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Serie A

Serie A round-up: Inter fall to Crotone, Milan win big and Napoli down Lazio

Inter suffered their most embarrassing loss under Stefano Pioli at the hands of 18th-placed Crotone. The defeat saw the Nerazzurri slip further down the Serie A table into seventh. It was a second consecutive loss for the Milan giants while the Calabrese club enjoyed their first ever back-to-back victory in the top flight following on from last week’s win over Chievo Verona.

Juventus, Roma and Napoli all recorded straightforward victories while AC Milan made their move in the race for Europa League qualification.

The weekend’s fixtures began with two 1-1 draws on Saturday afternoon. Empoli continued on their 10-match winless streak at home to relegation threatened Pescara, while Atalanta had to come from behind to grab a result against Sassuolo in Bergamo.

Ahead of their Champions League encounter with Barcelona, Juventus rested Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Miralem Pjanic for the visit of Chievo, though with Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala still leading the attack, the Bianconeri looked as dominant as ever. The duo combined for the opening goal with the younger of the two beating his man and cutting back for the number 9 who finished superbly with one touch. While their second did not come until the 84th-minute, it was the former Palermo forward who was at the heart of the build up once again, drawing in several defenders before handing off to Stephan Lichtsteiner, who squared the ball for an easy Higuain tap-in, sealing a 2-0 final score.

Sunday’s fixtures provided an abundance of highlights with each match comprising of at least three goals.

Sampdoria hosted Fiorentina in the early kick-off, where the scoring was opened after just five minutes thanks to a stunning finish from Bruno Fernandes. The home side held the lead for almost an hour before Gonzalo Rodriguez headed into the net in his 200th appearance for the Viola. Just 10 minutes later, the Blucerchiati were back in front with Ricardo Alvarez beating Ciprian Tatarusanu at his near post. Though in the final minutes of normal time, Khouma Babacar looped a shot masterfully over the keeper to claim a 2-2 draw.

Keen to continue their three-match winning streak at home, Milan welcomed 19th placed Palermo to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. The Rossoneri would ensured it would not be a pleasant visit for Sicilians, going up 2-0 in the first 20 minutes. Suso opened the scoring with a near perfect free-kick into the top right corner before turning provider and crossing in for Mario Pasalic to score his fourth goal of the season. Carlos Bacca kept his good run of form going, heading home from a Davide Calabria cross for Milan’s third before Gerard Deulofeu secured an emphatic 4-0 victory with a superb solo effort, cutting inside two defenders before shooting past the goalkeeper.

Edin Dzeko was on target once again as Roma made easy work of Bologna at the Stadio Renato Dall-Ara, finishing as 3-0 victors with Federico Fazio and Mohamed Salah also etching their name on the scoresheet.

Meanwhile in Cagliari, an Adem Ljajic wonder goal for Torino cancelled out Marco Borriello’s 19th-minute penalty before Andrea Belotti gave the away side a lead, allowing the Rooster to keep pace with Dzeko in the race to be Capocannoniere.

An impressive Afriyie Acquah goal all but secured the three points for the Granata with Han Kwang Song’s injury time effort, the first Serie A goal scored by a North Korean, providing a small consolation.

The biggest shock of the week would take place in Calabria, where Crotone hosted an Inter outfit expected to claim a straightforward three points. The Rossoblu took the Nerazzurri by surprise and were incredibly effective on the counter-attack against their more fancied opponents. After creating numerous chances in Inter’s defensive third, the home side won a penalty which was successfully converted by Diego Falcinelli. The 25-year-old grabbed his second just four minutes later, with Stefano Pioli’s men caught on the back foot once again. Despite two halftime changes and a Danilo D’Ambrosio goal in the 65th-minute, Crotone were able to hold on for just their fifth victory of the season, condemning the visitors to an embarrassing return trip to Milan.

In Sunday’s other afternoon match, Udinese extended their unbeaten streak to five matches thanks to a 3-0 victory over Genoa, with Rodrigo de Paul grabbing a double.

The weekend’s fixtures ended with a clash between third placed Napoli and fourth placed Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico, where a win for the latter would reduce the gap between the two to just one point. After the midweek disappointment of being knocked out of the Coppa Italia, the Partenopei were ready to illustrate their full potential. The attacking combinations were soon at their clinical best with Jose Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens combining for an eye-catching opener. While the home side created chances, they simply weren’t able to match their opponents in front of goal as Lorenzo Insigne went on to record a brace on the way to a 3-0 victory.

The win all but confirms Serie A’s top three teams for the season with Lazio dropping seven points behind their weekend opponents.

Meanwhile Inter’s loss allowed cross-city rivals Milan to jump them into sixth position, while Crotone closed the gap to seventeenth-placed Empoli to just three points in the battle for top flight survival.

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