As Calcio celebrates another week of Juventus incompetence (and potential financial wrongdoing), an outright leader has emerged in Serie A.
For quite some time, Napoli and AC Milan had locked horns at the summit before Matchday 14 saw one side falter and the other prosper. Despite the emergence of a sole leader, the league is starting to condense at the top. The gap between first and fourth is seven points, with the champions closing in as well.
At the other end of the table, the bottom seven sides are separated by seven points. It’s all hotting up in Serie A as we approach the brisk temperatures of December and, thus, the winter break.
Nevertheless, we still have plenty of Calcio action to enjoy before our festive holidays and here’s a round-up of all the action from Matchday 14.
Napoli take advantage of Milan slip-up
Familiar faces stole the show for Napoli as they crushed a woeful Lazio side 4-0 in Naples. Piotr Zielinski scored for the second week running as he broke the deadlock after just six minutes before a virtuoso Dries Mertens brace put the game beyond the visitors before half-time.
Fabian Ruiz then rounded off Napoli’s victory, just over a year on from Diego Maradona’s death, with a vintage strike that the great man himself would’ve admired.
It was the perfect Sunday for Luciano Spalletii’s men, who saw AC Milan fall at home to Sassuolo earlier that day. Despite taking the lead through Alessio Romagnoli, this was a contest dominated by the visitors. Gianluca Scamacca bagged a pinpoint equaliser before having a big hand in his side’s second before half-time.
The Rossoneri, fresh off their 1-0 victory away at Atletico Madrid in the week, were flat in the second period and the dynamic visitors made them pay. Domenico Berardi scored the all-important third for the Neroverdi after schooling Romagnoli one-v-one before the Milan goalscorer was given his marching orders for bringing down Grégoire Defrel.
That’s two domestic defeats on the spin for Milan, as Napoli lead the way in Serie A.
Inter & Roma edge home
Inter Milan are hot on their tails, however, as they won away at Venezia on Saturday night. The Nerazzurri weren’t at their vintage best, but they failed to surrender the big chance after Hakan Calhanolgu gave them the lead with a wonderful effort from distance.
Inter were inefficient in front of goal before Lautaro Martinez doubled his side’s lead late on with a cool penalty. Simone Inzaghi’s men are unbeaten in Serie A since mid-October and now sit a point adrift of their cross-town rivals in third.
Roma also earned a hard-fought three points on Matchday 14 as Ivan Juric’s Torino made life difficult for the Giallorossi. Juric’s high-pressing and technically secure outfit dominated territorially and Roma looked in real trouble before Tammy Abraham scored his fourth Serie A goal of the season 32 minutes in.
The goal settled the hosts, who began to attack with vigour and defend more robustly. They never grabbed a second goal, but they impressively limited Torino’s sight of Rui Patricio’s goal to earn a rare clean sheet. Jose Mourinho’s side remain three points adrift of Atalanta in fourth after La Dea’s historic victory away at Juventus.
The pressure is starting to ease on Roberto D’Aversa after Sampdoria claimed their second successive win in Serie A.
While their victory over Salernitana was rather unconvincing, D’Aversa’s side impressed as they beat one of the league’s hottest outfits in Hellas Verona. The signs were initially ominous for the hosts, however, as Matchday 13 hero Adrien Tameze gave Verona the lead with a deflected effort.
Samp roared back in the second half, though, as Antonio Candreva restored parity before the Italian turned provider for Albin Ekdal to give the hosts the lead. A superb Nicola Murru strike then sealed the victory for Blucerchiati as they moved up to 15th in the table.
The rest of the action
Andriy Shevchenko earned his first point as Genoa boss as his side held Udinese to a stalemate at the Stadio Friuli. Genoa, however, remain in the relegation zone despite Spezia losing at home to Bologna on Sunday afternoon.
Marko Arnautovic scored from the spot to take his Serie A tally up to six for the season to hand a visiting Bologna all three points.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, followed up their memorable 4-3 triumph over AC Milan on Matchday 13 by falling to a shock late defeat away at Empoli. Dusan Vlahovic was among the goals again as he gave La Viola the lead just before the hour mark. However, the unpredictable hosts struck twice late on to sink Vincenzo Italiano’s side with Andrea Pinamonti snatching the winner in the 89th minute.
In the Friday night encounter, Serie A’s bottom two went head-to-head but neither side were able to make any serious ground on the teams ahead of them. A hosting Cagliari took the lead through Leonardo Pavoletti but they were pegged back in the dying embers by Salernitana’s Federico Bonazzoli. The 1-1 draw means both sides remain at the foot of the table with eight points.