A colorful Derby della Lanterna, only two of the top 10 sides winning, and Parma back and competing for Europe were the main story-lines as Calcio returned after the International Break.
Udinese 1-0 Roma
The Giallorossi dominated every conceivable statistic in this match, but failed in the most important one, as the Frulians gave new manager Davide Nicola a win in his first match in charge.
In the first half, the away side came the closest to scoring through firstly a Stephan El Shaarawy one time shot after some neat built up play and an Alexander Kolarov free-kick, but it remained scoreless as the whistle blew for half-time. It was the home team who eventually scored the opener, which turned out to be the only goal of the game. From a throw-in, Ignacio Pussetto flicked the ball to his strike partner Rodrigo De Paul and the Argentine international did the rest. He skipped past a couple of Roma defenders and slotted the ball into the net. The only Roma player who had a reaction was really Lorenzo Pellegrini.
The youth product had a right footed shot tipped over the bar by the Udi goalkeeper and could, and probably should have, had a penalty when he was fouled inside of the box. Why did the referee not use the VAR? The Bianconeri had a goal ruled out for handball but got the win in the end.
Udinese are out of the relegation zone, whilst Roma host Real Madrid in a crucial UEFA Champions League clash.
Juventus 2-0 Spal
The seven-time defending champions never had to get out of second gear, as they recorded a routine win over the visitors from Ferrara.
Cristiano Ronaldo reached double figures for his new club with the opening goal, guiding home a Miralem Pjanic cross at the half an hour mark. Mario Mandzukic, who was the captain for the day, doubled the home side’s lead 30 minutes later as he tapped home the ball from close range after a Douglas Costa shot was parried into his path.
Juve now turns their attention towards Valencia in Europe, while Spal host Empoli.
Inter 3-0 Frosinone
The Nerazzurri followed their Derby d’Italia rivals with an easy win over the away side from Lazio.
Inter manager Luciano Spaletti planned ahead for their crucial European tie with Tottenham, by resting several key players, but the team did not miss a beat. Keita Balde grabbed a brace either side of a Lautaro Martinez goal, and the duo combined fantastically during the match.
Balde scored his first with a shake and fake of the away team’s defenders before rifling a left footed shot into the net in just the 10th minute. The former Barca youth product then provided the cross for Martinez to head home in the second half. The man on loan from Monaco got his second, after being sent through by a slide rule pass from Matteo Politano; he scored with an inside-out shot with his right this time.
A good workout for Inter’s trip to Wembely, while Frosinone are just above last placed Chievo in the standings.
Parma 2-1 Sassuolo :
A matchup between two of the best up and coming managers in Italian football was won by the home side in this Emilia Romagna Derby.
No prizes if you guessed that Gervinho scored for the Crociati again, and his opener in just the sixth minute, sent the two time UEFA Cup winners on their way. He scored a tap in after a shot from outside was cleared off the line by the Neroverdi goalkeeper. Another veteran doubled Parma’s lead, as Portuguese Bruno Alves, also scored with a tap-in, this time from a corner, after Sassuolo’s defense failed to clear their lines in a quite frankly comical attempt.
However, the away side gave themselves a lifeline, after Alves fouled Khouma Babacar in the penalty box, and the 25-year old, picked himself up and converted the spot kick himself, to halve the home side’s lead. The entertainment of the first half was not matched in the second half, and except for a couple of scares, Parma held on for the three points.
Parma move above Sassuolo in the standings and now sit in a UEFA Europa League spot.
Bologna 0-0 Fiorentina :
Another regional Derby on the peninsula took place last weekend, and the spoils were shared…
Both team’s goalkeepers were outstanding in this encounter, as Lukasz Skorupski for the Rossoblu and Alban Lafont for La Viola stopped any and all comers at the Renato Della Ara. The Polish shot stopper twice denied Giovanni Simeone, once in each half, while Lafont parried away shots from Andrea Poli and a Riccardo Orsolini header, as there was no way through the two star goalies on this day.
Fiorentina manager Stefano Pioli will be hoping for a much more clinical display when his team host Juve next weekend, while Bologna currently occupy the last relegation spot.
Napoli 0-0 Chievo
The Partenopei dropped more crucial points in their dying Scudetto hopes, while the Flying Donkeys have finally moved past the negative points total.
As per usual, Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti rotated his squad heavily, but it did not pay off and Chievo got the usual “new manager’s bump” under Dominico Di Carlo. The Veronese side actually played a much more open style of football than was expected and had a few chances in the game.
The home side on the other side seemed to take a long time to get into the game, and when they did it was too late. However, just like Roma the Matchday before, they should have probably had a penalty as Joel Obi seemed to have pushed Jose Callejon in the box, but the referee for some unknown reason refused to use VAR.
Napoli’s mind was probably on their European tie with Red Star Belgrade, while Chievo are just happy to not be in the negative.
Empoli 3-2 Atalanta
The match of the weekend took place in Tuscany, as the home side came from two-nil down to beat an in-form La Dea.
