It was a trio of 1-0 wins for the top three teams in Serie A. Juventus, Inter Milan and Napoli got professional, assured clean sheets against teams further down the Serie A table. What this weekend proved, though, is that not all 1-0 win is the same. In fact, each of those wins demonstrate how different a football match can be. None of them were the game of the weekend, which is why the Stadio Olimpico is where we have to start.
Serie A Weekend: Roma Win Wild Thriller
Roma 3-2 Genoa
It has been a chaotic season, to say the least, for Roma. At kick-off, they sat eleventh in Serie A but only three points off of sixth, such is the nature of mid-table Serie A. They hadn’t won any of their last three league matches but still advanced to the Last 16 of the Champions League. In this game, they could not have gotten off to a worse start.
They are very confident in their goalkeeping at Roma, both the ability to scout one and their ability to then coach him up. They do have a decent resume, the reclamation of Wojciech Szczesny and his successor, Alisson Becker, to be specific. They still have some work to do with Robin Olsen, it seems, however. He had an awful game. The first goal was a howler which went through his legs before Krzysztof Piatek smashed it home.
Later on in the game, when it was 2-2 in the second half, Olsen had another shocker. He, again, let the ball slip through his legs into the net. However, he was saved by VAR as a Genoa player was offside in the buildup. That lucky piece of review saved Roma the chance for Bryan Cristante to come up with the winner on a lovely strike.
Cristante’s goal saved Robin Olsen’s skin, though there will still be doubts about the Swedish keeper and this whole Roma squad. Roma played 19-year-old Niccolo Zaniolo as a false nine in this game and it worked quite well. It gave Justin Kliuvert and Cengiz Under a lot of opportunities, with the former even grabbing a goal. After all that chaos, this season Roma are in sixth place, just a slip-up away from fourth place.
Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese
Let’s start with Inter Milan, a team that needed a good performance. They had lost the Derby D’Italia last weekend and drew at home against PSV in the Champions League, which meant relegation to the Europa League for Inter. It was such a bad week that Luciano Spalletti’s name has begun to come under question at the San Siro. Not to mention his new boss sitting in the stands, Pepe Marotta.
Inter were thoroughly hapless in attack; they had 65% possession and 22 shots but still only generated four saves. Signings from the summer, Matteo Politano and Keita Balde, were non-existent, something all too common for them this season. Now that Marotta is in charge and the FFP regulations have gone away, expect Inter to get creative and more talented in the coming windows.
If the papers are to be believed, they might be managed by Antonio Conte by this time next year. Inter want to take the next step and challenge, really challenge Juventus and they want Marotta to design that blueprint. With the struggles his side have shown recently, Spalletti’s seat gets hotter with every passing minute.
Torino 0-1 Juventus
It was the Derbi Della Mole at the Olimpico Grande Torino, always a tightly-contested game in this local rivalry. It was the game that ex-Juventus player Simone Zaza will most like to forget. Zaza had an absolute howler in this game, single-handedly costing Torino the match. He had a couple of chances that Torino fans would have prayed fell to Andrea Belotti instead.
It is the back-pass that he played to their goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu that was most shocking. It was an awful ball that sold Sirigu short and was tapped away by Mario Mandzukic, with Sirigu colliding into him. That won Juventus and penalty and you know who took it. Cristiano Ronaldo scored it, giving Juventus the 1-0 lead they held onto. The goal was Ronaldo’s 11th in Serie A this season, one behind the aforementioned Piatek.
Cagliari 0-1 Napoli
Napoli too played an awful, soggy away match at Cagliari on Sunday. They played none of the free-flowing attacking football we have come to expect from them. There was plenty of rotation; Carlo Ancelotti left Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik on the bench. Unlike many rotations in previous seasons, Napoli were still able to get the win.
That win came courtesy of a lovely left-footed free-kick from the other Polish striker in Serie A, Arkadiusz Milik. Milik unleashed a lovely curling free-kick that snuck into the near post and gave Napoli the crucial three points, in the 91st minute. With this win, Napoli kept pace with Juve in the Serie A title race, if we can call it that, as Napoli are still eight points adrift.
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