It was billed as an Italian Serie A encounter, but Inter's wild 5-4 win over Genoa was an Argentine goal-scoring fest with a dash of Uruguay, Colombia and Brazil thrown in on Sunday.
Andrea Stramaccioni enjoyed a winning debut as Inter coach as Argentine's Diego Milito registered a hat-trick and countrymen Walter Samuel and Mauro Zarate added single goals. Another Argentinian player, Rodrigo Palacio, also found the back of the net with the first of Genoa's three penalty kicks.
The game featured four penalty kicks and two red cards at the San Siro.
Milito started things off by heading in a cross by Uruguayan Forlan in the 13th minute before beating an offside trap for a 2-0 advantage in the 27th minute. Samuel increased the lead to three goals in the 38th minute as he redirected a cross from Brazilian Lucio.
That lead, however, did not last. After defender Emiliano Moretti scored, Argentine Rodrigo Palacio converted a penalty kick in the 59th minute after countryman Javier Zanetti handled the ball in the penalty area.
Zarate connected for his first goal of the season for Inter behind a solo effort in the 74th minute to make it 4-2. But things got very interesting when Inter's Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar was given his marching orders in the 79th minute for a foul on Palacio, setting up the first of two penalty kicks for Alberto Gilardino.
Colombia midfielder Fredy Guarin, making his Inter debut, drew a penalty kick as Genoa defender Giuseppe Belluschi was red-carded in the 84th minute. Milito converted his attempt for a hat-trick for a 5-3 lead.
But Genoa certainly made it interesting as Gilardino put home a PK in the 89th minute to cap off this wild encounter.
Higuain struck twice in Real Madrid's 5-1 victory over Osasuna to keep its six-point lead over Barcelona in La Liga. After Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo (two goals) gave Real a 2-0 advantage, the Argentine scored his first goal in the 40th minute, beating an offside trap. He added the final goal, striking from close range in the 77th minute.
The Argentine superstar struck again for his 56th goal in all competitions this season, a second-half penalty kick, the second goal of Barcelona's 2-0 home victory over Athletic Bilboa. Messi had a goal denied on a spectacular save by goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz in the 24th minute. Barca hosts A.C. Milan in a second-leg UEFA Champions League encounter on Tuesday. The teams tied 0-0 at San Siro last Wednesday.
Eduardo Salvio, Radamel Falcao
Salvio, an Argentine, scored off a first-half header, and Falcao, a Colombian striker, tallied his 20th goal late in the match to power Atletico Madrid to a 3-0 triumph over Getafe. Atletico moved into seventh place.
The Mexican international scored Real Sociedad's final goal in the 53rd minute of its 4-0 home win over Rayo Vallecano. Vela has seven goals and seven assists this season. Real had fallen closer to the relegation zone after it had suffered four losses in five matches.
The man known as Chicharito and his Manchester United teammates will play at Blackburn Rovers in an English Premier League match (ESPN2, 2:55 p.m. ET).
The Spanish international goalkeeper was red-carded in Liverpool's 2-0 loss to Newcastle United. Reina was expelled for head butting defender James Perch. He will miss the Reds' next three matchings, including the English F.A. Cup semifinal vs. Everton at Wembley on April 14. By the time he was dismissed late in the match, Newcastle's Demba Cisse had struck for a brace.
The Ecuadorian left fullback is ready to join Tottenham on a 10-day trial, arriving in England after a visa delay… Ramirez, 17, was a standout in last year's FIFA Under-17 World Cup. He is a regular at Independiente del valle.
The Argentine striker helped Lyon to a 1-1 tie at Rennes in its battle for a UEFA Champions League spot. Lyon trails Lille by six points. Lopez slotted home the equalizer in the 76th minute off a free kick by Clement Grenier that hit the post.
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. Just ask Ajaccio goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in his team's scoreless draw with Caen in French Ligue 1. Caen's Pierre-Alain Frau had a great chance to put his team into the lead by converting a penalty kick in the 40th minute. Ajaccio central defender Carl Medjani fouled Thomas Heurtaux to set up the kick. Frau thought he had scored, but the referee ordered the PK to be taken again because a few Caen players entered the penalty area prior to the try. As it turned out, Frau's second attempt bounded off the crossbar.
Mexico, Honduras earn spots in London
The Mexicans and Hondurans will play in the CONCACAF men's Olympic qualifying championship game on Monday after booking tickets to London with semifinal wins in Kansas City, Kansas on Saturday night. Gerson Rodas scored his second goal in extra time, in the 115th minute off an assist by D.C. United's Andy Najar, to boost Honduras to a 3-2 triumph over archrival El Salvador in the first game of the doubleheader at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Mexico bested Canada in the second game, 3-1. After Marco Fabian had given the Mexicans a 1-0 lead, beating goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz in the 20th minute, the game turned dramatically during a 35-second span later in the half. Canada equalized in the 32nd minute as Marcus Haber headed in a right-wing cross from Phillippe Davis from six yards. The Canadians had barely finished their celebrations when El Tri retook the lead for good only 35 seconds later as Alan Pulido completed a give-and-go with Fabian in the 33rd minute. Miguel Ponce gave the Mexicans some breathing room in the 59th minute as he put home an eight-yard shot.
Mexico and Honduras joined 14 other teams that already had qualified for the Summer Games. That included host Great Britain, South Korea, Japan and United Arab Emirates from Asia, Gabon, Morocco and Egypt from Africa, Brazil and Uruguay from South America, Spain, Belarus and Switzerland from Europe and New Zealand from Oceania. Another team outside of CONCACAF — the winner of a playoff between Asia and Africa that will be played in Coventry, England on April 23, a day prior to the Olympic tournament draw.
Honduras, El Salvador
In preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, New Zealand will take on Honduras and El Salvador in the United States. The All Whites will face El Salvador in Houston on May 23 and Honduras in Dallas three days later.
While the games do not fall on FIFA international playing dates, Football New Zealand chief executive Grant McKavanagh said that teams will be asked to release players for the friendlies.
New Zealand is prepping for the Oceania Nations Cup, an eight-team competition that is the second stage of World Cup qualifying in the Pacific. That tournament will be played in the Solomon Island from June 1-12.
Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for more than three decades, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.