A controversial Derby della Mole, Inter and Napoli bounce back after Champions League disappointments, and contrasting fortunes for both Roman clubs sum up the latest round in Calcio which took place from Saturday until Tuesday.
Inter 1-0 Udinese
A Mauro Icardi penalty helped the Nerazzurri overcome a dogged Bianconeri side. The home side created and squandered a number of chances in the first half, through Icardi and Keita Balde and could not break down the resolute Fruilians. In fact, coming in the second half, it was the team in white and black that could have taken the lead as Seko Fofana created two guilt edge chances for Rolando Mandragora and Hidde ter Avest, only for them to miss horribly.
Inter finally took the lead at the 75th-minute mark. Following a corner, the referee used VAR and adjudged that a Udinese defender had handled the ball and he pointed to the spot. Captain Icardi’s “Panenka” style penalty gave the home team a deserved lead. Just a few minutes previously, the Argentine missed a close-range header, but this time, he made no mistake. They saw out the win as they continued their chase for a top three spot.
Torino 0-1 Juventus
More controversy yet again involving Juve in their favor… It was a physical battle in the Derby della Mole, and the most significant part of the first half action was the Granata goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu had to be taken off after being clattered into by Emre Can and replace by Salvador Ichazo. The home team could have had at least two penalties, the first for Blaise Matuidi pushing Andrea Belotti while he jumped for a header on a corner and even more obvious, a clear tug by Alex Sandro on Simone Zaza, but the referee did NOTHING! No VAR, no review, nothing! The question is not whether it was a spot-kick or not, but why the VAR was not used?
Ironically the referee gave Juve a penalty after a hash of a back pass by Zaza to his goalkeeper. Mario Mandzukic beat the goalie to the ball, was brought down and Cristiano Ronaldo scored. The Portuguese barged into the keeper, and he was subsequently shown a yellow card. The referee did use the VAR to correctly rule out a second Juve goal, but in my opinion, it was too little too late. Juve have now won 46 out of a possible 48 points, but not without some controversy…
Spal 0-0 Chievo
Spal vs Chievo, Source- Getty Images
The home team as expected were the better team but could not create any real clear-cut chances. This match at Sunday lunchtime was frankly not great and that is putting it mildly. Spal stayed five points clear of the relegation zone, while Chievo are unbeaten in their past five games.
Frosinone 0-2 Sassuolo
Alfred Duncan, Source- Getty Images
A “Man of the Match” performance from Alfred Duncan led the Neroverdi to a win over their hosts in Lazio. Just before the end of the first half, the Ghanaian midfielder ran down the left side of the Frosinone defense, crossed the ball in and it took a deflection off Lorenzo Ariaudo and into his own net. Just before the hour mark, the visitors doubled their lead, as again Duncan proved decisive as he ran towards the home team’s penalty area, found Domenico Berardi in acres of space, and the Italian international calmly slotted the ball home for his 50th Serie A goal. Sassuolo continued their march up the table, while Frosinone have fallen back in the last couple of months.
Sampdoria 2-0 Parma
Quagliarella and Caprari, Source- Sampdoria Official Twitter
Pictured above are Gianluca Caprari and Fabio Quagliarella and it was these two who got the goals as Samp got the victory over an underwhelming Crociati. The home side dominated but were not able to make the break-through until the 66th minute, as Dennis Praet made a darting run and found Caprari and he was able to finish off a flowing move. The Czech international got another assist, as he crossed in for an un-marked captain Quagliarella and his bullet header flew into the goal as the Blucherchiati confirmed their victory. The Emilians tried to push forward, but it was too late. The 1991 Scudetto winners are hovering close to the top four and with the victory, leapfrog Parma who were in 12th.
