Sky Is Blue (and White) In Crotone as SPAL Win Relegation Battle

Crotone-SPAL, a fundamental match in the battle to avoid relegation to Serie B, started as expected with Walter Zenga lining up his Sharks with a 4-3-3 formation, and a trident composed by Andrea Nalini, Igor Budimir, and Federico Ricci. SPAL’s Leonardo Semplici answered with a 3-5-2 featuring captain Mirco Antenucci together with Alberto Paloschi on the attacking line, and deploying Pasquale Schiattarella rather than Federico Viviani as playmaker.

Crotone took control of the operations in the early stage of the match, producing a shot by Nalini that didn’t catch goalkeeper Alex Meret (just called by interim Nazionale coach Luigi Di Biagio for a three-day stage) by surprise. SPAL replied with a lob shot by Jasmin Kurtic that missed the goal target, and then with a volley by Alberto Grassi – served by the Slovenian midfielder – that called Rossoblu goalie Alex Cordaz to a super save.

In the 37th minute, an unstoppable Manuel Lazzari served a golden pass to Antenucci in the box, for the Biancazzurri captain to control the ball and slam it into Crotone’s net. All SPAL players run to hug their coach Semplici, showing how strong is their team spirit in such a sensitive moment for the Ferraresi.
The grit of SPAL’s captain Mirco Antenucci, who scored the first goal for his side in their 3-2 win in Crotone (Photo: Getty Images)

However, Crotone started strong in the second half, and made it even after just four minutes – when an offense by Budimir was finalized by Andrea Barberis. Meret deflected the Sharks’ number 10’s shot on the post, but Budimir was quick enough to tap the ball in for the 1-1.

As the Enzo Scida Stadium caught fire, Crotone started to believe in the three points, but the very next free kick saw SPAL putting their head ahead again, thanks to a header by 21-year-old Lorenco Simic, who just joined the Ferrara club from Empoli. The home side suffered the blow, and minutes later a mistake by Rolando Mandragora propitiated Alberto Paloschi’s 1-3 goal.

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Alberto Paloschi pushes the ball past Alex Cordaz for SPAL’s third goal (Photo: Francesco Mazzitello / Lapresse)

SPAL closed themselves in defense, as Crotone restarted to push with their heart, sustained by a whole Region Calabria that does not want to lose their only representative in Serie A. With four minutes to go, Budimir scored again, converting with a wonderful header a cross by Davide Faraoni.

But time was over, and the match ended on the notes of Ma il cielo é sempre più blu (“But the Sky Is Always Bluer”) by Crotone-born songwriter Rino Gaetano, which became the anthem of the Calabrian side. Still, the sky was blue and white yesterday – the colors of SPAL, which thanks to their 3-2 win kept the fight to remain in the elite division of Italian football still alive.


February 25, 2018 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 26

SCORERS: 37′ Antenucci (S), 49′ Budimir (C), 51′ Simic (S), 60′ Paloschi (S), 86′ Budimir (C)

Logo_Crotone_2017 CROTONE (4-3-3): Cordaz; Sampirisi (64′ Faraoni), Ceccherini, Capuano, Martella; Benali, Barberis (61′ Trotta), Mandragora; Nalini, Budimir, Ricci (75′ Simy) (Viscovo, Ajeti, Zanellato, Pavlovic, Izco, Rohden, Crociata, Diaby) Coach: Zenga
Logo_SPAL_2017 SPAL (3-5-2): Meret; Simic, Vicari, Cionek; Lazzari, Schiattarella (80′ Salamon), Grassi, Kurtic, Mattiello; Paloschi (88′ Floccari), Antenucci (75′ Dramé) (Gomis, Marchegiani, Vaisanen, Everton Luiz, Vitale, Costa, Viviani, Schiavon, Bonazzoli) Coach: Semplici

REFEREE: Mr. Orsato from Schio
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Sampirisi (C), Vicari, Cionek, Paloschi, Schiattarella (S); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 4′