Moldova and Transnistria.

Since 2009, the side has played four times in Europe's second-tier competition, the Europa League, and have twice been eliminated in the Champions League qualifying rounds.

This year saw them earn a coveted Champions League group stage place and about 16 million euros ($19 million) in guaranteed prize money.

It's a significant sum for a team whose entire squad is valued at just 12 million euros and is dwarfed by their Group D rivals.

The specialist website Transfermarkt estimates that Real Madrid boasts a team worth 780 million euros, Inter Milan's players are valued at 575 million euros, and Shakhtar Donetsk's 180 million.

At weekend training, the team was looking past their first Champions League game with Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday to their encounter with Real Madrid later this month.

Ghanaian midfielder Edmund Addo called out: "Benzema! Benzema!" as he dribbled past Brazilian defender Cristiano da Silva Leite, referring to Real's superstar French striker.

The Sheriff pair are part of a multi-national line-up. In a league game Sunday, the club fielded three Brazilians, two Greeks, two Colombians, one Peruvian, one Guinean, one Ghanaian, one Luxembourger, and zero Moldovans.

The players do their research before coming to the little-known pro-Russian breakaway state.

Gustavo Dulanto, a 26-year-old Peruvian defender, messaged the team's captain Frank Castenada on Instagram and Googled Sheriff FC before coming to a separatist sliver of land one-fifth the size of Wales.

Yet the politics are inescapable. The club is owned by the Sheriff conglomerate that has an economic and political monopoly in Transnistria.

Founded by two Soviet police officers, the company is shrouded in allegations of corruption.

In Tiraspol, a city of about 130,000 people, Sheriff's logo is everywhere: supermarkets, gas stations, even a casino. One of its co-founders, Viktor Gushan, is Sheriff FC's president.

He has built a sprawling complex featuring a 13,000-seat stadium, a second 9,000-seat stadium, an indoor arena, 16 training fields, tennis courts, and an indoor pool.

Serghei Pascenco, a 38-year-old backup goalkeeper who was born in Tiraspol and has been with the club since childhood, said the Champions League was always "our president's dream".

A longtime supporter, Igor Troshchinsky, believes Gushan's investments helped put Transnistria on the map.

"Even more people will find out that there is this unrecognized country," the 61-year-old says of Sheriff's qualification.

But Troshchinsky was less confident in his side's Champions League chances.

"We were working towards this 20 years. In another 10 years maybe we make it out of the group stage," he joked. 

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