Thursday December 27 2018
The two sides of Serie A

Serie A showcased its best and worst on a historic round of Boxing Day football, writes Anthony Barbagallo.

Crammed with action, controversial VAR drama, five red cards and mesmerising goals by Nicolo Zaniolo and Fabio Quagliarella, the first-ever Boxing Day Serie A fixtures could not have topped off the post-Christmas celebrations more emphatically.  

In the hair-raising match in Bergamo, 10-man Juventus just survived to salvage a point in their 2-2 draw with a tricky and determined Atalanta. With Cristiano Ronaldo starting on the bench for the first time in Bianconeri colours, Juve still seemed comfortable after taking the lead in the second minute. However, a brace from an in-form Duvan Zapata and a red card shown to Rodrigo Bentancur was enough to inspire the Dea to take full control of the game – that is until the No 7 came on. 

After being on the pitch for less than 13 minutes, Ronaldo – amidst a scrambling Atalanta defence – capitalised with a clean header to keep the Old Lady’s unbeaten record in Serie A this season intact. As for Gian Piero Gasperini’s brave men, the impressive performance still managed to rattle this resolute Juve side, who dropped points for the second time in 2018-19.

The game that was a perfect summation of the dramatic Boxing Day round was the top-four clash between Inter and Napoli. After dropping crucial points against last-placed Chievo in the previous round, the Nerazzurri were looking to reduce the eight-point gap to five against the second-placed visitors. For the Partenopei, the opportunity to go 11 points clear of Inter and six behind Juve was on offer. 

For about 80 minutes of the evenly-matched fixture, neither side looked capable of winning it due to the solid defensive displays at both ends. The closest chance came from Mauro Icardi at kick-off – launching his shot from the halfway mark over a distracted Alex Meret and thumping the crossbar. Some monumental interceptions and a goal-line clearance from Kalidou Koulibaly kept the Neapolitans in the game. 

Late in the second half, just as Napoli was in the ascendency, Koulibaly’s challenge on Matteo Politano saw the Senegal international pick up a yellow card. His sarcastic applause towards the referee resulted in his instant dismissal and Napoli’s demise. However, tensions were already high after the centre-back regrettably received racist abuse from some opposition fans inside San Siro. 

Inside the final minutes, the Partenopei almost clinched the winner through a quick counterattack but Piotr Zielinski saw his shot denied by Kwadwo Asamoah’s goal-line clearance. Just into added time, substitute Lautaro Martinez fired home the winner for Intern – showing that Luciano Spalletti made the right substitution this time around. To cap the night off, the heated clash between Keita Balde Diao and Lorenzo Insigne saw the Neapolitan receive a red card, causing further animosity between the players, coaching staff and referee. Ancelotti’s men now find themselves further behind League leaders Juve. 

Staying on the topics of drama and teams dropping points, Milan’s inconsistency so far this season was precisely demonstrated during their stalemate with 19th-placed Frosinone. The Rossoneri failed to test the Canarini goal, revealing the creative problems this jaded Diavolo side have going forward. 

Gennaro Gattuso’s men could consider themselves fortunate after the VAR disallowed Frosinone’s goal in the first half in controversial fashion. The uninspiring performance and result now leave the Rossoneri in danger of slipping further down the table. Dropped points at home to SPAL this weekend would surely spell the end of Gattuso’s Milan reign.

Another Coach who came into this round hanging by a thread was Eusebio Di Francesco. Fortunately for the Roma boss, the Giallorossi pulled off a 3-1 victory against a problematic Sassuolo. The Neroverdi started brightly - Domenico Berardi’s long-range effort almost catching out Robin Olsen - but it was Patrik Schick’s involvement in the first half that was imperative for the Lupi surging in front. The 22-year-old Czech managed to win a penalty and score Roma’s second with some neat dribbling past Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli. 

