I’m going to level with you, folks. Matchday 23 was sub-par considering the lofty standards Serie A has set this season.
But hey, a more subdued weekend was inevitable and that’s exactly what we got this time around. While there was late drama at the San Siro (definitely not on Sunday night) and goals aplenty at the Castellani, the two standout fixtures of the matchday overwhelmingly disappointed.
Here’s a round-up of all the action across Serie A on Matchday 23.
Dzeko wins it late for the Nerazzurri
The sign of champions?
League leaders Inter Milan were given a scare by the relegation-threatened Venezia on Saturday evening, but eventually prevailed to extend their lead at the summit to five points before Milan’s draw with Juve.
Simone Inzaghi’s side fell behind to a fine Thomas Henry header in the first half before Nicolo Barella swiftly restored parity. The hosts were expected to coast in the second half but inefficiency in the final third meant they’d have to wait until the 90th minute to score the winner. They did so via a trademark Edin Dzeko header from a lofted Denzel Dumfries cross.
Inter’s closest challengers are now Napoli, who moved into second on goal difference after beating Salernitana 4-1 on Sunday. Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne both scored penalties in the victory.
The stand-out match of the weekend wasn’t much of a contest for the opening 45 minutes. A rampant Roma took advantage of an Empoli side who’d taken Inter to the brink of an early Coppa Italia exit in the week by racing into a 4-0 half-time lead.
A pair of Tammy Abraham strikes set the tone early before January arrival Sergio Oliveira, who’d teed up Abraham’s opener with a shot-cum-pass, scored his second Serie A goal and first from open play to triple Roma’s lead. The veteran Portuguese midfielder has made an immediate impact in Rome.
The visitors’ first-half rout was completed by Nicolo Zaniolo, who is slowly returning to his best form following a pair of knee surgeries.
Empoli responded in the second period and scored twice through Andrea Pinamoni and Nedim Bajrami, but the result was never in doubt.
Draws were the theme in Serie A on Matchday 23. Five of the weekend’s fixtures ended in stalemates, three of which (Milan vs Juventus, Genoa vs Udinese and Lazio vs Atalanta) were goalless.
Elsewhere, a Dusan Vlahović-less Fiorentina were made to work hard for a point away at a resurgent Cagliari. The hosts took an early second-half lead through main man Joao Pedro and after Alvaro Odriozola was dismissed with 26 minutes left, it appeared that La Viola were heading for a frustrating defeat. Riccardo Sottil had other ideas, however, and he equalised with 15 minutes remaining to gift Fiorentina a point.
Then, on Sunday, Torino were made to rue their early dominance when Giacomo Raspadori struck late on for Sassuolo to cancel out Antonio Sanabria’s first-half opener.
Spezia on the march
Spezia have been an imperious force since Thiago Motta was threatened with the sack. Following their stunning victory at San Siro last Monday, Spezia edged out Sampdoria 1-0 on Sunday.
Daniele Verde’s goal was enough to secure all three points as Albin Ekdal was sent off for the visitors. Spezia have now won four of their last five in Serie A and are up to 14th as a result.
Hellas Verona, meanwhile, secured back-to-back wins in the matchday’s opening fixture. Igor Tudor’s side came from behind to beat Bologna, who had taken the lead through a Riccardo Orsolini stunner. Nikola Kalinic struck late on for the hosts.