A beautiful week of Italian football is behind us. The title race is still going strong, but Juventus caught some separation after Lecce stunned the Nerazzurri, with Lazio threatening just behind and Napoli’s downfall continuing despite Gennaro Gattuso’s appointment.
Lazio started off the fixture – in style. The Eagles railed over an awful Sampdoria side, destroying any hope for Claudio Ranieri in just 20 minutes. It all started off with Omar Colley’s abysmal defending as he didn’t even try to clear the rebound after Ciro Immobile’s shot, leading to Felipe Caicedo scoring one of the easiest goals of his career.
Interestingly enough, Colley is one of the leaders in clearances in Serie A this season, which shows even further just how much the morale and the spirit fell off in Samp.
The rest of the match was a landslide for the Biancocelesti, as Ciro Immobile converted two penalties, and a goal in between, noting another hat-trick to his name. The match ended 5-1, and Simone Inzaghi’s men are now on an 11-game winning streak, and they don’t look like stopping anytime soon.
Immobile boosted his throne as the league’s top scorer and he now has 23. Yes, nine of those were penalties, but the Italian is doing everything for the team – scoring, working hard, acting as the first line of defense. Perhaps the penalties are just an award and tribute to his impact on his squad, and it’s a beautiful story at the Stadio Olimpico worth following.
Torino in a Limbo
Just when it looked like Torino were back on track, they managed to disappoint at the most unlikely of places. The Granata lost 2-1 to Sassuolo and, once again let the lead slip underneath them.
However, it would be unfair to focus only on Torino. Sassuolo’s Jeremy Boga, who we previously mentioned as one of the breakthrough players in Serie A this season, scored a firm candidate for goal of the season. He cut into the middle, then nutmegged Tomás Rincon before launching a strike for ages from 25 meters out in one of the most aesthetically pleasing goals you’ll ever see.
Boga was the protagonist once again when he dashed past Torino’s defenders like they weren’t there before finding Domenico Berardi, who scored the match-winner and his ninth goal of the season.
The Neroverdi now moved seven points ahead of the relegation zone, and it feels well-deserved with their overall performances this season, while the Toro is playing hot ’n’ cold like a typical mid-table side.
Sad Times at the San Paolo
In a key match of the day, Napoli hosted Fiorentina, and there was something in the air indicating that Gennaro Gattuso’s Azzurri could rise like a phoenix, putting the tragic results past them, as fans showed up in numbers to support their struggling players.
And then, everything crashed.
The hosts at San Paolo showed next to nothing, with Lorenzo Insigne continuing his awful form of running into defenders with no purpose. Arkadiusz Milik, perhaps the only positive one recently, made a wonderful scoring attempt, but that was the last dash of hope for Napoli, who conceded quickly after.
Fiorentina’s game-plan was clear: Wait for their chances on the counter, which Napoli provided plenty of. Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic scored to take the 2-0 win home. The praise goes to new coach Giuseppe Iachini, too, as the players and the managers acted like one in a performance that could prove to be the turning point for the Viola. Fiorentina won two consecutive matches in the Serie A for the first time since September.
Fiorentina fans didn’t just get the win – they also had an opportunity to gain hope for the future, and their hearts probably sparkled when Gaetano Castrovili and Federico Chiesa performed one of the most beautiful combinations. The pair looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves out there, just like they were having an after-school kickabout, rather than playing against one of the strongest teams in the league… at least on paper.
Gattuso, on the other hand, has a lot of work in front of him and he publicly slammed into his team after the match. They all then decided to go into a retreat ahead of a cruel week that sees them facing Lazio in Coppa Italia and then Juventus in Serie A.
Perhaps an image of a crying young fan that the cameramen caught when the Viola scored their second could be a good starting point for motivation in Napoli’s dressing room.
Super Sunday at the San Siro
It was an old-fashioned atmosphere at the San Siro Stadium with Udinese coming into town, and the crowds gathered to welcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his first home appearance as a starter since his return to Milan. Even club legend Andriy Shevchenko was in the stands, and he ended up having much to enjoy.
It was a pretty even match between the two sides, overall. Gianluigi Donnarumma started with a big mistake, leading to Udinese taking the lead. However, the superstar goal-scorer once known as a fullback, Theo Hernandez, was having none of it and scored to make it 2-1 with a beautiful volley from the edge of the box after Ante Rebic had netted his first for the Rossoneri at the beginning of the second half.
