Serie A Matchweek 38 Review: Atalanta make history

There were a couple of issues to resolve on the final day in Italy as the battle for Champions League places reached its climax while a number of teams were hoping to avoid relegation. Did Genoa manage to avoid relegation to Serie B?

The Champions League Race

Roma 2-1 Parma

Roma came into the weekend’s fixtures knowing that they needed to win while also relying on a couple of other results if they wanted to qualify for the Champions League next season and they did their bit with a narrow victory over Parma at the Stadio Olimpico.

The home side had an early chance when Javier Pastore forced an early save from Pierluigi Frattali but Parma nearly took a surprise lead on the counter attack as Mattia Sprocati set up Gervinho, though the Ivorian’s shot was well saved by Antonio Mirante. However, it was Roma who took the lead ten minutes before the break as Lorenzo Pellegrini’s deflected shot eventually found its way past Frattali to keep their Champions League chances alive.

Diego Perotti nearly doubled the lead after half time as his effort struck the post from a difficult angle but it looked as though Roma would definitely be confined to a season in the Europa League late on as Gervinho managed to slot the ball past Mirante to make it 1-1 in the 86th minute.

Had the scoreline remained the same, Roma would have been unable to catch anybody in the race for the Champions League but they were rescued by Diego Perotti late on as the Argentinean midfielder headed home at the far post to make it 2-1, leaving Roma to wait on positive news from the other matches…

Spal 2-3 AC Milan

A fourth consecutive victory for AC Milan ensured that they kept their Champions League hopes alive as they beat Spal 3-2 at the Stadio Paolo Mazza, meaning that they also ended Roma’s faint hopes of snatching a Champions League spot too.

The visitors started well with Krzysztof Piątek forcing an early save from Emiliano Viviano but it wasn’t long before AC Milan took the lead as Franck Kessie set up Hakan Çalhanoğlu to score the opening goal before Kessie doubled the lead from close range as he fired the ball into the top corner of the net.

However, Spal hauled themselves back in the match as an inswinging free kick from Jasmin Kurtić allowed Francesco Vicari to head past Pepe Reina and it could have been 2-2 when a cross from the right found Mohamed Fares in acres of space but the Algerian couldn’t beat Reina from close range.

The warning signs were there for AC Milan, though, and they were made to pay for their complacency at the back when a cross from Thiago Cionek found Fares at the far post, with the Algerian taking his chance by heading past Reina to make it 2-2.

Spal nearly took the lead as Manuel Lazzari’s shot only went narrowly wide of the far post via a deflection but AC Milan were handed a lifeline shortly after the hour mark as they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Piątek. Franck Kessie stepped up to take the penalty and his second goal of the evening ensured that AC Milan collected the three points they needed in the race for the Champions League but did they get any favours from Sassuolo or Empoli?

Atalanta 3-1 Sassuolo

Atalanta have qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history as they capitalised on two red cards for Sassuolo to win 3-1 at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia while also claiming their highest ever league finish by ending the season in third place.

It didn’t look like the hosts were going to claim a Champions League place when Sassuolo took a surprise early lead as a fine move involving Pol Lirola and Alfred Duncan set up Domenico Berardi to slot the ball just inside the far post but Atalanta were back on level terms before half time as Duván Zapata eventually bundled the ball home from a corner to make it 1-1.

The hosts received a further boost before the break as Sassuolo’s Berardi was sent off for pushing Marten de Roon in the face and Atalanta made the most of the numerical advantage when Alejandro Gómez reacted quickest after Josip Illicic’s shot had been saved to chip Gianluca Pegolo from close range to make it 2-1.

The hosts increased their advantage as Mario Pasalic headed home at the far post from Alejandro Gómez’ cross before Sassuolo were reduced to nine men when Francesco Magnanelli saw a second yellow card, leaving Atalanta to see out the game with ease to secure their Champions League qualification.

Inter Milan 2-1 Empoli

Inter Milan made sure of their place in next season’s Champions League as they just about managed to see off Empoli at home to claim the fourth and final spot in Serie A with a nervy 2-1 victory on Sunday.

Both teams were desperate for the points heading into the fixture but it was Inter who came close to taking the lead in the first half as Empoli’s Bartlomiej Dragowski had to be at his best to deny Stefan de Vrij’s header from a corner.

