A crazy weekend just about sums up Matchday 15 of Italian Serie A TIM football. Between red cards and last minute goals, Vijay Rahaman provides the recap for calcio fans worldwide.
Juventus 1-0 Inter
I wrote a full review of the Derby D’ Italia which you can view here.
Napoli 4-0 Frosinone
Alexander Meret finally made his long awaited debut for Napoli in a through a thumping of Frosinone. The Partenopei scored early and often and it was started off by Piotr Zielinski, who rifled a left footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal in just the 7th minute. Algerian Adam Ounas gave manager Carlo Ancelotti a reminder of his capabilities, with a left-footed bullet just before the half from all of 25 yards out. It was time for another Polish player Arkadiusz Milik to get in on the act with a brace in the second half. Both of his goals were set up by the returning Faouzi Ghoulam with a neat play on the left and both from crosses in the 68th and 84th-minute mark. Carletto would be happy to keep the gap at eight points back from Juve, but especially, the fact that he has a full squad seemingly firing on all cylinders. Napoli now heads to Liverpool to play for a place in the knock-out stages of the UEFA Champions League, while Frosinone’s mini-revival is well and truly over.
Cagliari 2-2 Roma
The first of the “crazy calcio” matches happened at the Sardegna Arena as the hosts came back from two goals down to grab a point at the last second. The Giallorossi scored their goals in the first half through Bryan Cristante with a brilliantly powered left-footed drive and an Aleksandar Kolarov deflected free-kick. The away side probably thought the points were in the bag, but not in this round of football.
In the second half, the home team pushed forward a bit more and Roma looked to pick them off on the break. A slew of substitutions between the 75th and 80th minute seemed to change the game and it was in the 84th minute that the Sardinians got one goal back. A corner was flicked on by Joao Pedro and Artur Ionita was there all alone to head home from just three yards out. It was game on with less than 10 minutes to go! Cagliari nearly equalized when Luca Ceppitelli challenged Roma goalkeeper Robert Olsen for the ball, which he had every right to go for, however, he got the Swedish international straight in the face. It resulted in a melee, which got both Ceppitelli and Dario Srna sent off, which seemed a very harsh decision. The 1969 Scudetto winners were not disheartened and with virtually the last kick of the game, they tied the game up. A pass from Ionita went right past five Roma defenders, found its way to Marco Sau and the born and bred Sardinian ran on and put the ball into the goal! How did the ball manage to get past all those Roma defenders is the question that their manager Eusebio di Francesco will be asking. The Islanders don’t care as they get a point, while Roma will be looking to bounce back in Europe, although, if Di Francesco will be there in 2019 to take them further is another debate.
Lazio 2-2 Sampdoria
The Biancocelesti mirrored their bitter rivals, but not in a good way – they gave up a last-minute equalizer after leading 2-1 late on in this match. However, it was the 1991 Scudetto winners who took the lead, through the man that continues to amaze us: Fabio Quagliarella. The striker scored for the 5th consecutive game – a record for the Samp captain – after a lovely build up and one touch play on the left side of the pitch; he finished off the final pass by Nicola Murru. The half ended with the Blucerchiati leading and they did so until the 79th minute, before another marathon man Francesco Acerbi found an equalizer. The former Sassuolo player tapped in the ball after a pass played in by Marco Parolo, as none of the Samp defenders picked him up.
Samp were reduced to 10 men when Bartosz Bereszynski hauled down Angel Correa from barreling down on his goal with a rugby styled tackle and then he 1999 UEFA Cup Winners Cup winners took advantage and took the lead although in highly controversial circumstances. A free-kick from Luis Alberto was stopped by Joachim Andersen and the referee was alerted by VAR to take a closer look. After doing so, he adjudged that the Danish player handled the ball and he pointed to the spot. Ciro Immobile stepped up and converted the spot kick, and by the time he did so, the clock was at the 96th-minute mark. Surely, a win for the home side right? WRONG!
In the 99th minute, Dawid Kownacki floated a ball towards the Laziale goal, and it somehow found its way to Ricardo Saponara who flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot, looping over Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha and into the net. The former Milan man raced away to celebrate with the delirious Samp tifosi who took their joy by ripping off Saponara’s clothes! Lazio dropped vital points in the race for the UEFA Champions League, while Samp are unbeaten in four games.
Sassuolo 3-3 Fiorentina
Another end-to-end crazy game with sending off’s and late goals in this Sunday lunch-time fixture. In the second half, the Neroverdi took a two goal lead within the space of five minutes: the first, a pile driver of a left-footed strike from Alfred Duncan in the 62nd, was then doubled by former Viola player Khouma Babacar with a left footed finish of his own, this one though from inside the penalty box. The Tuscans got one back through Giovanni Simeone, who tapped in from eight yards out after the away side had a shot hit the post and it fell in his path. It was the Argentine’s first goal in two months. The home side again opened up a two-goal advantage and it was another peach of a goal! Newly Italian international Stefano Sensi hit a 25 yarder into the bottom right-hand corner of Fiorentina’s goal and the home team must have believed three points were in the bag. However, in this “crazy calcio” weekend, we got more drama on a bright sunny afternoon.
