The first third of Serie A 2017-18 ended with Juventus reducing the gap versus capolista Napoli, and surpassing Inter to catch the second position in the table. This looked like a simple round on paper for the three leading forces, yet both Napoli and Inter were forced to halt their march and settle for a draw. Juventus did get the three points, but suffered much more than expected against Benevento.
With Lazio forced to change their plans for the Sunday as their match against Udinese was cancelled, the other side of the Capitale continued to rejoice as Roma outclassed Fiorentina 4-2 to catch their 9th win out of 11 games. Both Lazio and Roma have now one match to catch up with: should they both win, that would mean having the top five teams in the standing within two points. Never had the race for Scudetto been so close at this point of the season!
Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria maintained contact with the Europa League qualification area, by conquering a Derby della Lanterna that costed his Genoa colleague Ivan Juric his job: Juric is the third coach sacked this season, after Marco Baroni from Benevento and Massimiliano Rastelli from Cagliari. His replacement will be Davide Ballardini – an expert with taking teams in the middle of the season, who has already trained the Rossoblu twice in the past.
Milan gave some signs of life beating a still more disappointing Sassuolo, but the road is still long and hard for Vincenzo Montella. At the bottom of the league, Crotone and Cagliari collected two important wins that made them move at +6 versus the relegation area.
Aside from the Derby of Genoa, which we covered here, this is what happened during the 12th Round of Serie A:
Atalanta is tired – the European matches are starting to take a tool on La Dea’s conditioning. Despite taking the lead with another goal by Bryan Cristante, the Nerazzurri suffered a comeback when Luca Rizzo balanced for Spal, and risked to be surpassed when they remained with one man less due to the expulsion of Remo Freuler. Goalkepeer Erit Berisha maintained the score on 1-1.
Crotone caught their second win in a row in an afternoon where Bologna’s winger Simone Verdi distinguished himself for scoring two free kicks, one with his left foot and one with his right (!). With Roberto Donadoni’s boys leading 2-0, the match was apparently over – but the Squali still seem to have some of that fuel that miraculously kept them in Serie A last year in the thank: A double by Ante Budimir and a converted penalty by Marcello Trotta overturned the match and condemned Bologna to their fourth consecutive loss.
Cagliari came from behind to catch an important win in their run to stay away from the relegation area. Bruno Zuculini converted with a header a corner kick by Alessio Cerci at 6,’ then Verona thought only to defend themselves and were eventually punished: Luca Ceppitelli successfully finalized a confused action in the Scaligeri’s box, then a wonderful shot by Paolo Faragò made the Islanders happy. For Verona, this is the fourth loss in a row.
The Gialloblu fort holds, and forces Napoli to their second goalless draw after the one with Inter. Chievo’s goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino denied multiple occasions to Lorenzo Insigne & co., which appeared fatigued after their Champions League match against Manchester City. Press and commentators noticed it and started mentioning an alleged “crisis” – good for Sarri that the break will allow his boys some rest.
Inter is also held on to a draw by Torino, and fails to catch Napoli at the top of the league. Spaniard Iago Falque gave the lead to the Granata after a goalless first half: his shot from out-of-the-box was well directed, but Samir Handanovic appeared caught by surprise. Luciano Spalletti made the right move sending in Eder – as the Brazilian-Italian striker brought the Nerazzurri to 1-1, making the best out of a pass from Mauro Icardi.
Those who were expecting a slaughter at Allianz Stadium were proved wrong as Amato Ciciretti shocked the Bianconeri scoring from a free kick 19 minutes into the game. It could have been a great David vs Goliath tale, but Juventus eventually settled the matter with a left shot by a reborn Gonzalo Higuain, and a header by Juan Cuadrado – served with a perfect cross by Alex Sandro. Three points for Juve, but an encouraging applause for Benevento.
Gerson who? Roma raided Florence thanks to an unexpected contribution by one of their most underestimated players – that Gerson Santos da Silva who became infamously known among the Giallorossi supporters after a disastrous performance last year against Juventus. This time, the Brazilian scored a brace to give his side the lead twice. Fiorentina were able to equalize both times in the first half, with goals by Jordan Veretout, and El Cholito Giovanni Simeone. Then, after the break, Kostas Manolas and Diego Perotti brought the score to 2-4 for Roma to catch their 12th away win in a row. A great game to watch, but both defenses have much to be forgiven…
Lazio-Udinese was cancelled due to the heavy rain than hit Rome on Sunday afternoon.
Far from saying that the crisis is over, but the three points that Milan caught in Reggio Emilia against Sassuolo are a blessing. A header by Alessio Romagnoli and a spectacular left foot shot by Suso saved Vincenzo Montella – at least for now. Sassuolo never posed any real threat to the Rossoneri despite a three-man attacking line, and now the one at risk is the Neroverdi coach Christian Bucchi.
Feature Photo Credit: Marco Luzzani – Inter/Inter via Getty Images