The hosts had to wait until the 51st minute before edging in front as substitute Keita Baldé fired into the bottom corner to make it 1-0 and they were awarded a penalty shortly afterwards as Dragowski fouled Mauro Icardi to give Inter a chance to put themselves firmly in control of the match.

However, Icardi’s penalty was easily saved by the Polish goalkeeper as he managed to block the ball with his legs to keep Empoli in the match and the hosts were stunned with a little under 20 minutes remaining as Empoli equalised. Salih Uçan’s cross at the far post gave Hamed Traorè an easy finish at the far post to make it 1-1 as the visitors looked to be heading towards Serie A safety while the hosts were on course to miss out on the Champions League.

Inter still had enough time to retake the lead and they managed to find their second goal of the night with about ten minutes remaining as Matias Vecino’s low shot struck the post before rebounding to Radja Nainggolan who slotted the ball into an empty net, but the drama was far from over.

It was Empoli’s turn to push for an equaliser again and the visitors came very close to finding it as Francesco Caputo’s low cross to the far post was almost turned into his own net by Danilo D’Ambrosio but the Italian defender was relieved to see the ball rebound off of the bar before bouncing into Samir Handanović’s hands.

Empoli had another chance late on as Salih Uçan managed to break through the home defence but a brilliant save from Handanovic denied the Turkish midfielder a crucial equaliser as the hosts booked a Champions League spot while Empoli were dependent on positive news from Fiorentina’s match against Genoa in their battle to avoid the drop.

The Relegation Battle

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa

Following Empoli’s defeat at Inter Milan, Fiorentina were safe but Genoa still needed a point to ensure their Serie A status and a goalless draw was enough for Cesare Prandelli side as they leapfrogged Empoli in the table.

Both teams came into the match in poor form but it was Fiorentina who seemed to be pretty keen to win the match as Luis Muriel forced a good save early on from Andrei Radu before Federico Chiesa tested the Genoa goalkeeper with a shot from distance.

However, Genoa came the closest to scoring before the break as a dangerous free kick from the right nearly found its way into the net but a great reflex save from Alban Lafont kept the scores level.

That proved to be Genoa’s only real chance in the match as Fiorentina created numerous opportunities in the second half but after Nikola Milenković and Chiesa were denied by Radu late on, Genoa managed to hold on to secure a 13th consecutive season in the top flight.

Interesting Stat

The two lowest scoring teams, Frosinone and Chievo, ended the season on a low note as they drew 0-0 at the Stadio Benito Stirpe in their final match in Serie A. For Chievo, who ended the season with only 25 goals from 38 matches, it was their fourth successive match without a goal.

Results

Atalanta 3-1 Sassuolo

Bologna 3-2 Napoli

Cagliari 1-2 Udinese

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa

Frosinone 0-0 Chievo

Inter Milan 2-1 Empoli

Roma 2-1 Parma

Sampdoria 2-0 Juventus

Spal 2-3 AC Milan

Torino 3-1 Lazio

Champions

Juventus

Champions League

Juventus, Napoli, Inter Milan, Atalanta

Europa League

Lazio, AC Milan, Roma

Relegation to Serie B

Empoli, Frosinone, Chievo

Serie A Matchweek 37 Review: Battle for European places will go to the final day

It was the penultimate weekend of the season in Italy as the race for European football and the battle to avoid relegation continued on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Who grabbed the headlines on Matchweek 37?

Match of the Round – Napoli 4-1 Inter Milan

Napoli dealt Inter Milan a big blow to their hopes of guaranteeing their place in the Champions League next season as the visitors were trounced 4-1 at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday night.

Inter came into the fixture with a seven match unbeaten run but they fell behind in the 16th minute as Piotr Zieliński’s powerful strike from distance left Samir Handanović with no chance of saving it as the ball went into the top corner.

Inter remained a goal down at half time but even though they brought on Mauro Icardi at half time, things got worse rather than better. A neat move on the right helped to create the second goal as José Callejón’s cross picked out Dries Mertens to head home from close range.

Inter responded with a couple of chances as Orestis Karnezis had to be alert to push away a low cross from Danilo D’Ambrosio before a brilliant goalline clearance from Kalidou Koulibaly denied Lautaro Martínez a goal moments later. Just to rub salt into the wounds, Napoli extended their advantage when Kevin Malcuit’s cross was converted by Fabián Ruiz from close range and the Spanish midfielder doubled his tally for the evening when he beat Handanovic at his near post to make it 4-0.

