Roma finally returned to winning ways as Juventus consolidated their position at the top of Serie A. AC Milan drew away from home as Napoli and Udinese fought out a six-goal thriller.
The weekend started with Juventus taking on relegation-threatened Bologna, with the visitors looking to keep themselves on top of the Serie A table. After following Roma for quite some time, ‘normalcy’ seems to have returned to Juventus. Following their embarrassing and freakish loss to Fiorentina sometime back, there has been an upswing in Juventus’ fortunes. Bologna were hardly expected to mount any serious challenge and it was proved right when they faced the defending champions. Making as many as six changes to the starting line-up, Conte decided to start with Vucinic and Quagliarella. Juventus made it quite clear who were in charge from the very onset of the match and their efforts bore fruit soon as Vidal opened the scoring. While Juventus appeared at ease during the match, their only threat was Diamanti, who forced Buffon to make some routine saves. The match was put beyond doubt by Chiellini who doubled the score-line with a header. The victory left Juventus on top with a three-point lead over Roma.
Next up were AC Milan, who traveled to the Stadio Armando Picchi to take on Livorno. After two successive victories, Milan were looking for a confidence booster before they face Ajax for a crucial Champions League spot. Milan started with Gabriel under the bar, keeping Abbiati on bench with the idea clearly being resting players for the mid-week clash. Balotelli, after being at the receiving end of players and coaches alike took to the occasion to remind everyone of his talents. Although his opening goal did not deserve much credit, his overall performance was the best. Taking as many as 5 shots in the game, Balotelli was a menace to the Livorno defence but unfortunately did not make those efforts count. Meanwhile, Livorno snuck in with two goals of their own, thereby putting the pressure back on AC Milan. Niang came on for Nocerino following that and although Milan did have El Shaarawy, Kaka, Balotelli and Niang for half an hour, they were only able to score one through Balotelli. Although Balotelli did rattle the woodwork in the dying moments of the match, Milan left with a solitary point.
Napoli then took on Udinese, but few present at the Stadio San Paolo would have imagined the chain of events that followed. Pandev opened the scoring in the first half for the home team and minutes later, doubled his tally as well as that of Napoli. Everything was going according to plan for them; however just at the stroke of half-time, Fernandez’s own goal gave the visitors a lifeline. In the second half, Udinese leveled the scoring only to find Dzemaili socre another in the next minute. Basta scored the final goal of the game and in the dying moments of the match, Guidolin was sent to the stands. While Napoli favored more on attacking down the left side, Udinese preferred attacking through the center of the park. Udinese created a high number of chances relative to their possession and were effective at creating goal-scoring opportunities from long shot situations. They were also effective in creating chances through set-pieces and counter attacks, while Napoli relied mostly on individual skills. The result leaves Napoli 8 points adrift from the top.
Roma’s title ambitions were dealt a blow after they endured four consecutive draws and they were more than determined to get their title pursuit back on track when they hosted Fiorentina. Roma drew first blood through Maicon, who had the simplest job to tap in from a Florenzi lay off. Gervinho was to be a constant menace for the visiting defence, having a hand in both the goals. Gervinho himself had a wonderful chance to get his name on the score-sheet via a through ball from Ljajic, but he failed to capitalize. Vargas equalized for the visitors and with that Fiorentina were back in the game. Before the first half ended, Fiorentina clearly were the more attacking side with Rossi and Cuadrado taking their chances from long range. Destro then put Roma in the lead with a well-taken shot from a corner. Pjanic was dismissed at the fag end of the match, but even then Fiorentina were unable to make any further inroads through the home defence. Roma created quite a high number of chances relative to their possession and they were effective in creating goal-scoring opportunities through individual skills, counter attacks and set-pieces. Fiorentina showed more inclination towards attempts from open play as they attacked more from the left side of the pitch.
Elsewhere, Internazionale took on Parma, hoping to close the gap with Napoli and the last Champions League spot. After the mid-week victory over Trapani, where Inter barely managed to eke out a 3-2 victory, Mazzarri was eager to not repeat the same mistakes. However, his team talks seemed to have little effect as Parma clearly looked like the better team in the early portions of the match. Sansone opened the scoring for the visitors and soon Inter were on the back foot, fighting to score their opening goal of the match. That goal was provided by Palacio, who bagged a brace in the match. Handanovic was at fault for Parma’s second goal, as the visitors went into half-time with a 1-2 lead. However, Inter soon stamped their authority on the match with two goals. Their joy was short-lived as Sansone scored his second of the match to draw level for Parma. Inter were strong in stealing the ball from their opponents as they also were equally strong in finishing off chances. On the other hand, Parma created a high number of chances relative to their possession and were effective in attacking from the flanks.
In the other matches of the weekend, a Jorginho Frello penalty claimed all three points for Hellas Verona, as they stayed at 6th spot in the league. Sampdoria heaped further misery on relegation-threatened Catania, as they emerged victorious by a 2-0 margin. This was Catania’s third successive defeat and as a result, they lie at the bottom of the table. Chievo kept a clean sheet for the third game in running as they emerged victorious over Sassuolo, with a Cyril Thereau strike. Torino leap-frogged Lazio as they rode a Glik winner to victory, whereas a Marco Sau brace reduced the deficit between Genoa and Cagliari.