Was Matchday 24 the weekend where new life was breathed into the Scudetto race? Serie A did not disappoint on its return to action following a mini-winter break at the end of January with narratives manifesting at a canter across Italy. The result in Saturday’s Derby della Madonnina benefitted the neutral, although fears of a Juventus assault during the second half of the season are brewing.
It was yet another Serie A matchday of thrills and spills as no less than seven red cards were brandished amid all the mayhem.
Here’s a round-up of all the action from Matchday 24 in the 2021/22 Serie A season.
Olivier Giroud breathes fresh life into the Scudetto race
With 70 minutes on the clock in Saturday’s Derby della Madonnina, Inter Milan looked poised to extend their lead at the top of Serie A to seven points.
The Nerazzurri had dominated their crosstown and title rivals AC Milan in the opening period and the Rossoneri’s halftime deficit would’ve been far greater if it wasn’t for the excellent Mike Maignan between the sticks.
However, Stefano Pioli’s decision to swap struggling #10 Franck Kessie for the spritely Brahim Diaz paid dividends as Simone Inzaghi’s in-game management hampered the Nerazzurri. The hosts ceded far too much control to their seemingly inferior visitors and within the space of five second-half minutes, Olivier Giroud had turned Milan’s 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 advantage.
The Frenchman poached home the equaliser with 15 minutes remaining before brilliantly curling home the winner three minutes later following a swift turn to outwit Stefan de Vrij. Stunned, Inter failed to respond in the closing stages as Milan closed the gap at the top to just one point.
Pioli’s side were joined on 52 points by Napoli, who beat Venezia 2-0 on Sunday. Victor Osimhen celebrated his comeback with a fine headed effort and they’ll be buoyed by Kalidou Koulibaly’s return from the African Cup of Nations. Watch out.
Drama & upsets in top-four race
Matchday 24 began with a controversial finish in AS Roma’s stalemate with Genoa. Reported Juventus transfer target Nicolo Zaniolo thought he’d won it stunningly at the death but his strike was rather remarkably ruled out after Tammy Abraham was deemed to have committed a foul in the build-up following VAR intervention.
Jose Mourinho’s side were usurped by Derby della Capitale rivals Lazio in the Serie A table as they beat a Dusan Vlahovic-less Fiorentina 3-0 with help from Capocannoniere front-runner Ciro Immobile, who scored twice.
The Biancocolesti now have their sights on Atalanta in fifth after they fell to a stunning 2-1 home defeat to relegation scrappers Cagliari on Sunday afternoon. Gaston Pereira scored either side of Jose Luis Palomino’s equaliser and Juan Musso’s dismissal to hand Walter Mazzarri’s side a memorable victory.
La Dea’s defeat saw them slip out of the top four following Juventus’ 2-0 victory over Hellas Verona on Sunday night.
Verdi vs Verde
The matchday concluded in Salerno on Monday night as Salernitana and Spezia played out a cracking 2-2 draw in the fight for survival.
Simone Verdi scored not one, but TWO free-kicks in the opening 16 minutes of his Salernitana debut to hand the hosts a 2-1 lead after Rey Manaj had initially restored parity from the spot.
Verdi’s second strike was absolute filth.
Spezia, though, were gifted another chance to equalise from the penalty following VAR intervention after former AFC Bournemouth and Sheffield United striker Lys Mousset was deemed to have handled inside the area. This time, the responsibility fell on Daniele Verde’s shoulders who made no mistake from 12 yards.
However, four first-half goals were followed up by a stalemate in the second period as the Battle of the Verdi/e’s ended two apiece.
Best of the rest
Marco Giampaolo marked his return to the Luigi Ferraris by overseeing a 4-0 victory over Sassuolo. Stefano Sensi scored on his Sampdoria debut after joining on loan from Inter as the Neroverdi failed to score despite registering 26 shots and having 61% of possession. The hosts were dominant from set-pieces.
The victory gave Sampdoria some breathing space from the bottom three.
Elsewhere, Torino succumbed to two goals in stoppage time away at Udinese, while Bologna and Empoli played out an incredibly forgettable stalemate.