The week began with neutral heart-throbs Napoli springing their token trap on a stubborn Genoa outfit. A nervy first 45 from the Partenopei led to ‘impostor’ chants from the San Paolo faithful, and rightly so on the basis of how stupendous Sarri’s side have performed from the outset and throughout all season long. Second-half strikes from Piotr Zielinski and substitute Emanuele Giaccherini, (his first goal for the club) were enough to settle the affair with more Dries Mertens magic on show. This highlighted by an enigmatic shrugging of Genoa captain Nicolas Burdisso, the Argentine almost twice his size was left in a head-spinning heap. The Belgian has now had a hand in 20 Serie A goals this campaign, (16G, 4A) a hefty 10 more than he managed last season.
Saturday’s single match-up saw Fiorentina secure a routine 3-0 drubbing of Udinese in Florence. What can only be described as a counter-attacking masterclass from Paulo Sousa’s men, in which Borja Valero opened the scoring with his first league goal for almost a year, when he netted against Inter last Valentine’s Day. A couple of pacey substitutions by Udinese came to no avail as Khouma Babacar’s deflected effort looped over a helpless Orestis Karnezis. Star man Federico Bernadeschi put a gloss on things as he converted a late penalty to bridge a gap of 5 points over 9th place Torino.
AS Roma were in always in control at Crotone, patient in play whilst remaining defensively impeccable, the true hallmarks of a Luciano Spalletti side. The Italian could only bury his outrage when the ever-reliable Edin Dzeko, (now on his highest-scoring season since the 2013-14 title win at Manchester City) spurned his chance from the penalty spot after just 17 minutes, uncharacteristically firing wide. Those well-tuned may remember the Bosnian also misfired from 12 yards out back in January against Udinese. This later led to Dzeko admitting he may have to relinquish spot-kick duties for the foreseeable future. The incident mattered not though, as Radja Naingoolan capped off a fine team manoeuvre for a record-equalling 6th goal of the season. Dzeko then rounded things off with a late tap-in for his 18th strike in all competitions. Thus, restoring the Giallorossi’s two-point cushion over their Neapolitan challengers but they would still end the weekend seven points behind reigning champions Juventus.
A remarkable eight-goal thriller at the Olimpico Grande, played out by mid-table Torino and rock-bottom Pescara saw the home side take a staggering 5-0 lead just after the hour mark, only to concede a hat-full themselves, later-on. A fifteen-minute frenzy saw Iago Falque, Arlind Ajeti, and leading-scorer Andrea Belotti take surge in Turin. The latter doubling his tally on the 61st minute following a fourth from Adam Ljajic. That’s now a whopping 11 goals conceded in their last two matches for Pescara, a record for goal-shipping which dates back to the Livorno side of 2005-06. Sinissa Mihajlovic will be ruing the game’s conclusive stages however, after an unlikely own-goal from Ajeti sparked life into the what seemed liked perilous personnel. Wide-man Ahmed Benali bagged a quick brace to put Granata minds on the conveyor belt towards of disrepute. Although their fightback proved too little too late, failing to lift travelling spirits despite registering three goals in a top-flight match for the first time in almost 24 years. And with relegation now looking to be a certainty, perhaps a youthful resurgence could be desperately what they need.
Sassuolo took no shame from their early dismissal of centre-half Timo Letschert as Serie A veteran Alessandro Matri struck midway through the first-half to give Eusebio Di Francesco’s side the lead, completely against the run of play. Roberto Inglese, in sheer dismay after an early penalty miss, found an equaliser just minutes before the break, thus marking the beginning of his goal-mouth marvels. Two second-half strikes courtesy of Inglese, put this one well out of the Neroverdi’s sights, reaffirming Chievo’s charisma on the counter. This result leaves them just a point off the top-half while Sassuolo continue to languish down near the bottom, still miles clear of the relegation places.
Inter carried on their majestic home form as they defeated an empathetic Empoli to record an eighth successive win at San Siro. Mauro Icardi’s absence ultimately proved meaningless as a dominant display in front of a buoyant Nerazzurri crowd gave Inter the inspiration. Eder’s terrific finish opened things up before Antonio Candreva put the laden on things with a mesmerising volley off the former’s lobbed pass. This just about summed up the difference in qualities between the two sides as Inter progressed into fifth spot, one point clear of Lazio.
Surprise package Atalanta made strides as they equalled their points total for last season (45) with 14 games still left to play. They were victorious in Sicily against the persistent-for change Palermo who succumbed to a 3-1 defeat. Alejandro Gomez and Andrea Conti grabbing the early praise as they gave the Rosanero an instant mountain to climb. Conti himself would receive a high-tout come the end of the game as he remained impressive on the eye and most certainly upped his market value. Substitute Bryan Cristante made sure of the scoreline after a slight defensive wobble had allowed midfielder Ivaylo Chochev to score and bring Palermo back into the game. The home side’s frailties were convincingly on show all-game and did them no favours in their tumultuous quest for survival while La Dea can be proud of maintaining a top 5 spot, although only remain above Inter on the Head-to-Head rule.
It was a real ‘late, late show’ from ‘Sampi’, over-ruling a 1-0 deficit in which they trailed for 64 minutes to crush Bologna hearts. Blerim Dzemaili showing his temperament with a classy finish after just 18 minutes to give Roberto Donadoni’s team the lead. They battled against adversity to remain in front for much of the game and looked as though they were going to carefully see it out, that was until Vasilis Torosidis conceded a penalty, signifying a pivotal turning point in the match. Luis Muriel coolly dispatched and drew the Genoa-based side level and barely seconds from the restart substitute Patrik Schick with his 5th league goal for the club turned the game on its head and the tide turned Sampdoria’s way. The game was well and truly put to bed when Ibrahima Mbaye seamlessly put through his own net.
Runaway leaders Juventus picked up their three points away at Cagliari as a Gonzalo Higuain double put the doubters to one side. Both goals coming in a rampant 10-minute spell either side of half-time, with both finishes expertly taken by the big man who has now scored in his last 8 Serie A away games and reasserts himself among Europe’s elite as the highest-scoring forward this calendar year. The only worry for Juventus will be how long Giorgio Chiellini is out of action for, having limped off after just 18 minutes, although the opposition’s inferiority to take advantage was painstakingly obvious.Young midfielder Nicolo Barella received his marching orders towards the latter stages, in what was a revelation-yielding, stale and spineless display by Massimo Rastelli’s side.
Monday’s manic clash saw Lazio and AC Milan share the spoils as affairs finished one-a-piece at the Stadio Olimpico. A rugged first 45, in which both sides implied great caution and detail in what was a fascinating tactical battle. Ciro Immobile did eventually find his way through the Rossoneri back-line on the stroke of half-time, before collapsing in a heap at the challenge of the benevolent Gianluigi Donarumma who controversially gifted Lazio a penalty. Skipper Lucas Biglia was coolness personified from 12 yards out, firing past the young Italian, who will have learned a harsh but necessary lesson from his actions. Milan were much the better side for large portions of the second-half and just when doom began to gloom, a brilliant bit of play from Jose Sosa to find Suso, resulted in the latter weaving his way through three Lazio bodies before beautifully curling the ball into the back of the net, snatching a significant point for coach Vincenzo Montella. Lazio extend their height in the table to three points above their rivals on the night, Milan undoubtedly looking for a strong finish to the season, knowing that they are well in with a shout of European football for the next campaign.