The final weekend of Serie A action is in the books as Calcio edges closer to its festive break. Matchday 18 was the penultimate round of 2021 with two high-profile contests taking place.
We already know the ins and outs of Juventus’ 2-0 victory over Bologna on Saturday evening, but what went down across the rest of Italy last weekend?
Let’s take a look!
Mourinho’s Giallorossi stun Atalanta
“I kept hearing people say that it was 19 months since Roma beat a top-five team. Now you can say it’s been 20 minutes,” remarked Jose Mourinho on Saturday afternoon.
The Roma boss had just seen his side fulfil his game plan to perfection against Atalanta as the Giallorossi stunned La Dea in a 4-1 rout. The brilliant Tammy Abraham set the tone in a rather fortuitous fashion in the opening minute as his effort beat Juan Musso via the sliding challenge of Hans Hateboer.
Nicolo Zaniolo scored his first Serie A goal of the season to double Roma’s lead before a deflected Luis Muriel strike temporarily got the hosts back in the game as half-time neared.
The Romans restored their two-goal advantage through Chris Smalling with 20 minutes remaining before Abraham grabbed his second to seal Roma’s most convincing win of the Jose Mourinho era thus far. And they did it with just 28% possession. Vintage stuff.
Milan denied by late VAR drama
Two depleted Scudetto challengers pitted their wits against one another on Sunday night as Napoli visited AC Milan. Both teams were without several key stars for the contest.
The away side took an early lead through Elif Elmas, who headed home Piotr Zielinksi’s outswinging corner. Milan responded brightly, though, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed just wide before Alessandro Florenzi’s strike from distance had David Ospina scampering.
Despite their persistent pressure, the Rossoneri failed to work a high-quality chance. That was until they thought they’d equalised in the dying embers through wantaway midfielder Franck Kessie, who crashed home from 12 yards.
However, the Ivorian’s effort was remarkably ruled out after a grounded (and offside) Olivier Giroud was deemed to have been interfering with play in the build-up to the goal. That decision handed Napoli all three points, and Luciano Spalletti’s side are now up to second following Atalanta’s defeat.
A hipster’s wet dream
Hipsters from around the globe assembled to view Sunday’s early kick-off between Fiorentina and Sassuolo. These two sides play some of the best stuff in the division, with the principles of both managers, Vincenzo Italiano and Alessio Dionisi, well worthy of meticulous analysis.
When the two collided for the first time this season in Florence, it was Sassuolo who raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to the brilliance of young midfielder Davide Frattesi. Frattesi teed up Gianluca Scamacca for the game’s opener following a press-compromising driving run that started in his own half. Scamacca’s finish was excellent, as well.
Frattesi then doubled the Neroverdi’s lead after a trademark penetrative surge in behind the Fiorentina defence. He latched onto Giacomo Raspadori’s well-timed pass before finishing coolly.
The hosts roared back after the break, however, and halved the deficit through an efficient Dusan Vlahovic finish. They swiftly equalised in a rather chaotic fashion as Lucas Torreira scored his first Fiorentina goal before Cristiano Biraghi’s sending off completely stifled the contest with over 20 minutes remaining.
By the end, both teams were content with a point. But what an opening hour of football that was!
Friday night action
A pair of games took place on Friday night as two Serie A strugglers attempted to steal unlikely points.
Genoa were first up, but they fell to a 3-1 defeat away at Lazio. Pedro, Francesco Acerbi and Mattia Zaccagni were among the goals as the Biancocelesti cruised to three points. Luis Alberto’s assist for Lazio’s third is well worthy of another watch.
Then, the imperious Inter Milan took the field and blew bottom-of-the-table Salernitana away from minute one. It was a masterclass in sustaining pressure on both sides of the ball as the table-topping Nerazzurri romped to a 5-0 win. Wing-backs Ivan Perisic and Denzel Dumfries scored the first two before Alexis Sanchez, Lautaro Martinez and Roberto Gagliardini put an exclamation point on their triumph in the second half.
Simone Inzaghi’s side is quite comfortably the best team in Serie A right now, and they’ll take some slowing down in 2022.
Best of the rest
It was pretty low-scoring in the weekend’s lower-key fixtures apart from Udinese’s 4-0 beatdown of Cagliari. Gerard Deulofeu was on top-form for the visitors, who sacked Luca Gotti last week.
Spezia and Sampdoria drew 1-1 with Empoli and Venezia respectively, while Torino outlasted Hellas Verona in a battle of wits on Sunday evening. Tommaso Pobega smashed home the all-important goal for Ivan Juric’s side after Giangiacomo Magnani was dismissed for the visitors.
The victory thrust Torino up to 11th in the table, with Verona sliding down to 13th.