In the 86th minute, Filip Duricic was sent off for a second bookable offense and just two minutes later, the Florentines were back in it, through Marco Benassi. The match was then 10 v 10, when Nikola Milenkovic got a second yellow card after fouling Domenico Berardi on a Sassuolo counter just on the stroke of the 90th minute. The referee signaled for seven minutes of stoppage time and the home team’s fans must have had their blood pressure raised…
Incredibly, Fiorentina did not give in and got their just rewards. Captain German Pezzella led the team: he picked up the ball after it seemed one of his players had been fouled, carried the ball forward a few yards, looked up and saw Kevin Mirallas break away from the defense, threaded the ball towards the Belgium international, and he blasted it into the Sassuolo net. The goal came at the end where the away fans were seated, but after that strike, all were standing, cheering, and even some were in tears as their side had snatched a point from the jaws of defeat. Both teams are still firmly in the hunt for Europe, but the Emilia-Romagna side would be kicking themselves for letting these crucial two points be dropped.
Parma 1-1 Chievo
A point a piece here at the Tardini. Mariusz Stepinski gave the Flying Donkeys the lead at the start of the second half with a tap in. The Veronese have made great strides since firing Gian Piero Ventura and bringing in Domenico Di Carlo, but they conceded an equalizer soon after and what a way they did it. Portuguese international Bruno Alves is more known for his physical way in which he carries out his defensive duties, but he scored a free-kick that defies belief… in the 53rd minute, he curled a right-footed deal ball into the top right hand corner that left the away sides keeper Stefano Sorrentino with no chance. The Crociati are in a group of several teams on 21 points, while Chievo may not survive the drop but will at least go down fighting.
Empoli 2-1 Bologna
The home side got a vital win and it was down to their two-star performers this season, as Francesco Caputo and Antonino La Gumina got the goals. It was Caputo who scored first after neat build-up play from the home side: he was there to take the ball in the box and finish off the move. However, just before the half Andrea Poli scored from point-blank range after brilliant play from Rodrigo Palacio set up the midfielder who was all open. The Tuscans got the winner as La Gumina got fortunate to collect a ball all alone in the box from a shot and put it into the net. Empoli pulls three points clear of the relegation zone, while Bologna’s manager Pippo Inzaghi is hanging by a thread.
Udinese 1-3 Atalanta
A hat-trick from former Udinese player Duvan Zapata moved La Dea back up among the European places. His first came from a corner, as he volleyed the ball home after it had been flicked on towards the goal. The Fruilians equalized soon after when a quick counter on the right was crossed in and Kevin Lasagna was there to score with a sliding finish. The Bergamese side took the lead for a second time in the second half, as Zapata smashed home the ball after it fell too him kindly from a cross. The Colombian completed his treble after being nicely set up by Hans Hateboer. Atalanta stopped their rut of two losses, while Udinese are back in a relegation dogfight.
Genoa 1-1 SPAL
A return to calcio for former Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli ended all square, but it was not a great start, nor the start any new manage would want. Genoa captain Dominico Criscito was shown a straight red for taking down a SPAL attacker who was about to go past him towards goal. Probably a bit harsh, however, the Italy international made no attempt to play the ball and basically rugby tackled his opponent to the ground. It got worse for the home team as Gli Estensi took the lead through Andrea Petagna who met a Felipe ball and flicked it into the net. However, the nine-time Scudetto titlist leveled through a Krzysztof Piatek penalty, which was given with the use of VAR. There were some close chances for both teams, but it ended all square and Genoa maintained their one-point advantage over SPAL.
Milan 0-0 Torino
A frustrating night for the Rossoneri as they dropped more valuable points in the race for a coveted UEFA Champions League spot. I Granata started off much the brighter side of the two in the match, as they pressed the home side. They were also organized and moved the ball around quickly -they would have taken the lead if not for a miraculous save from Gigio Donnarumma, who instinctively saved an Iago Falque header with quick reflexes. It was again the away side that had the next chance as Andrea Belotti missed with a volley from just eight yards out. Milan pressed a bit more but missed chances through both Gonzalo Higuain and Patrick Cutrone and the game went into half-time scoreless.
In the second half, it was all one-way traffic as the seven times European champions pressed and pressed, but were never able to get the much-desired break-through. They created countless chances, but Hakan Calhanoglu, Cutrone and several others were not able to make their superior play count and the clubs shared the points. Milan had a chance to make a statement after both Roman teams dropped points, but they failed to do so, while Toro kept their chances of a return to European football.
A crazy weekend of calcio that ended with plenty of drama, spectacular goals, and the usual controversy. This week, six Italian teams will be in European action; Inter, Napoli, and Milan however, are still not assured of their place to the knockout-round.