Controversy around match officiating rocked Serie A for yet another week as Juventus extended their record-breaking run of league wins at home to 31.
Napoli, Roma and Inter enjoyed comprehensive victories, with the Nerazzurri’s total of seven goals including hat-tricks for both Mauro Icardi and Ever Banega.
With 32 goals scored, there was no shortage of highlights or headlines for Italy’s top tier.
Ahead of their midweek Champions League encounter against Porto, Juventus hosted AC Milan in a Friday evening encounter.
Early dominance followed by a 30th-minute opener from Medhi Benatia started the script for what seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
However, the extraordinary efforts of 18-year-old goalkeeping prodigy Gianluigi Donnarumma almost single-handedly kept the Rossoneri in the game and a quick counter-attack before half-time, finished off by Carlos Bacca, made for a surprise 1-1 scoreline at the break.
Milan looked like they might hold on for a draw despite conceding 24 shots on goal and going down to 10 men following Jose Sosa’s second yellow card.
But, a controversial 95th-minute penalty to the Old Lady provided one final twist, with a ball played into the box adjudged to have hit Mattia De Sciglio’s arm.
Paolo Dybala stepped up to secure victory with the last kick of the match, sparking explosive protests from the Rossoneri squad, which coach Vincenzo Montella would later apologise for.
A weekend of big fixtures continued on Saturday with the Derby della Lanterna between Genoa and Sampdoria, a match where explosives were all but guaranteed, albeit from the stands.
It would take more than 70 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, as Luis Muriel pounced on a poor pass to produce the winner, handing the Blucerchiati three points and securing their first derby double over their rivals since 1960.
To kick-off Sunday’s fixtures, Sassuolo hosted a Bologna outfit who were winless in their last seven matches. Yet the Neroverdi failed to take advantage of their opportunities on goal and a 58th-minute strike by Mattia Destro was enough to consign the home team to a fifth straight defeat at Mapei Stadium.
At the Stadio Artemio Franchi, despite producing 25 shots on goals, Fiorentina needed a 91st-minute header from Nikola Kalinic to defeat Cagliari and snatch their first victory in five matches.
There would be no shortage of strikes in Sunday’s remaining fixtures as Napoli, Chievo, Inter, Udinese and Roma scored a combined total of 20 goals between them.
In an all-Nerazzurri clash, Il Biscione were playing Atalanta for outright position on the Serie A table, with a close encounter seemingly beckoning.
However, an incredible nine-minute hat-trick from Icardi – which for the purists, included a goal with his left foot, right foot and head – soon changed the match landscape.
La Dea had no answer to Inter’s quick and effective football up front as Banega secured a hat-trick of his own in addition to two assists, arguably providing Serie A’s top performance of the week.
Inter’s winter recruit, Roberto Gagliardini, also added to the tally with a thumping effort to rub salt into his former teammate’s wounds; a 7-1 final scoreline providing a strong reality check for the Orobici.
Napoli and Roma both faced off against relegation contenders and made no mistake in taking maximum points against Crotone and Palermo respectively.
The Partenopei were aided by two penalties as they wreaked havoc inside the Rossoblu’s penalty box, finishing as 3-0 victors. With 81 per cent of the ball, the home side enjoyed the highest percentage of match possession in a Serie A game since the 2004/05 season.
Roma almost found themselves down in the opening minutes when Ilija Nestorovski’s goal was disallowed for offside. The Galliorossi were forced into action and soon put their stamp on the match through a 22nd-minute opener from Stephan El Shaarawy, which was followed by second-half goals by Edin Dzeko and Bruno Peres in what eventuated as a routine win.
In Sunday’s other fixtures, Udinese, still buoyed by their 1-1 draw with Juventus last week, came out 3-1 victors away to Serie A cellar-dwellers Pescara, while Chievo put four goals past Empoli, who have now lost five consecutive matches.
In Monday night’s final match of the week, Torino looked as though they might steal a point against a dominant Lazio outfit when a 72nd-minute Maxi Lopez goal cancelled out Ciro Immobile’s opener.
But the Romans came home strong and scored two goals in the final minutes to secure an important victory, reclaiming fourth position and remaining within four points of third-placed Napoli.
Of Serie A’s top eight teams coming into the weekend, only Atalanta and Milan failed to record wins, with the former dropping below Inter into sixth position.
Meanwhile, the gap in quality among the league’s struggling teams was evident once again with the bottom seven clubs all registering losses.