Napoli’s Scudetto credentials were put to the test when they travelled to the Stadio Olimpico. Having demolished Milan last weekend, all eyes were on the Capital and what began as a captivating encounter turned in to a procession, as the Partenopei emerged 4-1 victors.
In a game of two halves, the spectacle was marred by defensive injuries to the integral pair of goalscorer Stefan de Vrij and Bastos. There were concerns about the lack of strength in depth at Lazio, especially after selling Wesley Hoedt, and those fears proved justified.
This shouldn’t take anything away from Maurizio Sarri’s great entertainers, though. While the three points was the main objective, what would have impressed Sarri further is how his swashbuckling side displayed something in their armoury which they rarely need to utilise: strength of character. In Marek Hamsik, Sarri has the perfect on-field general who leads by example and roused his teammates when they went a goal behind. Few teams will look forward to playing the continually improving Biancocelesti this year, making the result even more impressive.
Elsewhere, reigning champions Juventus eventually overcame a stubborn Fiorentina in a contest which had the added spice of Federico Bernardeschi making his first appearance against his former club. The Italian has featured sparingly in the campaign to date, but will have enjoyed his late cameo off the bench in a battle between two clubs who hold a fierce rivalry. Max Allegri rang the changes, and while his gamble may have paid off, his troops were certainly helped by the visitors’ rash decision-making.
In the early kick-off, Benevento welcomed Roma to the modest Stadio Ciro Vigorito and struggled to get to grips with the deadly movement of striker Edin Dzeko. The Lupi frontman was simply too much to handle, hitting the back of the net twice. Special mention should be reserved for Aleksandar Kolarov, who was a constant menace throughout. The Serbian’s wicked left foot is a real asset and his crosses at pace caused problems all evening. Encouragingly for Eusebio Di Francesco, his side have notched seven strikes without reply and are visibly growing in confidence with each match. There will be tougher tests ahead, but watch out for the Giallorossi, who have so far gone under the radar.
Vincenzo Montella’s Milan returned to winning ways with a comfortable success against promoted side SPAL in a welcome result for ‘L'Aeroplanino’. Judging by the team sheet each week, it’s clear the young tactician has yet to settle on his first choice XI, but it bodes well that his side are still winning, and just a single point behind bitter rivals Inter, who surrendered their flawless record.
In truth, Luciano Spalletti’s squad were lucky to leave Bologna with a share of the spoils and shouldn’t be disheartened, as the point could prove pivotal at the end of the season. The Nerazzurri also still have the best defensive record in the division.
In the bottom half of the table, Sassuolo Coach Cristian Bucchi picked up his maiden triumph in the league following his appointment in the summer. The morale-boosting win should settle some nerves and start their gradual ascent up the table, even if it did take Alessandro Matri two penalty attempts to finally convert.
In a midweek where there were 26 goals scored, two matches which failed to deliver were Genoa-Chievo and Verona-Sampdoria. The Grifone are still seeking their first win of the season, but at least Hellas stopped the rot with an improbable clean sheet.
It’s never dull where Torino are concerned, and the Granata’s bright start to the 2017-18 season continued away at Udine, registering a satisfying victory that promised goals from the outset. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s bulls do tend to start each campaign confidently, and the ambition will be to continue this for the duration and not fade away. With Andrea Belotti proving he’s no one-season wonder, there’s no reason why this can’t happen – apart from their appalling defensive record, of course.
An emphatic Manita against Crotone ensured the feel-good factor remained sky high in Bergamo, following the comprehensive win against Everton in Europe. Atalanta’s goal difference took a mighty swing in to the positive in what was this week’s biggest victory in the division.
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