From Mauro Icardi making history to Napoli keeping the Scudetto race alive, here are the five things we learned from Week 29's Serie A action.
Words: Ciro Di Brita
Icardi back with a bang
Mauro Icardi surpassed 100 Serie A goals on Sunday, scoring four in the space of 21 minutes during Inter’s 5-0 demolition of Sampdoria. One of them was an audacious back-heel, which left the home defence bamboozled and lying helpless on the ground. Luciano Spalletti’s comments after the Napoli game, when he stated his team lacked quality and that complimenting players guarantees defeats, seemed to have done the trick and got the right response from his men.
SPAL keep Juventus at bay
SPAL showed the rest of Serie A that Juventus could be stopped if you play with enough grit and heart to disrupt them and not go into the game like it has already been lost. The side from Ferrara had plenty to fight for as the valuable point they earned in their 0-0 draw lifted them out of the relegation zone, where they sit just one point ahead of Crotone in 17th place. Big performances from Filippo Costa, Pasquale Schiattarella and Alberto Grassi in midfield, all of whom ran their socks off and never let the Bianconeri settle on the ball, mean the Scudetto race is far from over.
Dogged Milan keep going
Andre Silva netted his second late winner in a row to keep Milan’s hopes of finishing in the Champions League qualification places alive. Hakan Calhanoglu had fired the home side ahead, before Chievo bounced back and took the lead through Mariusz Stepinski and Roberto Inglese. That put the pressure on Gennaro Gattuso and his players, but up stepped Patrick Cutrone and Andre Silva while the chips were down to turn the match around and seal the three points. The Rossoneri are now just four points behind Lazio in fifth with a game in hand, even if Franck Kessie missed a late penalty, which had been generously given by referee Maurizio Mariani.
Déjà vu for Benevento
Leonardo Pavoletti scored his second injury-time winner against Benevento this season. The Stregoni were winning through Enrico Brignola’s rocket from outside the box, until the first minute of stoppage time, when Pavoletti headed in from close range. Niccolo Barella tucked away a penalty in the 52nd minute to wrap up another smash-and-grab for the Sardinians over the southerners after they had won by a similar scoreline back in October. In that game, it was Paolo Farago who put Cagliari ahead, only for Pietro Iemmello to score a penalty for Benevento in the 94th minute, before Pavoletti stole the points by scoring a morale-destroying header seconds later.
Napoli still up for the Scudetto
Napoli had to grind out a 1-0 win against Genoa at the San Paolo through an unlikely Raul Albiol effort. The home side’s best chances came from corners, which is unusual for them, as they are hardly renowned for their prowess from set-pieces. So, of the two headers they flicked on at the near post, it was Spanish defender Albiol who stepped up in the 72nd minute to head home after little Lorenzo Insigne had hit the post in a similar move. For a while, the goal looked like it would never come as Maurizio Sarri’s men had failed to capitalise on a series of decent chances, while his attackers looked like they were suffering from burnout. Their lack of options on the bench is killing them, but the return of Arkadiusz Milik has come at just the right time. Now it’s up to Sarri to give him more minutes on the field.
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