Serie A TIM: Matchday 11 Review
The Top 5 clubs all won this past weekend, while the bottom half continue to switch positions… Below, I provide the recap on Matchday 11 of the Serie A TIM.
Napoli 5-1 Empoli
A matchup between two genuine footballing sides was won by the Partenopei at home. Napoli continued their chase of league leaders Juventus on Friday with a clinical display at the San Paolo, with Dries Mertens scoring a hat-trick and Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik also getting on the score sheet. The first goal was set up by star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who won back the ball, made a 35-yard run and passed to Insigne who finished off the play. It was then the Mertens show, as a well placed inside out shot with his right foot and a blast also with his right, both from outside the box put Napoli firmly in control. The visitors pulled one back through Francesco Caputo before Mertens set up Milik to hit a one time shot and the Belgium international grabbed his treble, after beating the Empoli goalkeeper to the ball to score into an open net. Napoli’s manager Carlo Ancelotti was full of praise for the away side’s play; Napoli have finally found some efficiency in front of goal, can Empoli?
Inter 5-0 Genoa :
The Nerrazzuri prepared for their monster clash with Barcelona in Europe, with a comprehensive victory over il Grifone at the Guiseppe Meazza.
Captain Mauro Icardi was given a rest this match, and Inter did not miss a beat. Joao “Comeback Kid” Mario was the star of the show, providing two assists for Roberto Gagliardini and Matteo Politano to score within two minutes of each other, and he got on the score-sheet himself, with a daisy cutter in stoppage time. Gagliardini, who has been left off il Biscione’s Champions League list, scored a second and there was even time for returning Radja Nainggolan to score with a header.
Inter have won seven straight games in Serie A, while Genoa’s form since firing Davide Ballardini and re-appointing Ivan Juric has dropped considerably.
Fiorentina 1-1 Roma
Controversy raged in this one, as La Viola were awarded a spot-kick for what looked like a non-foul.
Giovanni Simone and Roma goalkeeper Robert Olsen came together, and the Argentine striker fell over after his foot seemingly hit the Swedish international in the face. No VAR was used to review and newly called to the France team, Jordan Veretout put the spot kick away. Roma’s Edin Dzeko had a couple of chances to score for the Giallorossi but could not convert, and it was an indictment of how average the away side was in this match. The Tuscans were the ones who were trying to string passes together and score, but they conceded late on as their 19-year-old goalkeeper Lafont, who had been very good all game, weakly punched away a cross and Alessandro Florenzi was there to volley it home.
A point does neither side any good as they fall away from the top four.
Juventus 3-1 Cagliari
A routine win for the seven-time defending champions versus a spirited Sardinian side.
Paulo Dybala scored within 40 seconds of the kickoff with a lovely strike turning two Cagliari defenders the wrong way before slotting it home with his weaker right foot. Joao Pedro equalised for the away side with a nice turn and finish, but less than two minutes later, the Islanders scored an own goal through Filip Bradaric, after a Cristiano Ronaldo cross. Both teams had shouts for penalties, of which both were denied by the referee. The Old lady sealed the points through Juan Cuadrado in the 87th minute, after being set up by Ronaldo on a counter-attack when the visitors were pushing to make it 2-2.
Cagliari’s three-game unbeaten streak is snapped, while Juve looks forward to Manchester United in the Champions League.
Lazio 4-1 Spal
Another game where the so-called provincial team went away from home and played a lovely brand of football, only to leave with no points.
The Biancocelesti opened the scoring through Ciro Immobile with a ferocious volley which he met first time from a corner. The Emilia-Romagna side equalized through captain Mirco Antenucci with a tap-in, fromwell-workedked move down their right. Immobile restored the lead soon after, when strike partner Felipe Caiceido set him up and his shot took a slight deflection off a Spal defender and flew into the net. I tweeted out that Italy should allow Immobile to wear the sky blue of Lazio when on international duty, and maybe he can transform his club form to Gli Azzurri! It was time for some long shooting from the home team, as Danilo Cataldi and Marco Parolo, both hit 25-yard screamers to seal the win for Lazio.
The Romans stay in the Champions League places, while Spal’s lovely football deserved a bit more.
Sampdoria 1-4 Torino
A shock in Liguria as Samp lost for the first time this season, but it was more the manner the way they lost that was strange.
