Serie A Matchday 20 round-up – COVID disrupts Calcio’s return
Turkeys had been demolished, uncle Mike and cousin John had argued over a game of charades before anti-climatic celebrations of the new year ensued. Then arrived the abyss between New Year’s Day and January 6. How did you even survive, Serie A fans?!
But football is back, folks, and despite COVID’s best efforts to delay the restart of Serie A, we were treated to some Calcio action on Thursday. Severe outbreaks within some camps meant that four games were postponed with just six going ahead.
It was all a bit shambolic, to be honest, but instead of lamenting the performances of various local health authorities and governing bodies, let’s discuss what went down across Serie A on the first matchday of 2022.
Empoli & Lazio play out thriller
What is it with Lazio and thrillers this season? We’ve seen them edge a five-goal Derby della Capitale, concede in the 99th minute to draw 4-4 with Udinese, and they began 2022 in a similarly chaotic fashion.
Maurizio Sarri’s side played host to a giant-killing Empoli on Thursday, and Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side were at it again. They raced into a 2-0 lead after eight minutes thanks to goals from Nedim Bejrami and Szymon Zurkowski.
Lazio’s hitman Ciro Immobile quickly halved the deficit with a smart flick-on at the near post as he scored for the tenth time in the opening game of a calendar year. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic drew the hosts level with a smartly-taken volley before Federico Di Francesco restored Empoli’s advantage following some brilliant work from Riccardo Marchizza to set him up.
The hosts pushed to level proceedings and they saw Patric’s goal ruled out due to handball before Guglielmo Vicario saved an Immobile spot-kick. Sarri desperately needed a hero, and he got one in the form of a towering Serb. Milinkovic-Savic leapt highest from a deft Mattia Zaccagni cross in the 93rd minute to snatch a point for the Biancocolesti.
Roma capitulate in Milan
Milan were heavily disrupted by a COVID outbreak in preparation for their 2022 opener against AS Roma.
Despite their issues, they blitzed beyond the sorry Giallorossi to win 3-1. The Rossoneri set the tone with an incredibly intense opening and they quickly found themselves 2-0 ahead thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and Junior Messias.
Roma were woeful, completely devoid of any energy, but a smart Tammy Abraham finish gave them hope before half-time. The Giallorossi improved after the break and Mike Maignan had to be at his best to ensure the visitors remained behind. Rick Karsdorp’s sending off then put a halt to Roma’s resurgence before substitute Rafael Leao rounded off a swift transition to restore Milan’s two-goal advantage.
The Giallorossi also had Gianluca Mancini sent off in the closing stages, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a spot-kick for the hosts.
Roma’s defeat leaves them seventh in the Serie A table, while Milan moved to within a point of Inter after their game against Bologna was postponed. The Rossoneri, meanwhile, extended their advantage over Napoli to five points following the Neapolitans’ draw with Juventus.
CAGLIARI WIN, CAGLIARI WIN, CAGLIARI WIN
It’s been a long time coming, folks, and boy, does this feel good to say: CAGLIARI HAVE WON A GAME OF FOOTBALL!
Both their victories in Serie A this season have come against Roberto D’Aversa’s Sampdoria (LOL), and they had to come from behind to triumph in their 2022 curtain-raiser. Manolo Gabbiadini smashed home the game’s opener after 18 minutes, but the veteran’s strike would prove to be Samp’s only shot on target of the contest as the visitors took charge.
Alessandro Deiola levelled things up ten minutes into the second half before Leonardo Pavoletti poached the winner 19 minutes from time to secure a huge three points for Cagliari in their quest for survival.
The victory lifted them above Genoa, who drew 1-1 away at a weakened Sassuolo, and into 18th. Spezia, meanwhile, are now just three points adrift of the relegation zone after they fell to a 2-1 defeat at home to Hellas Verona. Gianluca Caprari scored twice for Igor Tudor’s side.