Inter did claim a late consolation as Mauro Icardi converted from the penalty spot after being fouled by Raúl Albiol but it was too little to late for the visitors who need a win to guarantee their place in the Champions League next week.

Team of the Round – Empoli

Empoli kept their hopes of escaping relegation alive this week as they thrashed Europa League chasing Torino 4-1 to move out of the relegation zone with one more match still to play.

Empoli came into the match with two consecutive wins against Fiorentina and Sampdoria in recent weeks and they took the lead in the first half when a mistake by Ola Aina allowed Marko Pajač to set up Afriyie Acquah who slotted the ball into the far corner of the net to make it 1-0.

However, the hosts were thankful for a great save from Bartłomiej Drągowski as the Polish goalkeeper managed to push away Andre Belotti’s acrobatic effort before the Torino striker hit the post with a close range header before the break. Torino continued to push for a goal after half time, though, and they were eventually rewarded when Iago Falque’s dipping shot beat Drągowski from distance to make it 1-1 just before the hour mark.

Given that Torino were on an eight match unbeaten run, it seemed that it was only a matter of time before they claimed a second goal in the match but Walter Mazzarri’s side were stunned as the hosts responded in emphatic fashion.

Matteo Brighi restored Empoli’s lead as Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s shot was deflected into his path before the midfielder slotted home from close range and Di Lorenzo put Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side in firm control of the match when he controlled Marko Pajač’s cross and then fired the ball into the roof of the net.

Empoli continued to attack with Hamed Junior Traorè forcing Salvatore Sirigu into a fine save for Torino but there was little the ex-PSG goalkeeper could do as Francesco Caputo rounded off the victory in the closing stages to make it 4-1, leaving Torino’s European hopes in tatters.

Player of the Round – Stefano Okaka

Ex-Watford striker Stefano Okaka scored twice for Udinese as the hosts guaranteed their place in Serie A for next season with a 3-2 victory over Spal at the Dacia Arena on Saturday afternoon.

The hosts had a great start at the Dacia Arena as Samir put them ahead with a header from a long free kick after five minutes but Andre Petagna really ought to have equalised for Spal as he fired wide from a great position in front of goal.

However, the hosts made Spal pay as Stefano Okaka headed home from Rodrigo de Paul’s corner to make it 2-0 before Spal failed to learn the lesson as Okaka headed home from another Rodrigo de Paul corner four minutes later to put Udinese in control before the break.

It seemed like the hosts would be cruising to their second consecutive victory in the second half but two goals in quick succession gave Spal hope while making the home supporters edgy. First, a lovely solo goal from Andrea Petagna made it 3-1 before Mattia Valoti headed home from Jasmin Kurtić’s cross to make it 3-2 on the hour mark.

Spal had a great chance to snatch a point late on when Andrea Lazzari’s cross caused confusion in the penalty area but after Jasmin Kurtić fired narrowly wide of the far post, the hosts just about managed to hold on to claim the points.

Interesting Stat

Roma were involved in a 0-0 draw for the first time since last May as they went a third match away from home without winning. The draw at Sassuolo means that Claudio Ranieri’s side missed the chance to put pressure on Atalanta for the Champions League places and they will head into the final match of the season with only an outside of chance of returning to the competition next season.

Results

AC Milan 2-0 Frosinone

Chievo 0-0 Sampdoria

Empoli 4-1 Torino

Genoa 1-1 Cagliari

Juventus 1-1 Atalanta

Lazio 3-3 Bologna

Napoli 4-1 Inter Milan

Parma 1-0 Fiorentina

Sassuolo 0-0 Roma

Udinese 3-2 Spal

Primeira Liga Matchweek 34 Review: Who won the Primeira Liga title?

There were two interesting battles at the top and bottom of the table this week as Benfica and Porto battled for the title while Tondela and Chaves were playing against each other, hoping to avoid relegation. Tondela and Chaves were level on points but who guaranteed their place in the Primeira Liga next season?

The Title Race

Potential Champions: Benfica, Porto

Porto 2-1 Sporting CP

Porto had a tough final match of the season but they secured a late winner against Sporting CP to hand the visitors their first defeat since February while also doing their bit to claim the title from Benfica on the final day.

Porto were handed a boost as early as the 19th minute when Sporting CP’s Cristian Borja was given a red card for a professional foul on Jesus Corona but Porto struggled to take advantage as Moussa Marega fired wide of the far post while Alex Telles was left frustrated as Renan Ribeiro pushed his free kick to safety.

