It’s been an emotional weekend all over the Italian peninsula dominated by the loss of the iconic Diego Armando Maradona. Whilst the Napoli players paid their tribute to the club’s biggest legend with a formidable display against Roma, Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus faltered to another disappointing draw, and Sassuolo conceded their first defeat of the season at the hands of Inter. On the other hand, Milan took advantage of the chaotic results, to further extend their lead after a comfortable win. So here are the Top 5 stories of Serie A round 9.
Extraordinary Serie A Tributes to an Extraordinary Person
Saying that Diego Armando Maradona was not a regular person would be the biggest understatement of the year. This man single-handedly changed the fortunes of an entire city in the 1980’s, as well as shocking the entire football world with some magical displays and never-ending controversy, and has left his mark on every football fan at the time – including us here at the Cult of Calcio.
Whilst football leagues all over the planet paid their respect to the icon, Italy had to go one or two notches up. Naturally, his beloved Napoli led the tributes, as the city prepares to rename the San Paolo Stadium as the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, while the players entered their fixture against Roma wearing the Argentine blue and white stripes, and Lorenzo Insigne celebrated his goal by kissing the legend’s number 10 jersey.
And above it all, every Serie A round 9 match stopped at the 10th minute, with everyone present at the stadiums, including the players, would take a minute to applaud the great Maradona. Curiously enough, the ball would always find its way out of bounds around the 10th minute, and whether it was planned or just pure coincidence remains a mystery.
Sassuolo Should be Lauded Despite Their Defeat to Inter
Awkwardly enough, Sassuolo entered their Round 9 encounter against Inter ahead of Antonio Conte’s side in the Serie A table, and many followers tipped them to take advantage of their opponents’ recent European woes to add further misery on their complicated season.
However, the Nerazzurri were able to build on their early lead to earn a comfortable 3-0 in the Mapei Stadium, as Roberto De Zerbi’s side conceded their first defeat of the season.
Some people would always tend to jump on some early conclusions and claim that Sassuolo’s early promise has completely faded. But one must remember that managing to remain undefeated for the first eight matches is an achievement on its own for the Neroverdi, and this defeat could be a learning experience that would help the side to grow further during their so-far excellent campaign.
Inter won against Sassuolo away without Lukaku. Milan won without Ibra against Fiorentina. Juve drew against Benevento without CR7
— Siavoush Fallahi (@SiavoushF) November 29, 2020
Contrast Between Juventus and Milan in the Absence of Their Two Stars
Serie A fans were disappointed to learn that the two biggest stars in Italy – who also happen to be leading the scoring charts – were both going to miss their respective round 9 fixtures.
Cristiano Ronaldo was given the weekend off as Juventus visited Benevento. And while Alvaro Morata opened the scoring for the champions, a late first-half equalizer complicated what was supposed to be an easy task for the Bianconeri, and Andrea Pirlo ended up regretting his decision to rest his Portuguese superstar, as his side once again failed to win in the absence of their top star.
In contrast to Juventus, Milan took advantage of a Fiorentina side that was wasteful in attack and woeful in defense to earn a commanding 2-0 victory and further extend their championship lead despite the absence of the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Milan thus refuted the claim that the Rossoneri cannot win without their Swedish giant. At least for now.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) November 29, 2020
Napoli, the Most Terrifying Team in Serie A?
Eight rounds into the season, and Napoli had already conceded three league defeats (at least two of them on the pitch), and yet there’s something special about Gennaro Gattuso’s side. When the southerners are on – the way they were during their round 9 fixture against Roma – they turn into a terrifying demolishing machine.
In their tribute match to the late Maradona, their main stars Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Fabian Ruiz were all on target, while substitute Matteo Politano entered the pitch to add the potential goal of the week, and the absence of new signings Victor Osimhen and Tiémoué Bakayoko was never felt, as Piotr Zieliński’s return to the starting lineup added the right balance to the Partenopei midfield.
Gattuso may have found the right tactical setup, and it must be noted that so far no Serie A side was able to win his matches the way Napoli destroyed the likes of Genoa and Roma. However it’s up for the Azzurri players to produce these performances a little more often.
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) November 30, 2020
Serie A Round 9 Had its Surprises
Last Saturday, Atalanta shockingly lost yet another league encounter, when Verona’s Ivan Juric managed to outplay his former mentor Gian Piero Gasperini. The day had previously witnessed Juventus unexpectedly being held at Benevento, and the high-flying Sassuolo suddenly getting crushed at home by Inter.
Then on Sunday, Udinese shocked Lazio as they earned a deserved away victory, Cagliari wasted a home victory as minnows Spezia stole a last-minute equalizer, and Napoli thrashed a supposedly solid Roma side.
Thus, After a host of surprising Round 9 results, Serie A fans should start expecting the unexpected from this special 2020-2021 edition.