Most of the talk in Serie A this weekend was about Gonzalo Higuain’s homecoming to Napoli as a Juventus player following his move last summer. Another homecoming flew under the radar a bit, as Gian Piero Gasperini returned to Genoa for the first time since he left the club in the summer to join Atalanta. Gasperini spent seven years at Genoa, over two different periods, and his return became a perfect personal success as his superb Atalanta won 5-0 at Marassi. The architect behind the win was once again the glorious Alejandro “Papu” Gomez who scored three goals for the visitors from Bergamo.
In October, Atalanta won the first clash of the season 3-0 in Bergamo as Gasperini’s men dismantled his former side in a one-sided affair. Yesterday, with Genoa’s new coach Andrea Mandorlini having seemingly steadied the ship, more was expected by the home side. The game was restless from the start with both sides attacking from kick off. Luca Rigoni had the best chance early on when his strike went just wide of Atalanta goalkeeper Etrit Berisha’s post.
Atalanta would take the lead in spectacular fashion. As we’ve highlighted before, Atalanta’s wing play is excellent with the wing backs Andrea Conti and Leonardo Spinazzola stretching the play and attacking midfielder Gomez and Jasmin Kurtic often drifting wide to help create overloads down either side. The opening goal was a combination between the two wing backs as Spinazzola attacked the right back before delivering a cross which Conti finished with a superb overhead kick to open the scoring in Genoa.
The visitors lead were then added to by talisman Alejandro Gomez who converted a penalty to double the lead. After Mauricio Pinilla (who left Atalanta to join Genoa in January) was sent off after 60 minutes, Atalanta could easily dominate the rest of the game and add to their lead.
First, a superb piece of combination play down the right lead to Gomez’ second goal of the day. Conti, Kurtic and Franck Kessie overload on the right and the third man run by Kurtic is found by Kessie’s pass. After Kurtic advances down the right, he cuts the ball across the box for Gomez who easily slots home. Look at the speed at which Andrea Petagna and Gomez attack the penalty area as Kurtic makes his way down the flank.
The goal is a great example of Atalanta’s positional play where they use their combinations to create a third man run to get in behind and create the goal.
The fourth goal was then scored by centre back Mattia Caldara who continue to impress during his breakthrough season. This was his sixth goal of the season, an incredible figure for a centre back. The goal came from a Gomez corner that was flicked on at the near post. Atalanta have been dangerous from set-pieces all season and here you see a great example why.
The rout was ended with another trademark Atalanta goal. Due to their numerical advantage following the sending off, Atalanta could easily circle the ball within the team. In the build up to the fifth goal of the game, they move the ball around at a slow pace for about a minute before deciding to speed the tempo up and a few quick passes sets up Kessie’s run in the halfspace channel to charge towards goal and deliver a low, hard pass that Gomez smashes in for his third.
In the end, Gasperini’s homecoming to Genoa became a demonstration of the difference between the two teams at this moment. Atalanta’s dominant win takes them up to fifth with Inter in sixth having a game in hand. Of the two fixtures with Gasperini’s former club the Italian tactician won with a devastating aggregate score of 8-0 as the fairytale story of Atalanta’s season continues. It will still be a big ask for them to qualify for Europe due to the recent form of Inter and Lazio who should finish ahead of them, but that won’t take anything away from the truly fantastic season Gasperini has led his young team to. With a superstar like Gomez in the team, anything is possible for Atalanta.
In Napoli, the biggest game of the weekend finished in a draw. Napoli played their usual high-tempo game with their superb passing combinations causing Juventus problems. But Juve are so strong and so experienced and took the lead when Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic combined for a brilliant goal by the German. Napoli equalised through a goal even better though, as Marek Hamsik provided the excellent finish to his, Lorenzo Insigne, Jorginho and Dries Mertens superb passing move to equalise. The game finished 1-1, and Juventus are probably happy with that.
Roma won again, and do what they can to make this a title race. Edin Dzeko scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Empoli as Roma managed to gain two points on Juve due to their draw. Still, the gap seems to big.
Khouma Babacar has had a tough season at Fiorentina, but he managed to score the only goal of the game as Fiorentina won the clash at the Artemio Franchi against Roberto Donadoni’s Bologna. Both teams are in no man’s land however, and are just awaiting the end of the season now with nothing to play for really.
Diego Falcinelli scored a lovely curler to earn Crotone an impressive win away at Chievo. Crotone had taken the lead through Giammarco Ferrari’s header, but Chievo-legend Sergio Pellissier levelled the scoring with a header of his own. Falcinelli’s goal proved the difference and took his tally for the season to nine. He won’t join Crotone in Serie B next season, that’s for sure.
It was Sicily against Sardinia on Sunday as Palermo clashed with Cagliari. Palermo took the lead through Geancarlo Gonzalez but a double for Artur Ionita either side of a Marco Borriello strike gave Cagliari a strong win. Cagliari have been exciting going forward all season and are up to 13th and totally safe.
Udinese were on the way towards an impressive away win at Torino after a solo strike from Jakub Jankto and a tap in from Stipe Perica had seen them go 2-0 up at Olimpico with only twenty minutes to go. Torino mounted another comeback though as some superb dribbling from Adem Ljajic opened up a chance for Emiliano Moretti to pull one back for the home side before Davide Zappacosta’s cross found il Gallo Andrea Belotti who powered his header home to earn a draw.
Domenico Berardi opened the scoring for Sassuolo at home to Lazio with a first half penalty. Lazio looked in trouble but they are so consistent and so well coached by Simone Inzaghi that they always find a way back. This time it came through Felipe Anderson who opened up the Sassuolo defence and set up Ciro Immobile to level things. Late in the second half, Cristiano Lombardi’s low hard cross was deflected off a defender and the goalkeeper Andrea Consigli into their own net. 2-1 Lazio and they keep hold of fourth place.
Milan couldn’t manage a win away at Pescara and this means that their European dreams are probably over. Gabriel Paletta’s own goal gave Pescara the lead but Mario Pasalic equalised for Vincenzo Montella’s men. There would be no more goals though as Lazio, Atalanta and, probably, Inter increase the distance to Milan in seventh.
Player of the week
Alejandro Gomez hattrick and overall performances make him the standout player this weekend. His tally is now 14 goals and six assists. Superb.
Coach of the week
Once again, Gian Piero Gasperini. A 5-0 win away at his former club and his Atalanta are fifth at the time of writing. Huge achievement.
Goal of the week
For some, Andrea Conti’s goal would be number one. If you enjoyed it, scroll up and have another look. Personally however, the type of team goals with lots of passing combinations as Napoli displayed before Hamsik beautifully provided the finish is my goal of the week.