Feature Photo: Mario Taddeo – www.mariotaddeo-photography.it
While other major European competitions have already found a clear leader – with Manchester City, Paris SG, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich all dominating their domestic leagues – Italian Serie A continues to offer a thrilling distance duel between Napoli and Juventus.
As both Azzurri and Bianconeri passed their weekly test with a single goal, Roma stole the spotlight in Round 25 with a 0-2 win in Udine that enabled them to catch the third spot behind the leading duo. Inter left Genoa in tears, suffering a sounding setback and plummeting out of the Champions League zone – overtaken also by Lazio, which finally broke their three-game losing streak.
At the bottom of the league, simultaneous defeats for Sassuolo, Crotone, SPAL, and Verona left the situation unchanged for what concerns the relegation battle – the only minor club making some points being an indomitable Benevento.
Here is The Cult of Calcio’s recap of the latest weekend in the Italian top division, match by match:
La Dea and la Viola got one point each at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia Stadium. Milan Badelj gave the visitors the lead with a counterattack that – with the help of Federico Chiesa – earned him his second seasonal goal. Andrea Petagna equalised for the Bergamaschi in the 45th minute, converting with a header a free kick by Alejandro Gomez. Towards the end, Nikola Milenkovic managed to get two yellow cards in two minutes and left his Viola side with one man less, but the score didn’t change anymore.
Photo: Marco Luzzani / Getty Images
It may not be enough to remain in Serie A, but this is another game that Benevento supporters will remember for long – together with their last-minute point conquered against Milan. The Streghe caught their third seasonal success, against a traditionally though opponent that in the past years caused them many disappointments in lower divisions. Milan home-grown midfielder Giovanni Crociata put Crotone ahead, taking advantage of a defensive mistake by Sandro. But then the former Tottenham player redeemed himself with a powerful header that rebalanced the match. In the second half, a left foot shot by Nicolas Viola found a deflection by Davide Faraoni, and gave the lead to the Giallorossi. Still, Crotone made it even in the same way – with a header by Ahmad Benali. With just one minute to go, Cheik Diabaté found the right shot and gave his side an unexpected victory.
Two minutes before the final whistle, a free kick by Erick Pulgar awarded this Emilia Romagna regional derby to Roberto Donadoni’s Rossoblu. Andrea Poli had already given Bologna the lead in the first half, finalizing a cross by Federico Di Francesco. But in the 38th minute, Khouma Babacar resolved a confused action in the home team box, tapping the ball in for Sassuolo’s 1-1. Bologna consolidated their mid-standing position thanks to the late goal by their Chilean midfielder, whereas Giuseppe Iachini maintained a six-point lead over the relegation area despite leaving Renato Dall’Ara Stadium empty-handed.
Chievo desperately needed some points after ten games without winning, and found them with goals by their best man – striker Roberto Inglese – and their best new joiner – former Azzurri midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini. The away team, who were kept afloat for long by multiple saves from their goalie Alessio Cragno, raised their head only when being two goals down, and reduced the gap thanks to Leonardo Pavoletti. Cagliari’s Pavo also went close to realize an incredible 2-2, but this time it was Chievo’s keeper Stefano Sorrentino to say “No.” With this win, the Clivensi reached the Isolani at 25 points.
Photo: Getty Images
Genoa caught a precious win that made the Nerazzurri plummet from the third to the fifth spot in the standing. We covered this match here.
Lazio and their bomber Ciro Immobile raised their head after three losses in a row, and moved to the fourth spot in the league, overtaking Inter. It took more than 50 minutes for Simone Inzaghi’s side to make their way past Verona’s wall, despite 17 attempts to shot only in the first half. The Serie A top scorer checked in twice after a 44-day abstinence, with his foot and with his head, consolidating his leadership among the Italian cannonieri with 22 seasonal goals. Verona collected their seventh loss in the last eight games, but were lucky enough to see all their direct contenders for relegation also failing to make points.
Gennaro Gattuso’s Rossoneri won a key match against a direct contender for a Europa League spot next season. This is our recap of the game.
Napoli needed only six minutes to keep the leadership of Serie A – that’s how much it took for Brazilian midfielder Allan, served by José Callejon, to score the decisive 1-0. The Partenopei controlled the rest of the game without shining, but still totalizing 67% of ball possession, as well as 19 attacking chances versus the 4 conceded to the Ferraresi. SPAL’s goalkeeper Alex Meret avoided his side a harsher punishment. Few would have expected to see Leonardo Semplici’s squad coming out of San Paolo Stadium with some points, but the Biancazzurri didn’t even show the will to try…
Not exactly the most exciting Derby della Mole in history, this one played at the Grande Torino Stadium. Juventus took the three points with a lone goal by Alex Sandro, whom Massimiliano Allegri deployed as winger due to the multiple defections among his lines. Gonzalo Higuain soon joined the injured list, having suffered a contusion and trauma to his left ankle that will keep him out of the pitch for likely a month. Federico Bernardeschi, after serving the assist for the winning goal, also had to quit the game due to some pain to his knee ligaments. Injuries and diseases actually posed more concerns to Allegri than a remissive Torino.
Turkish offensive midfielder Cengiz Under had been a somewhat mysterious presence in the Roma squad until a few weeks ago – but he seems to have decided to wake up right when his club needed it. Under scored the first goal of the match at the Dacia Arena (his fourth in the last three games) with a wonderful left-foot shot, paving the way for the Giallorossi’s third success in a row. Diego Perotti made it two during extra time, awarding Roma the third spot in the Serie A standing, and much confidence in view of the upcoming Champions League match against Shakhtar. A few steps back for Massimo Oddo’s Udinese, which caused only a few concerns to their opponent this time – and when they did, they found an Alisson Becker in great shape to stop them.