It’s an exciting Serie A, we are happy to report at least that. After six years where competition was killed by Juventus’ domination – and often too early in the season – this time Bianconeri don’t seem invincible, despite forcing their way at the Dacia Arena of Udine yesterday.
There are at least two clubs that have been showing a more effective calcio so far, and the fact that their direct confrontation ended on a goalless draw Saturday night just adds to the balance of this league edition – as it allowed Juventus and Lazio to reduce their gap versus Napoli to three points only. So watch out for the Romane as well – not only Lazio, as even the Giallorossi of Roma got closer to the top spots, with still one match against Sampdoria to recover.
Bad news of the day is all on the Rossoneri side of the Navigli (the canals crossing Milano), which saw their chances to come back to victory vanish early in their match against Genoa as captain Leonardo Bonucci received a direct expulsion for an elbow foul. Nothing seems to be going right, that’s true, but time is ticking out for Vincenzo Montella – who will put much of his position as head coach at stake in the upcoming two matches against Chievo and (moreover) Juventus.
On the right side of the league table, the battle to avoid relegation looks promising: If you exclude Benevento, with the Witches already seeming to need a miracle to maintain their top division status, there are at least seven clubs that will need to fight hard keep their spot among the Elite 20: Genoa, Cagliari (5th defeat in a row), Udinese, Crotone, Sassuolo, Hellas Verona, and Spal.
A courageous performance in the Derby della Scala gave Hellas new hopes, and Sassuolo made a good step forward winning in Ferrara. Radio silence from all the others, which will likely mean a tight – although low-level – competition until the end.
A surprisingly remissive Bologna surrendered to La Dea without making a single attempt to score today. Gian Piero Gasperini’s Nerazzurri took three points despite fatigue from their recent Europa League match thanks to a lone goal by Danish forward Andreas Cornelius. For Atalanta, a positive comeback after the heavy 1-3 defeat suffered last week in Genoa.
Fiorentina effortlessly strolled on the remains of a Benevento whose nightmares seem to have no end. Goals by Marco Benassi, Khouma Babacar, and Cyril Thereau made short work of the Streghe. The ninth defeat out of nine games – worst start ever in any Serie A edition – forced President Oreste Vigorito to sack trainer Marco Baroni. He will be replaced by Roberto De Zerbi, who last year trained Palermo for just a few months. Not exactly the profile of a winning coach at first sight, but it can’t get worse than this for the Campanians…
A Lazio on a five-game winning spree was simply too much for this Cagliari that, despite the recent change of trainer, is far from finding their identity back. The Biancocelesti got rid of the Islanders exploiting their best man – Azzurro Ciro Immobile, whose stato di grazia allowed him to score two additional goals to move is personal count to 13 (two more than Juventus’ Paulo Dybala). A soft touch by Baston on a cross by Luis Alberto rounded up the score to three for the Aquile and sent them to -3 points only from leading Napoli.
Leonardo Bonucci removing his captain band as he gloomily left the pitch after receiving a direct red card is the cover image of this Serie A round. 22 minutes into Milan-Genoa, Bonucci and defender Aleandro Rosi were battling as you usually do in the box, to receive a cross by Hakan Calhanoglu – but the Rossonero kept his elbow higher, and hit Genoa’s number 20. Referee Piero Giacomelli gave him a red card after consulting the VAR, much to the fury of Milan’s coach Vincenzo Montella – whom in the post-match press conference boomed in defense of his captain: “He was just trying to maintain his position, do you know how many goals I scored playing like that?” Rossoneri managed to keep the score to nil-nil against a mediocre Genoa despite their numerical inferiority, but this is the fourth game without win in a row by now, and the psychological conditions of their new captain is a problem that Montella cannot keep ignoring.
A blitz by Matteo Politano just 37’’ into the game delivered Sassuolo a precious away win in their first Emilian derby against Spal. Politano made the best out of a mistake by defender Francesco Vicari, and made his side gain three key points in the battle to avoid relegation. The Biancazzurri – only one point conquered in the last six games – seem to have lost their edge. The Neroverdi caught some breath and moved to 8 points, despite another bad day for their “lost talent” Domenico Berardi, who failed to convert a penalty, and still has to score a single goal this season.
Samp flexed their muscles, and vanquished Crotone in a match that had nothing more to say after 40 minutes already. Gian Marco Ferrari opened a breach among the Squali’s defense at 5,’ then Fabio Quagliarella doubled converting a penalty kick. The third goal was scored by Gianluca Caprari. In the second half, there was room for Poles Karol Linetty and Dawid Kownacki as well, to round the scorecard up.
Roma snatched a 0-1 win at the Grande Torino Stadium and, to add insult to injury for the Granata’s coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, they did it thanks to a free kick. The Serbian trainer of Torino was doubtless the best free kicker of his generation, but today he had to see his team succumbing to his fellow countryman Aleksander Kolarov’s perfect free kick shot from the long range. Roma cashed three points with minimum effort not lose trail of the leading teams, whereas Torino doesn’t make full score since four rounds by now – a clear sign that the absence of their top scorer Andrea Belotti is indeed having an impact.
An early goal by Stipe Perica – third in a row for the Udinese attacker – unleashed the fury of the Old Lady, which submerged the Friulani with six goals despite playing with ten men for more than one hour. Champions League hero Mario Mandzukic got two yellow cards within seconds for reiterated protests at referee Daniele Doveri, and was sent off for an early post-match shower. Good enough for coach Massimilano Allegri that Juventus had already overturned the match at that time, thanks to an own-goal by Samir Santos and a header by Sami Khedira. The German midfielder stole the stage scoring twice more to complete the first hat trick of his career, after Danilo had temporarily equalised for Udinese again. Additional goals for the Bianconeri came from Daniele Rugani, and Miralem Pjanic. Mention of honor also for Captain Gianluigi Buffon, who denied multiple chances from Udinese when the match was still open.