Bologna were made to work hard for this victory in the local derby, as SPAL set up a nervous finale with Mirco Antenucci’s stunner.
This was the return of the local derby in the top flight after 50 years and the hosts missed Domenico Maietta and Cheick Keita, but had Federico Di Francesco back and chose Rodrigo Palacio as centre-forward. SPAL were without Alex Meret and Sergio Floccari.
The last time these sides crossed paths was in Serie B, SPAL earning a 2-1 home win and 1-1 draw at the Dall’Ara in 1992-93. The team from Ferrara won the last two trips to Bologna in November 1967 and October 1992.
Godfred Donsah and Alberto Paloschi both failed to make the most of good opportunities, scuffing their finishes, but Bologna took the lead with a well-worked team goal.
Di Francesco’s take on a Simone Verdi cross-field pass was simply divine and Palacio at the back post knocked down the cross for Andrea Poli to tap in.
Palacio almost scored a remarkable goal at the age of 35, sprinting from his own half to ride two tackles until Alfred Gomis pushed the ball off his foot.
There were penalty appeals by SPAL on the stroke of half-time, as Di Francesco slid in to block a Manuel Lazzari cross from point-blank range, but after the VAR review, the referee confirmed it had hit his armpit.
Paloschi thought he had equalised after the restart, but he was correctly flagged offside before putting the ball in the back of the net.
Instead, Bologna doubled their lead moments later. Donsah came tearing forward from midfield on the counter, combined with Verdi and the low cross for Palacio was intercepted by Bartosz Salamon, accidentally turning into his own net.
Verdi’s left-foot scorcher was inches off target, but SPAL got one back in stoppages with a magnificent right-foot curler from the edge of the box by Mirco Antenucci, who hadn’t scored in Serie A for seven years.
It remained open, as Salamon tried to make up for his own goal with a shot just over, but with the last kick of the game, Palacio on the counter thumped the underside of the bar.