We’re running out of superlatives to describe Serie A this season. It’s mental.
Matchday 13 in this godforsaken division once again thrilled the masses. Not only are the contests of the highest quality, but it’s narratives galore out in Italy right now.
The fairytale story of AS Roma sensation Felix Afena-Gyan is worthy of an Oscar-winning screenplay and his announcement to Calcio on Sunday night is just one of several unforgettable moments we’ll touch upon in our weekly round-up.
This league is just the best.
League leaders falter in Calcio classics
League leaders AC Milan and Napoli both picked up their first defeats in Serie A this term. Stefano Pioli, on his return to Florence, succumbed to a Viola side led by talisman Dusan Vlahovic.
However, it was a Ciprian Tătărușanu howler that handed the home side the initiative as Alfred Duncan poked home the opener. A Riccardo Saponara special doubled La Viola’s lead before a wonderful Vlahovic finish gave the hosts an unthinkable 3-0 advantage.
The Rossoneri responded in the form of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic brace before the momentum swung back in Fiorentina’s favour as Vlahovic neatly placed home his second following a Theo Hernandez error. An unfortunate Lorenzo Venuti own goal proved a mere consolation for Milan, who now have crosstown rivals Inter Milan breathing down their necks.
Simone Inzaghi’s Nerazzurri produced a scintillating opening 75 minutes against Napoli despite falling behind. Piotr Zielinski gave Luciano Spalletti’s side the lead after rounding off a swift transition.
Inter weren’t deterred by the deficit as Hakan Calhanoglu got a grip on proceedings. The Turkish international’s set-piece delivery was sensational and after he levelled things up from the spot, Ivan Perisic was the beneficiary of a fiercely whipped inswinging Calhanoglu corner to give Inter a deserved lead.
Argentine tandem Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa then combined wonderfully for the third, with the former ending his goal drought from open play, before a Dries Mertens wonder strike handed the visitors a lifeline. Napoli piled on the pressure in the closing stages, spurning chance after a chance as Inter failed to get out of their own half. Although, the hosts eventually held out for a precious victory.
Jose Mourinho’s darling boy
Jose Mourinho was in desperate need of a victory as AS Roma travelled to a Genoa side on Sunday night buoyed by the arrival of new manager Andriy Shevchenko.
Calcio icon Sheva already had his outfit well-drilled and despite the Giallorossi’s superiority, the chances they created weren’t of the highest quality. For Mourinho, it appeared that he was destined for another frustrating night on the road.
That was until he turned to the unknown entity. 18-year-old Ghanaian Felix Afena-Gyan is enjoying the ultimate rags to riches story and the teenager was Roma’s saviour at the Marassi. Introduced with 15 minutes remaining, Afena-Gyan clinically dispatched his first Roma goal to give his side the lead in the 82nd minute.
Then, in the dying embers, the young hero wrapped up his magical evening by netting a memorable second to seal the victory for the Giallorossi. The ludicrous strike from distance was of a player who’s destined to embark on a serious senior career.
Not only did Afena-Gyan announce himself to the footballing world, having already earned his first senior call-up to the Ghana squad, but he also garnered his desired €800 Balenciaga trainers courtesy of Mourinho’s pockets.
Roma’s win saw them leap ahead of Eternal City rivals Lazio in the Serie A table following the Biancoclesti’s defeat to Juventus on Saturday.
Atalanta continued their unbeaten run as they breezed past Thiago Motta’s Spezia on Saturday afternoon.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, however, as they fell behind thanks to M’Bala Nzola’s opener. From then on, though, it was all Atalanta. Mario Pasalic netted a first-half brace in between a Duvan Zapata spot-kick to give La Dea a 3-1 lead at the break.
Luis Muriel returned to the scoresheet to net the hosts’ fourth before Ruslan Malinovskiy’s strike from distance was too hot for Ivan Provedel to handle. Nzola snatched a late consolation for a brace of his own, but this was La Dea’s afternoon. Gasperini’s men are now just seven points adrift of the leaders.
The best of the rest on Sunday
Roberto D’Aversa scored an imperative victory as his underperforming Sampdoria side beat Salernitana away from home. The Blucerchiati were once again unconvincing, however, and they were helped into the lead thanks to a Francesco Di Tacchio own goal. Antonio Candreva quickly doubled their advantage before the break to put the contest beyond Salernitana, who now sit bottom in Serie A.
That’s because Cagliari fought hard for a point away at Sassuolo. It was a mixed afternoon for Azzurrini star Davide Frattesi, who earned his side a penalty before giving one away for Cagliari to level at 2-2. Keita Balde’s earlier acrobatic effort undoubtedly stole the show at the Mapei.
David Okereke’s fine season continued as his effort was enough to earn Venezia a 1-0 win away at Bologna. The newly-promoted side have responded well since falling at home to Salernitana and they now sit six points adrift of the relegation zone.
Monday night action
Matchday 13 concluded with two fixtures of Monday night. First up, Igor Tudor’s Hellas Verona won yet again as Adrien Tameze’s deflected effort in injury time sunk Empoli via a 2-1 scoreline.
Then, to round things off, Torino held on for a 2-1 win at home to Udinese. Ivan Juric’s side were cruising after goals from Josip Brekalo (some strike, by the way) and Gleison Bremer gave them a 2-0 lead before a superb Fernando Forestieri free-kick set up a tense finish. The visitors pushed for a leveller and came close to snatching a point, but Torino scraped home with all three points.
Juric’s Toro are now up to 11th in Serie A.