A very interesting Serie A weekend came to a close on Sunday night when Vincenzo Montella’s AC Milan beat Chievo away from home 3-1. One more game remains with Palermo due to face Torino on Monday night, but here is the round-up from this weekend’s games, focusing on Milan’s big win at Chievo.
Chievo has started the season really well and actually started the weekend level on points with Milan and Roma. They are really strong at home in Verona and has been for years. They seem to always over-achieve in regards to their budget and the players at their disposal, but they have experience in abundance and are usually the oldest team in Italy. Milan, by contrast, have been the youngest team so far this season, and the average age fell even lower as Riccardo Montolivo’s injury meant 18-year-old Manuel Locatelli started as the regista in Montella’s 4-3-3. Gianluigi Donnarumma was in goal with a back four of Ignazio Abate, Gabriel Paletta, Alessio Romagnoli and Mattia De Sciglio. Juraj Kucka, Locatelli, Giacomo Bonaventura made up the midfield with Suso, Gianluca Lapadula and Mbaye Niang up front. Chievo fielded their normal 4-3-1-2 so a battle for central domination would be prominent throughout the 96 minutes.
Chievo started well and pressed Milan high, and created decent opportunities for Castro, Floro Flores and Birsa among others. Milan remained compact and defended well, meaning the big chances never came. Lapadula went close early on for Milan with a header but the game seemed to be going towards a goalless first half when Kucka unleashed a thunderous drive which went into the right top corner of Stefano Sorrentino’s net. The goal came from at sloppy pass inside Chievo’s half which Lapadula won and Kucka could pick up the loose ball and shoot.
The game remained even as both teams created chances in the second half, but Milan always seemed more dangerous and when Niang made it two with a great left-footed strike the game seemed over. Chievo usually score, though, and when Valter Birsa made 1-2 the game seemed open. However, in stoppage time the third away goal would come. A misguided Carlos Bacca shot deflected off Dario Dainelli and completely wrong footed Sorrentino who desperately tried to reach the ball, but it was impossible.
When building up, Milan used a back-three which meant right-back Abate pushed up high on the right while left-back De Sciglio stayed more centrally. Romagnoli was the playmaker from the back with Paletta now to the right. As we can see, Bonaventura is not even in phrame, as he starts much higher than Locatelli and Kucka.
A common look in Milan’s attacking play. Romagnoli has stepped up and we see De Sciglio (number 2) in a central position. Abate is high on the right and Suso has come into the right half-space. Bonaventura also occupies a higher position between the lines with Locatelli and Kucka holding.
We’ve seen before how teams defend with a back-four and attack with a back-three, notably Fiorentina under Paulo Sousa, and while it gives a good balance in building up, it also allowed Milan to keep three defenders back to cope with Chievo’s two strikers and number 10 in transitions . Having De Sciglio wide on the left would likely have left the central defenders 2 v 3 at times when the ball was lost. The win represented a great tactical triumph for Montella whose team is up to third, level on points with second place Roma. They’re five points behind Juventus, who they welcome to San Siro on Saturday. Don’t miss that one!
Juventus, surprise surprise, won again. After Udinese took the lead through Jakub Jankto following a slack pass from Patrice Evra and a poor touch from Hernanes, the Polish midfielder’s shot should have been saved by Gianluigi Buffon who made another mistake following his ‘air-kick’ against Spain. He could sleep easily anyway, as Paulo Dybala bailed him out with a brilliant free-kick and coolly taken penalty. Dybala is up and running with his goalscoring now, and is playing brilliant football. Possibly the best player in the league come May.
Roma is second, after handing Napoli their first home defeat under Maurizio Sarri. Edin Dzeko struck twice before Koulibaly pulled one back. Mohamed Salah would finish the game off after sprinting through the defence to make it 3-1. Big win for Roma and Dzeko’s goalscoring form continues. His and Salah’s form is vital for Roma’s chances this season, and right now they’re on fire. Napoli struggle at the minute with two defeats in a row and must get back to winning ways next week as they can’t lose more ground on Juventus.
Ciro Immobile was Italy’s hero last week with two goals against Macedonia, and followed this up by salvaging a point for Lazio at home against Bologna. Simone Verdi’s free-kick was flicked on and then turned in by Filip Helander for the opener in the tenth minute, but Roberto Donadoni was furious with his team conceding a penalty in stoppage time which Immobile scored with confidence. Both teams continue to do well, and Bologna would likely have taken a point beforehand but to lose a win like that must have been cruel.
Speaking of cruel, Crotone though they finally had secured their first win in Serie A when they were 1-0 up at Sassuolo with seven minutes to go. Leonardo Capezzi also hit the crossbar with a free-kick which would have made it 2-0. However, forty seconds after the ball hit the bar, Stefano Sensi had equalised for the home side with a brilliantly taken volley from a Matteo Politano cross. Three minutes after that, Pietro Iemello put Sassuolo 2-1 up from a Lorenzo Pellegrini corner. Astonishing boost for Sassuolo, who finished the game with 10 Italians and Spanish right-back Pol Lirola on the pitch, after their collapse at Milan last time out but incredibly tough on Crotone who played really well on the day. They have to wait to add to their solitary point.
Pescara and Sampdoria are two teams who try to play really good football, and most days they do. However, they’ve both picked up way to few points from those performances and will both be disappointed with a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Adriatico. Hugo Campagnaro first scored an own-goal which he rectified with his equaliser for Pescara, who played the second half with ten men after Andrea Coda’s red card. Pescara coach Massimo Oddo will be happy with the point as the game turned out, but his Sampdoria counterpart Marco Giampaolo will feel the pressure after another game without a win, six in a row now.
Genoa and Empoli played out a goalless draw at the Marassi, and Empoli will surely be more happy with that. They’ve struggled so far, but a point there is a good result. However, Darko Lazovic’ first half sending off means Ivan Juric will also likely be pleased his side didn’t lose, and they’re definitely going into next weekend’s derbi della Lanterna against Sampdoria in better form than Samp.
Goalless was it also between Fiorentina and Atalanta, and Paulo Sousa should be arriving for work nervously this week as Fiorentina still only have two wins and are 14th. They impressed all of Italy last term, but now just seem laboured and tired. Atalanta will be pleased with a point and especially another clean sheet following last week’s 1-0 win over Napoli.
Frank De Boer won’t be happy though, as Inter lost at home against a very experienced Cagliari led by Portuguese centre-half Bruno Alves. Inter dominated and created plenty of chances. Mauro Icardi, for example, missed a first half penalty and Marco Storari made a good stop from Antonio Candreva. Joao Mario eventually broke the deadlock after forcing the ball over the line after Storari saved his first shot. Cagliari soaked up the pressure though, and when Davide Di Gennaro’s genius pass was fractionally deflected from Jeison Murillo into the path of Federico Melchiorri it was 1-1. Melchiorri’s cross was later turned into his own net by Samir Handanovic, and Cagliari edged Inter 2-1 in the end. Big, big win for the team from Sardinia.
Player of the week
Paulo Dybala scored twice for Juventus and was brilliant throughout the game and oozed class and creativity.
Goal of the week
Paulo Dybala’s free kick for the equaliser was as perfect as they come. 40 seconds into this clip.
Coach of the week
Vincenzo Montella showed off his tactical intelligence with his setup that led Milan to a very impressive win at Chievo, one of the toughest away games in Italy.