Juventus consolidated their position at the top of the table as Balotelli scored one of the goals of the season. Inter finally won on the road as both Roma and Napoli claimed all three points from their respective matches.
AC Milan hosted Bologna in the very first match of the last weekend, with the home side desperately looking points as they clamber towards the comfort of the top half of the Serie A table. They were faced with a perfect opportunity to do the same when relegation-threatened Bologna visited the San Siro. Like most of their season so far, Milan enjoyed a lion’s share of the possession and yet they failed to make any real inroads into the opposition defense. The fact that the best players of the night were Rami and Taarabt – both players who are on loan, only goes to establish the fact that the players have either developed a laid-back attitude or they are not able to implement what Seedorf is asking of them.
Just like under Allegri, the players are controlling the game from the midfield, but once they reach the final third, they lose the play – not once, but on almost every occasion. Balotelli’s stunning goal fortunately covered Milan’s inadequacies on the night. With the knockout match against Atletico coming up pretty soon, Seedorf needs to find a new strategy to get his team to play effectively. On the plus side, Rami seems to be someone who can lead from the back and the Frenchman’s presence is indeed inspiring his team mates. The same goes for Taarabt, who in his brief spell has made quite an impression on the Rossoneri faithful.
Fiorentina then hosted Internazionale, with both team looking to win the game to close the gap on runaway leaders, Juventus. Having not won anything away from home since November, the pressure was obviously more on the blue side of Milan than on the Viola. Fiorentina were coming off a superb mid-week outing against Lazio in the Coppa Italia, where they confirmed their spot in the finals. The first chance of the match came from Inter, as they looked to wrest to take control of the match. The home team looked a bit tired and jaded from their victorious exploits and when Inter took control of the match, they offered little resistance. Palacio proved to be a thorn in the Viola defense, and it was through him that Inter scored their first of the night.
A smart pass by Guarin was ably controlled by Palacio, who managed to clip the ball beyond Neto. Moments later, the scoreline should have doubled, but unfortunately Nagatomo shot wide from close range. Montella was furious about his team’s performance and from how the home team started the second half, it certainly looked that he had given the players a considerable piece of his mind. Cuadrado drew level and Joaquin should have doubled the lead. Stung by the fast response, Mazzarri replaced Milito with Icardi, who scored Inter’s second. Fiorentina then brought on Gomez and Matri but their efforts proved futile as Inter claimed all three points.
Juventus next welcomed Chievo, a side currently lying second from bottom in the Serie A table. Although the result was a foregone conclusion, Juventus used the three points to consolidate their position at the top of the table and heap further misery on second placed Roma. The visitors were more intent on holding Juventus rather than playing football and once Juventus broke through for the first time, it was only a matter of time before they made Chievo suffer. Asamoah scored the first goal of the match, exchanging passes with Llorente before the ball nestled in the top left corner of the net.
Pirlo was at the heart of the next goal, as his long range free kick dipped and skidded in front of Agazzi, and with Marchisio in close company, Juventus made it 2-0 inside the opening half of the match. Juventus did suffer a little bit, mainly due to their complacency as they had during their previous match against Hellas Verona. An own goal from Caceres did give the visitors a glimmer of hope, but when Llorente found the back of the net from a Pirlo corner, the home side knew that the previous weekend antics would not be repeated.
Napoli then visited bottom team Sassuolo, who are almost certain to be relegated this season. While the home team’s fortunes have indeed flown south, Napoli are riding high on their recent exploits. Coming off two back to back wins against AC Milan and Roma, the side from Naples are doing all they can to clinch the second spot in Serie A, which would automatically grant them the opportunity to play directly in the UEFA Champions League next season as opposed to a play-off for the third placed team. With Roma playing a late game, Napoli took this opportunity to close the gap. Benitez fielded their strongest team from the very onset of the match, but it took them some time to dictate the game.
Sassuolo frustrated Napoli for large portions of the match which even led to the first miss of the night from Higuain. However, Dzemaili found the opening goal soon after. Although the home side kept on pressing, their hard work failed to bear any fruit. Insigne made it 2-0 with a fine curling shot. The home team seemed to suddenly wake up from their slumber, with Zaza leading the onslaught. Benitez opted for a more defensive formation and replaced Higuain with Pandev. January signing Henrique also featured in the last ten minutes. The victory left Napoli third on the Serie A table.
Roma then hosted Sampdoria, a bit late in the match day, with all of the outcomes of their opponents known beforehand. A point off Napoli, Roma knew they had to win this match – not only to give them a cushion over Napoli, who are fast closing in, but also to reduce the gap at the top with Juventus, who seems to have run off with the league. Roma dictated the game and dominated the proceedings from the onset of the match, but failed to make any real inroads into the opposition defense. The best chances of the first half fell to Gervinho, but sadly this time the Ivorian did not find the back of the net.
Strootman was the chief creator from the middle of the park and provided many key passes, mainly to Gervinho and Destro. Roma’s frustrating spell soon came to an end as Destro scored the first of the night from a corner. Pjanic’s free kick and another close range finish from Destro in the second half to the match saw Roma claim all three points and restore the balance to the Serie A table.