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Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino maintained his side can still return to their former glories after they were beaten 2-1 by a Gareth Bale inspired Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday.
'Tata' Martino Admits a Tough Week for Barcelona
VALENCIA, SPAIN - APRIL 16:  Head coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino of Barcelona looks on during the C...

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino maintained his side can still return to their former glories after they were beaten 2-1 by a Gareth Bale inspired Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday. The Welshman ran half the length of the field to score the winner five minutes from time and subject Barca a third consecutive defeat in all competitions which leaves them on the verge of failing to win a major trophy for the first time in six years.

"When you look at the age of the players in this team it is evident that Barcelona has a long road still to run and with a lot better results than this year," said Martino. Barca were dumped out of the Champions League before the semi-final stage for the first time in seven years last week by Atletico Madrid and also lie in third-place, four points adrift of Atletico, with just five games remaining in La Liga.

"Obviously it is not a happy moment," Martino admitted. "It has been a very hard week for us, but there is nothing else we can do but look ahead to what remains in the league. It is a very hard blow to take because the expectations for today were huge and it is a final so everyone was desperate to win.

"I am hurting due to the defeat and for the people that came here with great expectations to support us, but Barca still has a lot left to give. There is no perfect recipe to recover. The league doesn't have a favorable look for us at the moment, but we have the obligation to fight until the last day."

Defeat is also certain to heighten speculation that Martino will be replaced at the end of the campaign after just one season in charge of the Catalan giants. However, the Argentine claimed the past week did not change his plans for the future. "I don't feel like my future changes because of what we have lost, nor would it have changed if we had won everything."

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti backed his opposite number on the Barca bench, citing personal experience that they remain one of the best sides in the world having lost both league meetings against Martino's men this season.

"We can say from experience this season that playing against Barcelona is very, very difficult. At times you need the luck to win. In my opinion Barca are not a team at the end of an era. They are still very dangerous."

A first trophy since taking charge of Madrid last summer is the perfect preparation for Ancelotti ahead of another big week as they face Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final next Wednesday. And the Italian believes playing against Barca's possession-based style will help when it comes to facing former Barca boss Pep Guardiola's side.

"It is very important for us to keep going, to work and to prepare well for the upcoming games. It will be just as difficult as the game we played tonight. Bayern Munich have the same qualities and style as Barcelona. I think that a week will be enough time to recover all the energy we need to face Bayern. In my opinion we have played well all season, but I understand that Real Madrid have to win things. Now we have the first title we can go for the other two."

Source: Kieran Canning
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12 hrs. ago

M'Baye Niang put the nightmare of the Paris terror attacks firmly behind him with two goals and an assist as AC Milan crushed a sorry Sampdoria 4-1 at the San Siro on Saturday.

Niang admitted last week the events of the past fortnight had left him worried for the safety of family and friends in and around the French capital.

But the 20-year-old from the Paris suburbs produced a confident performance for the Rossoneri, first delivering for Giacomo Bonaventura's opener on 16 minutes and then beating Emiliano Viviano from the spot after the Milan winger had been hauled down in the area seven minutes before the interval.

Niang secured Milan's seventh win of the campaign when he fired under Viviano four minutes after the restart after the 'keeper's fluffed clearance.

When he was replaced by Luiz Adriano 15 minutes from the whistle it took the Brazilian just four minutes to find the net after volleying Alessio Cerci's intelligent cross past Viviano.

The only blot on Milan's copybook was Gianluigi Donnarumma's failure to stop Luis Muriel from the spot after Andrea Pioli had tugged on Eder in the area in the closing minutes.

Milan moved up to fifth place at seven points behind leaders Inter ahead of the remainder of the weekend matches, with Sampdoria's second successive defeat under new coach Vincenzo Montella leaving them 14 points adrift.

"It was an almost perfect performance," said Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who gave a special mention to Niang.

"He's a big player for us, he was doing really well in pre-season then he got injured. Now he's back in form and he's doing well, but he already showed at Genoa (loan) what he was made of."

For the fifth consecutive match Mihajlovic opted for teenage goalkeeper Donnarumma over the more experienced Diego Lopez but the 16-year-old had to dive low to parry after his messy clearance fell to Roberto 

Soriano 30 yards out in the opening minute.

From then on, it was all Milan with Niang the main protagonist before making way for Adriano on 74 minutes.

Having spent the last half of last season on loan at Genoa, the striker said he in enjoying playing in a pure 

striker's role under Mihajlovic.

"I'm really happy because I've been waiting for this for a longtime, the hard work's paying off and I hope it continues like this," said Niang.

"I played as a centre-forward, the position I prefer and I think that along with our win over Lazio this was our best display this season."

Milan broke the deadlock on 16 minutes with Alessio Cerci, whose eighth minute goal was ruled offside, involved before Niang burst down the right to fire in a weighted delivery that Bonaventura slid in to meet at the back post.

Milan built on their momentum and Niang almost doubled the lead when he collected Juraj Kucka's short delivery on the right to drag his angled shot inches wide of Viviano's far post.

Sampdoria were struggling to find any rhythm and Milan's movement in the final third of the pitch was causing huge problems for the visitors.

Niang left Edgar Barreto behind to burst down the right and fire across the bows, but Bonaventura's first-timer from the six-yard line blasted over.

Samp's only real chance came when Luis Muriel dribbled his way into the area but despite turning Milan's defence his promising strike was blocked by Alessio Romagnoli.

Niang came close twice with flicks that inched wide of Viviano's post just after the restart.

But when the 'keeper fluffed a clearance, Niang collected and strode confidently into the area to fire under his body and secure the second brace of his Serie A career, after hitting a double for Genoa against Verona last season.

A tiring Niang soon made way for Adriano and only four minutes later Cerci was given time and space to the right of the area to pick out the Brazilian with a pinpoint pass which he controlled before firing past a helpless Viviano.

Earlier, Torino moved up to seventh place with a 2-0 home win over Bologna thanks to second-half goals from Andrea Belotti and Giuseppe Vives.