Just after the 30th minute, a nicely worked move involving off-course Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic was bundled home by Remo Freuler. They doubled their lead soon after, and what a way they did it! The home side were awarded a penalty after Andrea Masiello was adjudged to have handled the ball. Francesco Caputo stepped up, but he blasted the shot against the crossbar. The Bergamaschi quickly countered and moved the ball with Ilicic sending it forward to Duvan Zapata, the Colombian crossed into the box and with four of the away side’s baring down on goal, it was Hans Hateboer who got on the end of it to score.
Oh….What drama at the Castellani! The Lombardians probably thought the points were in the bag, but they would have been sorely mistaken. Summer signing Antonino La Gumina started the comeback for the Azzurri just before the end of the first half as he blasted home inside the box, after the away side failed to properly clear a cross. Masiello then scored an own goal, which tied the game up, although he was very unfortunate. He tried to clear the ball while at the same time trying to hold off an Empoli attacker and the ball took a deflection off him and trickled into his goal. Ilicic returned from illness coincided with Atalanta’s return to form, and he would prove more prominent, on both sides of the coin.
He hit the post after going on a mazy run where he went past six Empoli defenders and then got sent off after protesting at the referee. He disagreed with being called for a foul, protested at the ref and he was given two yellow cards very quickly, in my opinion, he was very unfortunate. The two time Serie B winners completed the comeback deep into stoppage time, as Matias Silvestre rose high to head in a corner…It set off wild celebrations from the home team’s players, management staff and supporters!
Empoli move out of the relegation zone, while Atalanta’s European aspiration took a hit.
Lazio 1-1 Milan
Both teams would be disappointed not to have won this match in a Champions League play-off.
Each side had chances early on, as Hakan Calhanoglu hit the post for the Rossoneri and Marco Parolo just missed for the Biancocelesti with a left-footed curler, but the teams went into the break tied. Lazio’s manager Simone Inzaghi surprisingly took off both Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic just after the hour mark and just over 10 minutes later the away side scored… A ball over the top was met by Davide Calabria, he cut inside and found Franck Kessie, and the Ivorian’s shot took a wicked deflection off Wallace and the seven time European champions were somehow in front.
Milan’s manager Rino Gattuso made a horrendous mistake for Milan by not making a single substitution and that decision came back to haunt his team, as Lazio equalised in the 94th minute. Ironically, it was one of the subs that the 1999 UEFA Cup Winners Cup winners used – Joaquin Correa who scored the goal. Another long ball, which Milan did not deal with, was picked up by the Argentine, and he placed an accurate shot past a hopeless Gigio Donnarumma and the game was tied!
The home side pushed more to get a winner, but the spoils were shared, as Lazio maintain their one point lead in the race for that lucrative fourth and final Champions League spot.
Genoa 1-1 Sampdoria
Colour, passion, mistakes… All part of the Derby della Lanterna!
As usual with rivalry games in Calcio, there was a fantastic choreography from the Genoa tifosi, who were the designated “home” team in the stadium that both Liguria teams share. The goals came early as both were scored by the 15-minute mark. The evergreen Fabio Quagliarella scored with a well taken header from a cross by Gaston Ramirez and the Blucerchiati were in front. They then seemed to sit back for most of the remainder of the clash.
The Rossoblu equalised from the penalty spot and it was a return to form for Polish star Krzysztof Piatek. A long racking ball found the 23-year old and he skipped past the Samp goalkeeper Emil Audero who brought him down. Piatek himself stepped up and converted the spot kick. That both teams had gone into the Derby on the back of three consecutive defeats may have affected their tactics in the game, but in particular Samp, who seemed happy to just sit back and allow the Grifone their majority of the ball.
This forced Audero into making a number of saves for Samp to keep Genoa at bay. These included a Romulo scorcher and a Christian Kouame header. The “home” team’s manager Ivan Juric unfortunately found a way to get himself sent off late in the second half for yet another incident of “arguing with the officials”.
He was reported to have said that the referee had “no soul” and that this is a Derby and certain things must be taken into account. Both team were playing each other for the first time since the Morandi Bridge tragedy a few months ago and the result probably suited both teams at this point in time, as this game was more than just a game of football.
Cagliari 0-0 Torino
The Sardinians held on for a point to pull further away from the drop zone, while the Granata are closer to Europe.
The match was being played while the away side’s manager Walter Mazzarri, is currently in the hospital. In the first half, both teams played very cautiously, not wanting to give anything away and it ended without a single shot on goal.
The home’s prospects were further dented when star striker Luciano Pavoletti had to go off with a hamstring injury early on after the resumption of play. Alessio Cragno showed why he has been called up to the Azzurri squad making a few saves, first from Toro captain Andrea Belotti and then and from Iago Falque.
The seven-time Serie A champion’s goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu might as well have gone off for a cup of coffee during this match as he had virtually nothing to do, and did not have even one save to make. His opposite number had to get down low to twice deny Andrea Belotti and the match just petted out to a tame draw.
We are now back from the international break and this time, there will be four straight months of domestic football and by the time the next break comes along in March, a lot of things of Calcio might be decided by then.