Fiorentina 3-1 Empoli
Giovanni Simeone, Source- Getty Images
La Viola won this Tuscan Derby in a welcomed return to form. It was, however, the away side that took the lead through Rade Krunic, with a tap-in from a cross from the left side of the Azzurri’s attack by Luca Antonelli. The two-time Scudetto winners equalized after a breakaway as Giovanni Simeone collected the ball from Gerson, turned, saw Kevin Mirallas making a run inside the box, threaded the ball through and the Belgian rifled the ball into the goal. Simeone got his name on the score-sheet as he headed home the ball when all alone from just four yards out. Bryan Dabo made the points safe with a racking run, where he was not picked up and placed the ball nicely into the bottom left-hand corner of the Empoli goal. Fiorentina, for all their issues, are still very much in the hunt for Europe, while Empoli are tied with Parma and Genoa on 16 points in 16th.
Cagliari 0-1 Napoli
Napoli, Source- Getty Images
A quiet first half for the most part except for a Cagliari two-on-two break where Partenopei goalkeeper Davide Ospina had to get down smartly to save a shot. The away side came out all guns blazing and Fabian Ruiz was in the thick of the action. He created two chances and should have had one of his own, but it was just not happening at this point for the Campanians. Arkadiusz Milik came close again for his side, as he headed the ball towards goal, only for it to hit the crossbar. The Polish international would not be denied though! In the first minute of stoppage time, the 24-year old hit a quite spectacular free-kick to give his team all three vital points. There would be no dramatic comeback for the Sardinians this week, and the 1989 UEFA Cup winners closed back the gap to Juve to eight points.
Roma 3-2 Genoa
A retched attempt to gather the ball by Giallorossi goalkeeper Robin Olsen allowed Krzysztof Piatek to slide home the opening goal for the away side. Was another shock for Roma on? The home side equalized soon after and of all people it was defender Federico Fazio, who smashed home the ball from inside the box from a set piece. The away side from Liguria took the lead for the second time through Oscar Hiljemark who like Fazio, smashed home from a set piece. In an open game, the Romans tied it before half-time, through Justin Kluivert. The Dutch international ran on from a flick on from Bryan Cristante, and the former Ajax youth product did the rest, as he ran past his defender and placed a lovely shot into the far corner of the goal.
The two new recruits would combine again to give the home team the lead for good on the hour mark. Cristante collected a pass, he flicked the ball up to Kluivert, who headed the ball into the former Atalanta man’s path, and he hit a ferocious shot into the goal. He almost had another when he hit the post when all alone on goal, but he and his team held on for a massive win! Eusebio di Francesco has another “stay of execution”, while Genoa’s up and down season continues…
Atalanta 1-0 Lazio
Atalanta, Source- Getty Images
An awful error in the first minute allowed La Dea to get the better of the Biancocelesti for only the second time in their last nine meetings. Robin Gosens crossed in and Stefan Radu, one of the most experienced campaigners with the away side failed to clear properly and the ball fell to Duvan Zapata and the Colombian duly scored from just four yards out.
It led to the Bergamaschi dropping back and playing much more defensive than they would normally would and Lazio tried as hard as they could but they could not break the home team down. The main plan of attack for the away side was down the wings and crossing the ball; most of the chances fell to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, but he could not convert. In the second half, it was more of the same, with the 1999 Cup Winners Cup champions pressing for an equalizer and the Lombardinians happy to just sit back and hit on the counter. The Romans thought they had equalized through Francesco Acrebi with a header in the first minute of stoppage time, however, it was ruled out for offside, as the former Sassuolo man was adjudged to be offside by just 2mm. It was that close! Atalanta are now just one point behind Lazio in the standings.
Bologna 0-0 Milan
Bologna vs Milan, Source- Calcio Web
A dreadful and horrible match to end the round. In truth and in fact, only Milan tried to actually play football, while Bologna (the home team) were very negative in their tactics but somewhat understandable given their plight. Milan huffed and puffed and created a few half chances for Gonzalo Higuain, Hakan Calhanoglu, and Patrick Cutrone, but neither of them could take them. The Rossoblu were more than happy to just sit back and basically hope for a quick counter to catch Milan on the break and only looked like they would do something significant when Riccardo Orsolini came on. Milan by way of Lazio losing to Atalanta, move two points clear in fourth place, while Bologna are still in the last relegation spot.