Serie A round-up: Juve draw in Naples to strengthen grip on title, Samp shock Inter

Serie A

Serie A returned after the international break headlined by a teasing spectacle scheduled for Sunday evening with the return of Gonzalo Higuain to the Stadio San Paolo as Napoli hosted Juventus. The Argentinian was treated to 90 minutes of whistling in a match where both teams would share the spoils, allowing Roma and Lazio to claw back two points on their rivals.

Meanwhile the race for this season’s Capocannoniere heated up with Edin Dzeko’s brace for the Giallorossi helping him to finish the week on 23 goals, equal with Torino’s Andrea Belotti.

The weekend of action was officially kicked off in Sassuolo where the Neroverdi hosted fourth placed Lazio. A soft penalty won by Domenico Berardi was converted by the striker himself, providing an early lead which could have been doubled if Gregoire Defrel had converted a one on one opportunity against the goalkeeper. The Biancocelesti made them regret a number of missed chances with Felipe Anderson acting as provider for Ciro Immobile’s 18th goal of the season. With less then 10 minutes to play, Cristiano Lombardi, who had taken the field only four minutes earlier, drilled the ball into the box which picked up a fortuitous rebound off Francesco Acerbi in defence, before bouncing off Andrea Consigli and across the line for an own goal. Hitting the cross-bar off a Lorenzo Pellegrini header was as close as Sassuolo would get to a result with the final score finishing 2-1 to Lazio.

In Saturday’s other fixture, Roma put in a mediocre performance at home to Empoli, which was still enough to safely take maximum points against the struggling Azzurri. Fresh from representing Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dzeko scored the game’s only goals, the first via a simple tap in from a poorly defended corner followed by a second half strike off the back of a Mohamed Salah cut-back in the box. The game finished 2-0.

Udinese traveled to Turin for Sunday’s early game and despite the match being dominated by the Granata, it was the Bianconeri who took the lead against the run of play with Jakub Jankto stealing the ball and striking a thunderous effort into the top left corner. Belotti was looking as dangerous as ever, hitting the crossbar on two occasions, but had no goal to show for his efforts.On 67 minutes, Udinese grabbed a second and Torino’s seven match unbeaten streak at home looked as though it may be about to end. Though just two minutes later, Emiliano Moretti finished off a scramble in the box to halve the margin before the ‘Rooster’ grabbed his 23rd of the season to snatch a draw for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men.

The afternoon kick-offs saw Pescara grab a shock lead at home to AC Milan when Gianluigi Donnarumma made a mess of a Gabriel Paletta back pass, resulting in the ball rolling into the Rossoneri’s own net. Milan grabbed one back on half-time through Mario Pasalic however the Delfini were able to keep a clean sheet for the final 45 minutes, earning a shock result

Fiorentina recorded their third consecutive win at home to Bologna though, unlike the previous two victories, it wasn’t Nikola Kalinic on the scoresheet but the Croatian’s 46th minute replacement, Khouma Babacar.

In other afternoon matches, Crotone celebrated their first ever away victory in Serie A against Chievo, Cagliari came from behind to beat Palermo 3-1 while Atalanta put five past a poor Genoa outfit, with Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez grabbing a hat-trick.

It was the Sunday evening match between Napoli and Juventus that many Serie A enthusiasts were waiting for and, true to form, the home fans had packed the stadium almost two hours prior to kick-off. The whistling directed towards Juventus, and more specifically Higuain, was deafening from inside the stadium and continued each time the Argentinian touched the ball for the full 90 minutes. In a poor first half, Napoli dominated possession but were ineffective in the final third and found themselves 1-0 down thanks to an early goal by Sami Khedira. The Partenopei improved in the second half and soon produced a stunning team goal finished off by some fantastic interplay between Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens, with the captain finishing the move superbly. Napoli would get to within centimetres of a winner though it was not to be with both sides taking a point ahead of their Coppa Italia semi-final on Wednesday.

Serie A’s final match of week 30 saw Sampdoria win their first league match away at Inter since December 1996. The Nerazzurri created the most and gained a 1-0 advantage thanks to a Danilo D’Ambrosio goal, fresh from his Italy debut during the week. Despite hitting the post on two occasions, the Blucerchiati were one nil down at half-time before mounting their comeback. A Matias Silvestre header, aided over the line with the finest of touches by a seemingly offside Patrik Schick, led to Samp’s first before a brain explosion from Marcelo Brozovic who blatantly blocked a free-kick with his hands handed Fabio Quagliarella the perfect chance to grab an unexpected victory for the away team.

The loss sees Atalanta move three points clear of Inter in fifth place, keeping pace with Lazio who sit two points ahead, with Napoli a further four in front.

Meanwhile, Crotone’s first away victory has been the only win any of the bottom six sides have recorded in their last three fixtures, moving the Calabrese outfit up to 18th ahead of Palermo.