Goal-line technology also became another talking point in the Boxing Day round, ruling out a Sassuolo equaliser. But the main highlight of the Roma-Sassuolo game was when Nicolo Zaniolo’s trickery and composure saw the youngster score a Andrea Pirlo-esque goal. With the capital club breathing down the necks of Milan and Sampdoria, it looks like Eusebio Di Francesco’s job is safe – for now. 

While it was enjoyable witnessing late drama and some freakish goals, the Koulibaly racism incident has tainted Serie A’s first Boxing Day round and left Calcio tifosi with a very bitter aftertaste.

Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports.

Have your say...
Unfortunately, a good chunk of Italian society is uncivilized... unworthy of being considered a part of the "first world" - this coming from an otherwise very proud Italian-Canadian
on the 3rd January, 2019 at 5:37am
The issues raised in this article relating to violence and racism remain the most important for Italian football authorities and fans. This includes those of us who post on Football Italia. It's a discussion that needs to continue and not left on the heap as old news. Calcio needs to change or risk becoming irrelevant.
on the 1st January, 2019 at 1:36pm
The problem is not FiGC, but the people that makes up the JAN 7 was it FIGC that drove shot Jacuba camara a 25 year old guinea and Saibou Sabitou a 25 year old Togolese... On January 8 2009, was it FIGC that attack GODWIN ONYEBUCHI( a 34 year old Nigerian)?...was it FiGc that murder Abdoul Guiebre in Sept 2008 in Milan? ....was it FIGC that set on fire the indian man doused with gasoline in Feb 2009 in Rome?...was it FIGC that brutally beat a Chinese man at the Tor Bella Monaca in Oct 2008 in Rome?...was it FIGC that Knifed a Senegalese actor Mohammed Ba in the stomach in Milan on May 2009? Rosario Calabria in Jan 2010...the list is endless....fools!...its not the institutions but the people!...just that many couldn't voiced it out hiding under the face of Education and Civilization...
on the 29th December, 2018 at 6:23pm
I have supported Serie A for decades, seen many matches, watched on TV and defended the usual accusations of cheats, defensive, divers, bad losers, mamma's boys etc. But this chanting at Inter was grotesque. Koulibaly is a world class player and his ethnicity has nothing to do with anything. Grow up Italian fans - you are a disgrace and you are juvenile. Ban them for life. Get proper stewards and CCTV and root out these ignorant, nasty people.
on the 29th December, 2018 at 4:48pm
Inter-Milan fans deserve to be banned from all the matches. FIGC is a useless organization that is doing nothing to address the deep roots of such situation among the communities. I am going to say if racist chants like such keeps rising, bye bye Italian football! the world is free, the world wants to play football. I think the Italian mentality will not change toward such ignorant low class behavior and witness more racism down the road!
on the 29th December, 2018 at 11:46am
@sanrella your remarks are most ignorant when you say "Black people are not part of the culture." it is a pure example of the sick society you present and others like you do! football has no language, race, religion, and ethnic roots. football represents the free world. Also, I read some of the comments made by some people in here and it is disgusting, you guys aim to be ashamed of yourselves! a person has to be intelligent to discuss this rather despicable acts.
on the 29th December, 2018 at 11:39am
Italy does not have a large amount of Black people integrated in their society such as the UK.Here with the influx of Black people back in the 60s,generations of them have been part of the UK's society and culture for years.They are the same as white Brits.In Italy Black people are usually migrants who have not grown up in Italy and who's mother language is not Italian.Black people are not part of the culture.Go to places like Poland,Romania,Bulgaria and you will see worse racism.
on the 28th December, 2018 at 11:38pm
Don't band all fans just the ultras in their part of the stadium because that's where the racist can be found.
on the 28th December, 2018 at 11:31pm
Embarrassing as a fan of Italian football for over 25 years. Why do the Ultras of these teams not do more to kick out the racists from their midst? Totally disgusting. Sickening behaviour outside the stadium too where people are killed. Is this the risk you now face going to a football match in 2019? Deduct points, stop the league if need be. That is secondary to kicking racism out of society.
on the 28th December, 2018 at 8:13pm