It was all smiling at the San Siro before Kevin Lasagna scored his annual goal against Milan, tying the match at 2-2. Just when it looked like they’ll let this one slip, Rebic changed face and scored his second goal in the dying moments of the match, sending the stadium into a frenzy and showing just why we all crave for a strong Rossoneri squad.
This win could change things for the better at Milan, as they are still in contention for the Europa League spots – which may be their primary goal for the rest of the season.
While San Siro was tasting a glimpse of happiness, their city rivals had a bitter visit to Lecce.
Inter only took a point off of their visit to the Salento region, allowing themselves a slip-up in a place where they should be confidently winning. To make things far worse, Marcelo Brozovic sustained an injury that could keep him out of action for about a month.
A lot of deals are still in the work for the Nerazzurri, and the likes of Christian Eriksen, Olivier Giroud, and Victor Moses could perhaps help the stalemate for Antonio Conte’s side.
Inter are now four points behind Juve, as the race goes on. This was, however, a huge point for Lecce, who are a point above the relegation zone, despite having zero wins at home this season.
Bologna and Verona squared off as Sinisa Mihajlovic’s team have now gone three matches without a win as Fabio Borini nullified Mattia Bani’s effort(s). Bologna’s center-back scored before earning himself a red card in the second half, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw, with both sides holding on to their mid-table spots.
Why Always Me?
Brescia and Cagliari were both looking to escape a bad run of form with the hosts noting two consecutive defeats, and Cagliari coming off of a horrifying run of four consecutive losses. It ended the only way it could – in a draw. Ernesto Torregrossa and Joao Pedro scored two goals each that made it 2-2, but it was interesting to see that Sandro Tonali assisting both of his teammate’s goals, although Torregrossa’s second was a solitary piece of art from a player with confidence, as he struck a 30-meter shot right into the keeper’s top-left corner.
Mario Balotelli did what Mario Balotelli does best – he earned a red card just seven minutes after entering the pitch, so instead of helping his team go for all three points, he put them in a hard position. Brescia, however, managed to defend the point until the end.
A Tale of Two Goalkeepers
Roma opened the evening Sunday program with an unusually confident win that had no Roma signature to it whatsoever. Cengiz Under made the most out of the chance he got after Nicolo Zaniolo’s injury as he scored the opener, with Davide Biraschi’s own-goal adding to the Roma’s lead after the written-off Spinazzola made some nice moves down the left.
Ancient Goran Pandev made it 2-1 after Pau Lopez played a bit too much of a “will I-won’t I”. He more than made up for it, however, by finely saving from Edoardo Goldaniga’s header, prompting even opposition goalkeeper Mattia Perin to applause at the effort.
Edin Dzeko finally ended his drought when the team needed him the most. Perin emulated his colleague Pau Lopez – not the “incredible-save” one, but the “gifting-a-goal” one – as he slipped, allowing for Lorenzo Pellegrini to assist the captain for his eighth goal of the season.
Pandev almost made it interesting once again, but Lopez’s transformation into a brick wall continued as he saved a perfect opportunity, thus securing the 3-1 lead for his team.
This defeat saw the Rossoblu remain in the relegation zone, and things have to change quickly – although a change is a dangerous word to say around President Enrico Preziosi, who has already replaced two coaches and could set a record for managerial sackings at this rate.
Juve Back to Their Best
The Old Lady made use of Inter’s slip-up earlier in the day as they confidently beat Parma 2-1 at home. Cristiano Ronaldo was the main man. The Portuguese is playing in a great form recently, as he scored twice, thus nullifying Andreas Cornelius’ efforts.
Parma performed well, just as they usually do away from home, catching up some opportunities to break, but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved the day for the Bianconeri.
SPAL Out of Nowhere
It was supposed to be just another Monday evening as Atalanta hosted SPAL, and three points were almost counted in advance for the Nerazzurri. The feeling was enhanced after Josip Ilicic beautifully back-heeled the ball into the net.
But then, much to the crowd’s shock, SPAL came from behind in the second half as Andrea Petagna and Mattia Valoti scored to leave Gian Piero Gasperini’s team in dismay.
So, let’s put this result into context: SPAL had scored only four goals away from home before this match, averaging 0.4 per game. Furthermore, they had not won a single away match prior, and this was their second win in the league overall.
It’s a disappointing result for Atalanta to say the least, as they now found themselves out of the Champions League spots due to an unforgivable defeat.
All in all, it was a very fun weekend of football in Italy. The rollercoaster continues – a lot of spectacular duels await in the mid-week Cup fixtures, and there are many stories to follow coming into the next Serie A match-day.
Read more from Nedim Maric on http://www.whatafinish.com