Inter’s leadership in Serie A lasted only two weeks, as today Napoli took advantage of the Nerazzurri’s unexpected pas faux to regain the top spot of the standing. Inter fell for the first time this season, outclassed 3-1 by an Udinese regenerated by new coach Massimo Oddo, and led by striker Kevin Lasagna – one whose last name will sound familiar to all Italian food lovers…
On the other hand, Napoli stormed Torino with three goals in the first 45 minutes, with Marek Hamsik scoring after a ten-match abstinence as a cherry on the top. Maurizio Sarri thus responded to criticism and mumbling that had started to circulate after a home loss against Juventus, and a goalless draw in Florence.
The first two matches of Serie A Round 17 confirmed the balance in this Campionato edition, and that the battle for Scudetto will be a thigh one, with Juventus and likely even Roma fully into the race.
Luciano Spalletti had to swallow the first seasonal defeat in this round opening match, confirming that the disappointing home performance from last Tuesday in Coppa Italia was a warning sign. It had taken 120 minutes, and a thrilling penalty shootout lottery for Inter to overcome third division club Pordenone in the Italian Cup Round of 16. Pordenone is a city in the Northeast Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, whose Udine is the capital.
The narrowly missed David versus Goliath tale had prompted the Neroverdi from Pordenone to leave San Siro with their heads held high, and to jokingly ask their fellow regional neighbors via Twitter to avenge them: “We tired them out for 120 minutes and more. Now it’s your turn, Udinese.” To which the Bianconeri today tweeted back, after their win: “Mission accomplished, Pordenone.”
The shocking exploit in San Siro is a victory for coach Massimo Oddo in the first place. The former 2006 Azzurri World Champion had shamefully concluded his first Serie A experience last year with a sacking from Pescara, and zero victories in 24 games. But since he sat on Udinese’s bench, the Friulani have turned their season around, nailing four wins in a row – three in Campionato and one in Coppa Italia.
Today’s 3-1 win against Inter also bears the brand of Kevin Lasagna, who ironically is a Nerazzurri childhood fan. However, the 25-year-old striker had already had the chance to punish his idols, who were the victims of his first Serie A goal scored while playing for Carpi. Today, Lasagna caught a pass from Silvan Widmer 14 minutes into the game, and put it past Samir Handanovic for his fifth seasonal goal. He also went close to make it two right after the break, but the Slovenian goalkeeper denied him the joy of a brace.
Mauro Icardi’s 17th goal temporarily rebalanced the match for Inter, with the captain making the best out of a cross by Antonio Candreva. The first half saw the Nerazzurri attacking more, and scaring Udinese’s goalie Albano Bizzarri with a few narrowly missed conclusions. If this was a boxing match, Inter would be leading by points, but at half time the score remained set to 1-1.
The second half opened with Lasagna’s shot attempt, that called Handanovic to a super save. Then a cross by Widmer was intercepted with an arm by Davide Santon. Referee Maurizio Mariani took two minutes to consult the VAR and finally awarded a penalty, which Rodrigo Depaul converted for the Friulani’s new lead. An unfortunate afternoon for Inter’s right back Santon, who was responsible even in occasion of the first goal scored by the Bianconeri.
Czech forward Antonin Barak widened the gap by scoring his second consecutive goal, with the cooperation of fellow countryman Jakub Jankto – who served him a perfect pass form the left flank. The score didn’t change anymore, despite Inter concluding the match with five offensive players on the pitch.
Later in the day, the Nerazzurri hopes that Napoli could misstep in the tough Turin ground quickly vanished, as the Partenopei wiped Torino out with three goals by Kalidou Koulibaly, Piotr Zielinski and captain Marek Hamsik. All good for Maurizio Sarri, who could afford to leave on the bench pubalgia-affected Lorenzo Insigne, and showed that there is more than his regular trident Insigne-Mertens-Callejon when it comes to offensive solutions.
A goal by Andrea Belotti – the first one since September 20 for the Nazionale striker – made the score less heavy for the Granata, but the match outcome was never in doubt. Napoli retook the Serie A lead, and the next move is now for Juventus to make.
December 16, 2017 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 17
SCORERS: 14′ Lasagna (U), 16′ Icardi (I), 61′ De Paul (U, pen.), 77′ Barak (U)
|INTER (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Miranda, Santon (70′ Karamoh); Vecino (78′ Eder), B. Valero; Candreva, Brozovic (53′ Gagliardini), Perisic; Icardi (Padelli, Berni, Cancelo, Ranocchia, Dalbert, Nagatomo, Pinamonti) Coach: Spalletti|
|UDINESE (3-5-2): Bizzarri; Larsen, Danilo, Nuytinck; Widmer, Barak, Fofana (75′ Behrami), Jankto, Adnan; De Paul (88′ Hallfredsson), Lasagna (78′ Perica) (Scuffet, Matos, Bajic, Ingelsson, Maxi Lopez, Bochniewicz, Ewandro, Pezzella, Balic) Coach: Oddo|
REFEREE: Mr. Mariani from Rome
NOTES: Attendance: 51000; Yellow Cards: Adnan, Nuytinck, Fofana, Widmer (U), Vecino (I).
December 16, 2017 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 17
SCORERS: 4’ Koulibaly (N), 25’ Zielinski (N), 30’ Hamsik (N), 63’ Belotti (T)
|TORINO (4-3-3): Sirigu; De Silvestri, N’Koulou, Burdisso, Molinaro; Rincon, Valdifiori (46’ Ljajic), Baselli; Iago Falque (78′ Edera), Belotti, Berenguer (65’ Niang) (Ichazo, Milinkovic, Lyanco, Moretti, Acquah, Obi, De Luca, Boyè, Gustafson) Coach: Mihajlovic|
|NAPOLI (4-3-3): Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Allan, Jorginho (76’ Diawara), Hamsik (83′ Rog); Callejon, Mertens, Zielinski (70’ Insigne) (Rafael, Sepe, Maggio, Chiriches, Ounas, Leandrinho, Giaccherini) Coach: Sarri|
REFEREE: Mr. Mazzoleni from Bergamo
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Baselli (T), Albiol (N)
Feature Photo: ANSA