Andrea Belotti scored two goals in the first half, to put the Granata firmly in control of this encounter. A bullet header which he had to arched his head back to score from a Lorenzo Di Silvestri cross, and a penalty, after he himself had been brought down by Samp’s keeper Audero. The seven-time Scudetto winners tripled their lead 10 minutes after the break through Iago Falque, who hit a rasping volley after meeting a header down from Aina. Fabio Quagliarella gave the home team hope of a comeback, after scoring in the 65th minute from the rebound after his penalty had been saved.
However, Toro took the points back home for sure when Armando Izzo scored within the six-yard box from a corner. The Piedmont side leapfrogged Samp, in the table in the race for Europe.
Chievo 0-2 Sassuolo
Should we just expect that the Flying Donkeys have flown their last flight by now? The Neroverdi scored late in both halves through Federico Di Francesco and an own goal from Emmanuele Giaccherini to compound the worse for Giampiero Ventura’s side. The Verona based side’s chances were not helped by two yellow card offenses by Strahinja Tanasijević that earned him a red. The away side are firmly in the hunt for a European place, while Chievo… what else to say?
Parma 0-0 Frosinone
The away side from Lazio put up another spirited performance in an ever-improving season, while the Crociati seemed to have fallen off a bit lately. The match was influenced when Luca Stulac made a horrendous tackle on Chibsah at the hour mark and was rightly sent off. The visitors came close a few times, but a combination of Parma’s goalkeeper Sepe in a great form and a lack of finishing meant this game ended all square.
Bologna 1-2 Atalanta
La Dea’a mini-revival since Josip Ilicic has returned continued with a come-from-behind victory over the Rossoblu at the Renato Dall’Ara.
It started off well for the home side as Ibrahima Mbaye scored in the third minute after some old school center forward play by Federico Santander inside the box. They had a couple of chances to double their lead through Santander & Rodrigo Palacio headers, but it stayed 1-0 at the half. The Bergamese side are one of the better footballing sides in Italy, and they got their just rewards when Gianluca Mancini tied the game up just before the hour mark. A well-worked move caused confusion in the Bologna defense and the Argentine was there to score into the bottom left corner of the home team’s net. They scored the game-winner just over 10 minutes later when again, the home team’s defense got confused. A simple cross was played in, the Bologna defenders seemed to not know who or when they should clear, and Duvan Zapata was there unmarked to score his first Serie A goal for Atalanta.
Udinese 0-1 Milan
Another Alessio Romagnoli late winner kept the Rossoneri in the hunt for a Champions League place. This match was a very physical affair, without being nasty, as both teams, first the Friulians and I Diavoli employing shall we say some tactical fouling and plays.
In the first half, the visitors had chances through regular goalscorers Suso and Patrick Cutrone, but Juan Musso in the Udi net was up to the task. The physical play, told, and Gonzalo Higuain was forced off in the first half with a back injury, that will be a concern with a key Europa League match on Thursday, and a certain rivalry game with Juve next Sunday. His replacement, Samu Castillejo, came in and was a warrior, fighting for every ball, and even had a couple of chances to score himself, but again, the Udi goalkeeper was phenomenal! The home team themselves put some pressure on the Milan goal, and captain Kevin Lasagna, had a great chance to score in the 75th minute, but he was stopped by Italy teammate Gigio Donnarumma. Milan kept pushing and Castilijo was key again, as he went on the counter and was tripped by Bram Nuytinck and he was shown a straight red.
THEN IT HAPPENED! Romagnoli won back the ball at the center circle, gave it to Cutrone who raced away, and after a few inter-changes between Borini, Suso & Romagnoli, it was the captain that blasted the ball into the net. He ran away with the rest of his teammates and the Milan bench which cleared to celebrate with the traveling Milanisti in the Curva Sud. The linesman had raised his flag for Cutrone for offside, but after use of the VAR, the young striker was shown to be clearly onside, and the goal stood…
Relief for Gattuso and his troops. The seven times European champions are tied again with Lazio for fourth, while Udinese are just three points above the relegation zone. Milan can now look forward to the Classic versus Juventus at home.
Another round is complete, and there seems to be a gap beginning to open up at the top of Serie A, but as we all know, it is in May and June that the real ambitions are fulfilled.