Giampaolo Pazzini and Mariusz Stepinski both made the most of Darko Lazovic assists, as Hellas Verona beat 10-man SPAL 2-0 in Ferrara.
The calendar year ended with SPAL beating Torino away from home, clawing themselves off the foot of the table, but they remained in the drop zone. Verona missed Eddie Salcedo, Daniel Bessa, Lubomir Tupta, Alan Empereur and suspended Sofyan Amrabat, while SPAL had to do without Arkadiusz Reca, Marco D’Alessandro and Mohamed Fares.
Verona were twice dangerous early on with counter-attacks, first Igor blocking Darko Lazovic, then Marco Davide Faraoni firing across the face of goal on Valerio Verre’s assist.
Etrit Berisha got something on to Rrahmani’s angled drive, turning it both beyond the far post and Giampaolo Pazzini ready to tap in.
The warning signs were there and 35-year-old Pazzini scored Verona’s first goal of 2020, peeling off defenders for a glancing header on Lazovic’s cross from the left.
Andrea Petagna and Gabriel Strefezza reacted with shots just off target, but Pazzini almost got a second when unable to keep Mattia Pessina’s assist on target from point-blank range.
SPAL started to get into the game after a difficult start, Alberto Paloschi turning wide from four yards under pressure on a flicked-on corner.
The situation became far more complicated for SPAL on 39 minutes, because Nenad Tomovic lunged into a high and late tackle on Marco Davide Faraoni. The referee saw it as reckless and a potential leg-breaker and flashed a straight red card, but fortunately Faraoni had his foot raised, so it didn’t inflict too much damage.
Down to 10 men, they still continued to threaten with a free kick that bobbled around in the six-yard box just beyond Petagna ready to tap in.
Etrit Berisha stuck out a foot to deny Pazzini one-on-one, then did very well to palm a cushioned Rrahmani header off the line at the back post.
Zaccagni’s splendid curler off the inside of the right boot skimmed the far top corner, then Berisha was again alert to slap a Pazzini finish over the bar, even if the veteran was marginally offside.
Verona welcomed back Emmanuel Badu, who had been out of action since his hospitalisation pre-season for a blood clot in the lungs.
SPAL were still in this, as Federico Di Francesco drilled wide and Petagna’s header was off target at the back post.
However, Lazovic was again involved for Verona’s second goal late on. He surged forward down the left, cut inside past a defender and let rip with a ferocious shot that Berisha only parried into the path of Mariusz Stepinski.
Valoti had a big chance to get SPAL at least back into it, but ballooned horribly over the bar.
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Sent off: Tomovic 39 (S)