Here they come. Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta have been notorious slow-starters amid their meteoric rise to Calcio prominence.
2021/22 was no different for La Dea, who struggled in Bergamo, dealt with a brief injury crisis in defence and generally looked some distance adrift of the initial leading trio. However, their characteristic in-season recovery has hastened this time around. After 17 games, Atalanta have usurped an injury-ridden Napoli in Serie A’s top three.
Their victory at the weekend was perhaps the most telling triumph in what was a lower-key matchday in Italy. Here’s a round-up of all the action.
As suspected, the difference between Simone Inzaghi and Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan is marginal, and the Nerazzurri currently look imperious under the former Lazio boss.
While Conte had laid the foundations for his successor’s success, Inzaghi deserves a ton of credit for Inter’s start to the 2021/22 campaign considering that he had to deal with the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.
Lukaku’s replacement, Edin Dzeko, enjoyed a stellar start to the campaign, while free-agent addition Hakan Calhanoglu is arguably the most in-form player in Serie A right now. The midfielder scored a screamer from distance in their 4-0 victory over Cagliari on Matchday 17 as Lautaro Martinez bagged a brace despite missing from the penalty spot (again). Nicolo Barella rediscovered his scintillating best in the rout, as Inter moved to the top of Serie A after AC Milan could only muster a point away at Udinese.
Hitman Beto scored once more to give Udinese the lead on Saturday night before a poor Rossoneri were rescued at the death by some Zlatan Ibrahimovic acrobatics.
The momentum is with the Nerazzurri as we head into the winter break.
Atalanta usurp Napoli
Napoli, meanwhile, are desperate for some respite. Luciano Spalletti’s side have been hard hit by injuries in recent weeks and have particularly missed the presence of Kalidou Koulibaly in defence as well as Lorenzo Insigne as a creative force.
Dries Mertens’ purple patch had helped mitigate against the loss of Victor Osimhen, but there’s no doubting that the Nigerian’s absence will hurt in time.
On Sunday, they remarkably fell to a Patrick Cutrone goal against Empoli despite registering 30 shots! It was an untimely instance of “one of those days” for Napoli, who are winless in three and visit Milan next Sunday.
Spalletti’s side have sunk to fourth in Serie A after Atalanta claimed an impressive victory away at the dangerous Hellas Verona. La Dea were forced to come from behind after Giovanni Simeone scored the opener, with Aleksei Miranchuk scoring a well-crafted equaliser before half-time. The Russian has rarely contributed since joining the club, but when he does, there’s usually a bit of magic involved.
The winner then arrived in a fortuitous fashion, but Teun Koopmeiners will undoubtedly claim it. The Dutchman’s strike from distance cruelly deflected beyond an already committed Lorenzo Montipo to hand Gasperini’s men their sixth Serie A win on the spin.
Sampdoria prevail in the derby
We’ve following the antics of Roberto D’Aversa’s Sampdoria closely in recent weeks and Friday night’s Derby della Lanterna was ‘do or die’ for the manager in the wake of president Massimo Ferrero’s arrest.
However, his players put on a show.
Goals from Manolo Gabbiadini and Francesco Caputo handed Samp an early 2-0 lead before the misery was piled on Genoa in the second half as Zinho Vanheusden deflected Gabbiadini’s effort beyond Salvatore Sirigu.
Mattia Destro headed home a mere consolation for the hosts, who fell to a 3-1 defeat in the derby. While the pressure has somewhat eased on D’Aversa, Andriy Shevchenko remains firmly on the hot-seat despite his recent arrival. The Ukrainian is yet to taste victory in his new job.
Mixed bag for the Romans
The unpredictable Sassuolo turned over a predictably poor Lazio at the Mapei Stadium. A Giacomo Raspadori second-half brace ensured the Neroverdi overturned Lazio’s early advantage. Mattia Zaccagni was on the scoresheet for the visitors.
The Biancocolesti’s Roman rivals AS Roma, meanwhile, returned to winning ways on Monday night as Chris Smalling and Roger Ibanez both scored headers in the 2-0 win. Jose Mourinho, however, was unsatisfied with the performance and was left infuriated by Felix Afena-Gyan’s late dismissal.
Nevertheless, the Giallorossi’s win saw them move ahead of Juventus, who drew away at Venezia, and into sixth in Serie A. Lazio fell to ninth after Sunday’s defeat to Sassuolo.
The best of the rest in Serie A
Elsewhere, Fiorentina climbed up to fifth following their 4-0 triumph over a hapless Salernitana. Dusan Vlahovic added two more to his season tally, which now sits at 15 in Serie A, as Giacomo Bonaventura and Youssef Maleh also got on the scoresheet.
Vincenzo Italiano’s side have won four of their last five.
Finally, Ivan Juric’s Torino won the mid-table battle with Bologna at Sunday lunchtime. Antonio Sanabria and Adama Soumaro’s own goal helped Torino into a 2-0 lead before Riccardo Orsolini’s successful spot-kick with ten minutes remaining set up a tense finale. The Toro held off the visitors’ late assault, however, to remain 13th in the table.