Serie A’s top three extended their lead at the top over a weekend that saw Napoli achieve two club firsts while Gianluigi Buffon broke Juventus’ record for the most league minutes played.
Lazio and Inter were forced to settle for draws away to Cagliari and Torino respectively, Atalanta and AC Milan returned to the winners circle, while for the second week running, the bottom seven sides failed to record a win between them.
Week 29 of the Italian league kicked off on Saturday afternoon as Torino hosted Inter at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino.
Having found the net 12 times in their last 180 minutes of football, a 27th-minute solo effort from Geoffrey Kondogbia gave the Nerazzurri a promising start, with Joe Hart left embarrassed by a poor attempt in goal. However, just six minutes later, Daniele Baselli equalised as an open match ensued into the second half.
The home-side took the lead in the second half courtesy of a stunning Afriyie Acquah strike before Antonio Candreva provided another rapid equaliser just three minutes later. The Italian international found himself on the end of a cross after an advancing Hart failed to make contact with the ball and left the goal-mouth open for a straight forward finish.
1-1 it would end with Torino remaining undefeated at home in seven Serie A matches, however it was a ninety minutes that England’s number one would be keen to forget.
Saturday’s evening game saw Milan take on a struggling Genoa outfit, keen to erase the memories of the previous week’s last second lost to Juventus.
Though Carlos Bacca’s absence was a subtle reminder, with the striker serving a one-match ban as a result of his aggressive post-match protests.
Despite the setback, the Rossoneri produced a dominant display with over 62% possession culminating in 20 shots on goal. Bacca’s replacement Gianluca Lapadula acted as the provider for the game’s only goal, allowing Matias Fernandez to score his first goal for Milan in just his second appearance in Vincenzo Montella’s starting 11.
Napoli travelled to Empoli for Sunday’s early kick-off in what looked like a straightforward match on paper, though the Partenopei were still looking for their first ever victory at the Stadio Carlo Castellani.
Up three nil at half-time, Maurizio Sarri’s men looked to be sailing to victory thanks to a double from Lorenzo Insigne in addition to, arguably, the goal of the week, with Dries Mertens producing a stunning free-kick from distance to make amends for his earlier penalty miss.
Though a free-kick from former Napoli midfielder Omar El Kaddouri and an 80th-minute penalty converted by Massimo Maccarone provided a small blight on Sarri’s team, who held on to claim victory. Napoli registering their fifth consecutive Serie A away win for the first time in the club’s history in addition to claiming a maiden victory at the Castellani.
As Sunday’s games continued, Atalanta bounced back from their 7-1 drubbing in impressive fashion, albeit against last-placed Pescara, with a rousing 3-0 victory in Bergamo. Alejandro Gomez grabbed a double while Alberto Grassi recorded his first Serie A goal as La Dea joined Inter on 55 points.
Away to Sampdoria and keen to avoid another week of last-minute drama, Juventus took the lead after just seven minutes through Juan Cuadrado who headed home an inch-perfect Kwadwo Asamoah cross.
Despite both sides coming close on multiple occasions, the Bianconeri held on to their 1-0 lead, allowing Buffon to celebrate his record-breaking minutes for the Old Lady with a clean sheet.
Meanwhile, Lazio were held scoreless for the first time in nine matches as Cagliari hung on for a draw at home, Bologna recorded a rare back-to-back victory by thumping Chievo 4-1 and Fiorentina needed an injury time winner from Nikola Kalinic for the second week running to take maximum points against lowly Crotone.
Despite going down 1-0 early, Udinese made it seven goals from their past two matches with a rousing 4-1 victory over Palermo in Sunday’s five o’clock game.
Then to finish Serie A’s proceedings before the international break, Roma hosted Sassuolo with the Giallorossi looking to reclaim second position following Napoli’s earlier victory.
A ninth minute opener to Gregoire Defrel had the Neapolitans hopeful of remaining ahead of their table rivals, though first half goals to Leandro Paredes and Mohamed Salah soon ended their joy. Edin Dzeko’s second half strike, his 21st for the season, made it a 3-1 victory to the home side, leaving Sassuolo winless in four matches.
With the International break upon us, the clubs set to fill Serie A’s top three look all but decided. However with Lazio (57) being closely followed by both Inter and Atalanta on 55 points, and Milan a further two behind, the battle for Europa League looks to have many more twists to come.