In a weekend that saw all the leading teams making full score quite easily – including Juventus, which captured a convincing 0-2 away win in the big match against Milan – the most interesting exploits came from Crotone and Spal. Both teams cashed two very important victories to move away from the danger zone. The Squali shockingly topped Fiorentina 2-1, an even more meaningful outcome if put in the perspective of a season where the so-called piccole (“small teams”) are struggling to make points against higher ranked clubs. Spal won a real relegation play off against Genoa, casting new shadows over the future of their trainer Nikola Juric.
Back in the 90s,’ Serie A used to be the league of the Seven Sisters – with Juventus, Inter, Milan, Lazio, Roma, Parma, and Fiorentina all capable of beating each other and be contenders for the Scudetto. This season seems to have a pool of contenders reduced to five: Juventus, Inter, Roma, Lazio, and of course Napoli – which was going through some really hard times back in the days of the Seven Sisters.
Five teams being so close after 11 rounds is a big step forward versus the most recent years, when only one-two clubs per season could realistically hope to fight for the title – in many occasions these two clubs being Juventus, and…Juventus. Still, it’s a confirmation that the gap between those five stars and the rest of the pack is getting wider and wider. So far, only Atalanta, Bologna, and Spal have managed to hold to a draw respectively, Juventus, Inter, and Lazio: In all the other occasions, the five stars have made full score when playing a lower-ranked team, and only stolen points each other.
With four-five teams appearing evidently below the average – Benevento being only the clearest example – the risk is that the 20 participants will soon split into three chunks, with five or six teams battling for the Scudetto and the access to European competitions, a few more fighting to avoid relegation, but the majority stuck in a no-man’s-land – with no more ambitions or anything more to ask to their participation too early in the game.
Here is what happened in detail in the 11th Round of Serie A. Juventus’ win in San Siro against Milan has been analyzed here.
Lazio showed literally no mercy and closed the match against Benevento in just 24 minutes: Goals by Bastos, Ciro Immobile, (14th goal for the league top scorer) and Adam Marusic brought the Eagles to 0-3 at half time. The Witches gave some signs of life scoring with Achraf Lazaar, but then the Biancocelesti placed the ball in the net again with Marco Parolo, who finalized an assist by Nani. At 86,’ there was also time for Portuguese outlier to score his first goal in his Serie A adventure.
The surprise of the day was Crotone stopping Fiorentina after three wins in a row. A lightning fast one-two by Ante Budimir and Marcello Trotta sent the Sharks on 2-0 after just 18 minutes of play. Marco Benassi reduced the gap for the Viola at 44,’ but the score didn’t change anymore: Federico Chiesa hit the crossbar with a powerful left shot, then Giovanni Simeone narrowly miss the target with a header. In a Serie A where low ranking clubs are struggling to conquer any point, this a golden victory for the Rossoblu trained by Davide Nicola.
Nessun problema for Napoli, which got rid also of Sassuolo to continue their solitary run at the top of the league. Indeed, the Neroverdi did give some hard time to Maurizio Sarri’s invincible gang – as Diego Falcinelli equalised at 41’ Allan Marques’ early lead. But the illusion only lasted three minutes – that’s how much it took to José Callejon to score directly from a corner kick: his direct lob cross surprised Sassuolo’s defenders and goalkeeper Davide Consigli. The Spaniard striker from Napoli maximized another corner a few minutes later: This time, his cross from the left was deflected by Raul Albiol on Dries Mertens’ foot for an easy conversion.
A family affair took place at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, where Roma’s coach Eusebio Di Francesco faced his son Federico, who plays for Bologna. The family battle was won by the father, as Roma caught their third consecutive 1-0 win. A goal by the Paraoh Stephan El Shaarawy was one of the very few emotions in a game that only served the purpose of helping Giallorossi maintain the same winning pace as the three striped teams, and city rivals Lazio.
The match between two of the most interesting teams seen this season resolved in a crushing victory for the Genoan side, whereas Chievo had to bear their second 1-4 defeat in a week. The man of the match without doubt Doria’s midfielder Lucas Torreira, who scored a double. The score changed three times in six minutes: Karol Linetty put Sampdoria ahead at 21’, but then a header by Fabrizio Cacciatore quickly brought the Gialloblu to 1-1. A blazing free kick from 30m by Torreira renewed the lead for the Blucerchiati, which rounded the score up with Duvan Zapata before half time. The Uruguayan midfielder made it four for the home side with another perfect shot from outside the box.
Spal returns to make full score after nine games, and put Nikola Juric’s position as head coach of Genoa severely at risk. The goal that made the Biancazzurri smile was a combination between their two strikers Alberto Paloschi and Mirco Antenucci, with the former catching a long-range pass, and serving the ball to the latter for a quick shot that left no chance to Genoa’s Mattia Perin. The Rossoblu were disappointing, and could not produce any clear goal chance, except for a very early double attempt neutralized by the Ferraresi’s goalie Alfred Gomis.
The Granata return to taste victory after a few difficult weeks and save coach Sinisa Mihajlovic’s position. Among protests and criticism from the home supporters, Cagliari took the lead thanks to a counter attack finalized by Niccolò Barella, but then Iago Falque equalised finalizing a combination with Adem Ljajic and Cristian Ansaldi. In the second half, Nigerian substitute Joel Obi made his comeback after an injury a memorable one, converting a corner kick for Torino’s final 2-1.
It’s Bianconeri versus Nerazzurri at the Dacia Arena, but the game was not Inter-Juventus as you might expect…Udinese came from behind, and caught an unexpected win against La Dea, thanks to an out-of-the-box shot by Czech midfielder Antonin Barak. Mention of honor also for goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri, who saved a penalty by Bryan Cristante when the score was already set to 2-1. Atalanta had taken the lead thanks to a left foot conclusion by Jasmin Kurtic. Then another penalty, this one assigned to Udinese, gave Bianconeri the chance to rebalance the game: Rodrigo Depaul converted from the penalty spot.
Hellas Verona-Inter 1-2
Inter answered Napoli’s call Monday night in Verona to maintain a two-point gap versus the capolista. Despite traditionally suffering against lower-ranked clubs, the Nerazzurri made full score with the minimum effort: Borja Valero put them ahead finalizing a cross by Antonio Candreva, then Ivan Perisic scored the decisive goal after a converted penalty by Giampaolo Pazzini had brought the Scaligeri on 1-1.