The first Serie A Round after the break showed that Inter and Roma can’t win anymore, whereas Napoli and Juventus took the maximum result with the minimum effort. The Serie A leading duo played two specular matches last week, taking an early lead and maintaining it until the end, offering few more emotions. Not exactly a showmanship of calcio-spettacolo, but an old Italian saying goes that those are the matches on which a Scudetto is built. Indeed, the battle for the Italian title seems to be a matter between the incumbent Juventini and the rampant Napoletani.
Luciano Spalletti’s Nerazzurri are vanishing after a flawless start, and so are the Giallorossi from Roma. Conversely, Roma city rivals Lazio are in great shape, however the gap they accumulated so far looks too wide to close. Milan gave some signs of life catching their second win straight, suggesting that the battle for a Europa League spot, with six clubs in four points, could be an interesting one.
At the bottom of the league table, Walter Zenga’s Crotone cashed three fundamental points against relegation-rivals Verona. While the situation for the Scaligeri is getting critical, the Sharks pushed themselves out of the quicksand. However, teams like SPAL, Genoa, and Cagliari will make the competition to remain in the elite division close until the end.
Napoli moved past Atalanta, a traditionally tough opponent for them, to consolidate their Serie A leadership. It only took a lone goal by Dries Mertens served by José Callejon, and a great save by Juan Manuel Reina on a shot by Bryan Cristante, for the Partenopei to come home with three points. Coach Maurizio Sarri had a small argument with Lorenzo Insigne, who was not happy at being substituted, but everything was settled down after the game.
A harsh wake-up for Benevento after two wins in a row. Bologna captured an important home success led by their new captain Simone Verdi. Rossoblu fans were in awe at him after his refusal to leave his side to join Napoli, and Verdi delighted them with two assists for Mattia Destro and Sebastien De Maio’s goals. “Comeback Kid” Blerim Dzemaili also left his mark scoring for the 3-0.
Gennaro Gattuso’s first away win as Milan coach saw the Rossoneri coming from behind, after Niccolò Barella had put his Cagliari side ahead with a shot on which Gianluigi Donnarumma was slow to react. Midfielder Frank Kessié brought Milan back with a brace in the first half already, for the Rossoneri to climb back to the seventh spot in the league table.
A 1-1 tie that didn’t serve anyone’s purpose, with Inter and Roma both losing further contact with the leading duo Napoli / Juventus. After 30 minutes of sterile predominance by the Nerazzurri, Roma took an unexpected lead when a long-range pass by Alisson Becker provoked a blunder by Davide Santon. Inter’s left back left room for Stephan El Shaarawy to dash towards the goal and put the ball past Samir Handanovic. Luciano Spalletti’s squad kept attacking and gained a well-deserved equaliser with a header conversion by Matias Vecino from a cross by Marcelo Brozovic.
In an all but exciting match at the Allianz Stadium, Juventus made full score thanks to a lone goal by Douglas Costa served by Mario Mandzukic. The Bianconeri controlled the game quite easily, to maintain unchanged their gap versus Napoli, and Genoa ended up without shooting a single time at Wojcech Szczesny’s goal.
Not even Ciro Immobile’s injury can stop the Biancocelesti, who scored five goals for the second time in a row, and trashed an unfortunate Chievo. The Nazionale striker left the pitch early due to a muscle injury, but the so-called “second lines” didn’t make supporters miss him. Spanish Luis Alberto broke the balance, then Sergej Milinkovic Savic scored twice after Manuel Pucciarelli had temporarily equalised for the Clivensi. Goals by Bastos and Nani made the punishment more severe for the away team. With 53 goals scored so far, Simone Inzaghi’s squad are a war machine and have now reached Inter at the third place.
Fabio Quagliarella beat Fiorentina 3-1. The Blucerchiati striker continued his fantastic run with three more goals, which he added to an already impressive tally of 12. This seems to be the best season ever for the Neapolitan striker, who was well served by Gastòn Ramirez in all three occasions. La Viola reduced the gap with Carlos Sanchez, but had to leave Marassi Stadium with empty hands after eight games with no losses.
Guess who’s back? Domenico Berardi had been the missing link so far in one of Serie A’s worst offensive lines. On Sunday, Sassuolo’s lost talent scored one of his “good old days” goal to give his side a 1-1 tie against Walter Mazzarri’s new Torino. The Granata had put their head ahead with Nigerian midfielder Joel Obi, but that was the only offensive chance for the away side. After rebalancing, Sassuolo went closer to score again when a header by Federico Peluso hit the post.
Udinese increased their non-losing streak to seven games, SPAL came back to gain one point after two losses in a row. Everybody happy at the Dacia Arena, with the Friulani taking the lead when a blunder by SPAL’s goalie Alfred Gomis turned an innocuous header by Samir Santos into a goal. Sergio Floccari brought the Biancazzurri back after the break, then 40-year-old Albano Bizzarri saved Udinese deflecting a header by Francesco Vicari and then a shot by Alberto Grassi.
A sounding win in a true relegation playout put a smile on Walter Zenga’s face, and made Verona coach Fabio Pecchia’s situation critical. Crotone put their head ahead early with a perfect free kick by Andrea Barberis, and rounded up in the second half with Adrian Stoian and new joiner Federico Ricci. Verona President Maurizio Setti confirmed his coach for the moment, but sent the team on a retreat.
Feature Photo: Alessandro Di Marco (ANSA via AP)