I remember going to Milan-Parma in 1999 (2-1, SuperSeba saved a pen, what a game!) and arriving at San Siro to see burned and overturned cars. Someone said there had been a riot a few hours before. The Parma ultras arrived under police escort. Went to Inter-Milan last year (2-2) and been to a few more games in between and will say that the stadium atmosphere in Italy has greatly improved with regards to violence, but Ultra groups are still like mobs.
on the 28th December, 2018 at 7:55pm
@Italian in Canada: It is difficult to ask a team to assume responsibility for the actions of fans. But I ask: where are the stewards? Where is the enforcement against public nuisances? As a fellow North American you know that in our stadiums those people would be identified, expelled, and banned for life. I can't imagine going to an NFL, MLS, MLB, or NBA game and experiencing what happened at Inter-Napoli. Not saying there is no racism, but it gets addressed by the club and league decisively.
on the 28th December, 2018 at 7:44pm
@Viva Inter: Poor European whites. Aw, so downtrodden. If the rest of the world hadn't been systematically demonized and disenfranchised since the first white European got on a boat and immigrated (see the irony here?) to exploit places that weren't theirs then you wouldn't have millions of starving people drowning on rafts for a chance at a better future. Remember 6 million gassed Jews, the depravities of colonialism, religious wars, etc. For the record I am white, thus lucky, THUS HUMBLE.
on the 28th December, 2018 at 7:31pm
@Napoli - The south of Italy and Naples itself is just as racist as the north. This will never change as long as that simple fact is not recognized
on the 28th December, 2018 at 2:25am
@Anonymous this was a match between Inter and Napoli my frustrated little friend. Everything that happened on the pitch, in the stands and outside the stadium is all on Inter and Napoli fans and somehow you still managed to not only draw Juventus in to that situation but also assign them all the blame as well, i'd laugh at you if i wasn't feeling so sorry for you
on the 28th December, 2018 at 2:20am
People excusing racism by talking about beta males and lefties lmaooo. Get off 4chan and go outside losers.
on the 28th December, 2018 at 12:09am
Whenever Juve need a favour call in Mazzoleni! An even game until K2 was sent off. It wasn't even a yellow as most commentatotrs have said just an ordinary foul. Politano wanted a yellow and so did the crowd. He HAD to listen to the Scummy Inter fans and agreed. K2 shouldn't have clapped mind you but after all that abuse! Mazzoleni last week was on VAR...NEVER said anything about the fouls on ZAZA or Belotti.Juve favour again. Lets hope Athletico Madrid do them!
on the 27th December, 2018 at 10:44pm
After 29 years of watching I am done with Serie A. The racism is unacceptable and disgusting. But it is not just against blacks. Neapolitans are always abused and attacked. Insigne a star man of the national team constantly get abused. Napoli will always be seen as inferior and disadvantaged. Imagine this happened to Matuidi? Reaction of the federation wouldmhave been completely different. The league is boring and racist.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 10:42pm
@Eric: First sensible comment on here. If white Europeans hadn't been systematically demonised and disenfranchised since the end of ww2 then perhaps the shameful idiots who caused the problems last night wouldn't have an axe to grind. The LEFT has been turning us all against each other for 60+ years whilst hiding behind the "moral high ground". You can't fix the flaws of human nature but unfortunately you can weaponize them to serve an ulterior motive. Be free, be happy, be centrist. FORZA FCIM
on the 27th December, 2018 at 10:42pm
Nothing has changed. Not just for K2 but for Napoli in general. Every week it is the same even if they aren't even playing but this is the first time a ground has been closed. Juve regularly chant racist slurs towards Napoli and they have a curva closed to adults! Mazzoleni is a joke! Last week on VAR he never saw the torino penalty appeals against Juve. Alegri has said he needs a 12 point gap. Mazzoleni is assigned Inter napoli - Napoli no chance after Juve draw!
on the 27th December, 2018 at 10:37pm
I cant believe its all about chants when people are killed around the stadiums!
on the 27th December, 2018 at 10:36pm
This was a decent game but overshadowed by what happened off field! Still it would be wrong to just blame Inter ultras as we all have ultras who have had a hand in these incidents.. Lets not forget Juve’s Vesuvius errupt chants or Napolis rock throwers Lazios fascist salutes & those are just a few these things shouldn’t be part of this sport. There is enough food for banter for each club without resorting to racism or violence! Someone won’t be with their family next Christmas because of a game
on the 27th December, 2018 at 10:31pm
Pretty sure generalizing all Italians as racists puts you in the same boat as the racists.

@Eric "beta male leftists"
Guess we found the angry virgin.

Totally agree, Gravina's comments were so unbelievably slimy.

Agree there is much political posturing but that doesn't mean everyone against racism is fake or that nothing can be done. Not every nation has this problem to the extent Italy does.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 9:42pm
@Eric. Maladjusted "alpha" males create the world's problems. All 4 Scandinavian countries are in the top ten. All of Scandinavia above Italy. Poor dumb angry bro. I'd love to see you make monkey noises to Koulibaly on the street brah.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 9:15pm
Lot of beta male leftist comments here. A football stadium is not a classroom, you can't control what some idiots say, if you don't like it then leave Italy and play for another club, maybe in Scandinavia? :)
on the 27th December, 2018 at 8:07pm
@Kev: you may need Marotta's influence in the January mercato to sign suoperstars such as: Padoin, Rincon, Ogbonna, Boriello, Anelka, Bendtner, a has-been Lucio....just remember "Juve's reject players are inter's starters" Who knows, maybe John Carew will be given a second physical in January !
on the 27th December, 2018 at 7:11pm
Two match stadium ban + 1 more for the curva. Lol, peanuts. Meanwhile the headline: "FIGC: Inter-Napoli ref was 'perfect'". That's all you need to know. Nothing will change. Nothing to see here folks, keep moving.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 6:35pm
@ Ciro Mertens: #2 isn't true entirely. Massimiliano Irrati stopped and suspended the match between Lazio and Napoli during the 15/16 season (03/02/16), because of a torrent of abuse aimed at Koulibaly from the Lazio supporters.

The match continued soon after, the jeers remained, but to a far smaller contingent than before the pause in play.

Napoli won the match eventually 2-0.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 5:48pm
I remember Carlo Tavecchio lamenting about Opta pogba, I remember Kevin prince Boateng walk off the pitch in the thick of a match, I remember Sulley Muntari subjected to countless monkey chants, I remember SAmuel Eto facing same Barbarity, I remember George Weah and those days of low-key chants, I remember Anthony Rudiger and the Laziale's taunts, Even Ballotelli was baptize with same song...Mamadou Diawara will tell you better, Ferdinand Coly a former parmas full back never escaped it....apparently its their culture, in their blood ; Italy by definition is Rac***......
on the 27th December, 2018 at 5:26pm
My first post dare not be posted because it was gut wrenching and a bitter truth to swallow....Football Italia last week wrote about The best defender in the world but yesterday they couldn't muster the courage to stand upright and call a spade a spade about that same defender! what a hypocrite of a people these idiots are!
I know the first post cannot be posted because its Provocative, truthful and expository...sometimes I wonder if the country is a jungle featuring Mavericks and senile personalities like( BERLUSCONI, FERRERO, DE LAURENTIS, PALLOTTA,) to mention a few...Racist stricken nation.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 5:14pm
Are people really surprised? This is a country where the people form the north consider the people from the south to be a different race. The prime minister is a populist (alt-right) politician that wants to kick out all immigrants, destroy the EU, and become best friends with Putin. I feel like some of the people responsible for ending racism/sexism in Italy support are often racists/sexists themselves. Remember the Tavecchio "Opti Poba" comment? This issue is not going away any time soon.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 5:12pm

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