Instead, it was Sporting CP who took a surprise lead on the hour mark as Luiz Phellype beat Vana Alves from close range but Porto responded with Danilo Pereira’s long range strike hitting the top of the bar. The hosts knew they needed two goals otherwise the title race would be over and they eventually managed to turn it around in the final ten minutes as Sporting CP ran out of steam.

Porto grabbed the equaliser in the 77th minute as Tiquinho Soares’ flick on from Jesus Corona’s corner allowed Danilo Pereira to head home from close range and the turnaround was complete in the 87th minute when another Jesus Corona corner caused problems for Sporting CP before Hector Herrera’s acrobatic effort left Renan Ribeiro rooted to the spot.

Corona received a red card late in the match following his involvement in a melee to leave Porto with ten men but the hosts held on to the points while they hoped for positive news from Lisbon…

Benfica 4-1 Santa Clara

Porto’s late winner against Sporting CP had little effect on the title race as Benfica won comfortably against Santa Clara to record their 37th Primeira Liga title in front of their own fans.

The hosts knew that they had to collect a point to be confirmed as champions but Bruno Lage’s side seemed to be in the mood to continue their incredible run of goalscoring this season as they sought to seal the title in style.

Haris Seferovic put them in front in the 16th minute as he collected a lovely ball over the defence from Andreas Samaris before firing past Marco Pereira from close range but the hosts nearly conceded an equaliser moments later as an inswinging corner picked out Fábio Cardoso but the ex-Rangers defender could only head over the bar from a couple of yards out.

Joao Felix quickly made Santa Clara pay for that miss when he fired the ball into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 after the ball had rebounded into his path and the game was as good as finished when Rafa added his name to the scoresheet as another lucky bounce allowed the ex-Braga attacker to increase Benfica’s lead before the break.

Haris Seferovic scored his second goal of the afternoon after the break to increase Benfica’s lead as he beat his man at the near post before firing past Marco Pereira but the visitors grabbed a deserved goal a few moments later as ex-Benfica defender Cesar Martin reacted quickest to Fabio Cardoso’s header off of the bar to beat Odisseas Vlachodimos from close range.

Santa Clara had some chances to reduce the deficit again but after Vlachodimos pushed away a dangerous inswinging corner, the Greek goalkeeper denied Omar Rashid from close range to keep the scoreline at 4-1. That was how the match ended in Lisbon as Benfica were awarded the title with a total of 87 points and 103 goals making them worthy winners of the Primeira Liga title for a 37th time.

The Relegation Battle

Relegation candidates: Tondela, Chaves

Tondela 5-2 Chaves

Tondela preserved their Primeira Liga status on the final day as they overcame fellow relegation candidates Chaves at the Estádio João Cardoso to ensure a fourth consecutive season in the top flight.

Both teams came into the match level on points so it was a “winner takes all” clash but the match was decided in the first 30 minutes as a rampant Tondela side blew Chaves away with four goals to put themselves in firm control of the match.

Icaro Silva gave the hosts a fourth minute lead when he made the most of some abject defending to head Tondela in front and it was 2-0 when Joao Pedro managed to fire the ball past Ricardo Nunes with a low shot just inside the far post.

Tondela made it 3-0 in the 16th minute when some awful defending allowed Tomane to flick the ball on for Jhon Murillo and the Venezuelan forward burst through the defence before slotting past Ricardo, prompting Chaves’ manager José Mota to make an early change by bringing on Platiny for Filipe Melo.

However, there was still time for things to get worse for Chaves as Juan Delgado combined with Tomane to make it 4-0, though Platiny’s substitution had some effect as the Brazilian forward pulled one goal back before a Nikola Maraš goal on the stroke of half time made it 4-2 and set up an interesting second half.

Chaves continued to put pressure on Tondela after half time as William forced a good save from Claudio Ramos but Tondela killed off any lingering hopes of a comeback for the visitors as Jhon Murillo’s second goal of the evening made it 5-2 with just over ten minutes remaining.

Tondela were able to see out the match from then on as they secured another season in the top flight but it was disappointment for Chaves who were left to rue an awful 30 minutes in this match that ultimately brought their three year Primeira Liga stay to an end.

Interesting Stat

Belenenses finally ended their run without a win in the Primeira Liga as they eased past the already relegated Nacional 3-0 at home. Goals from Kikas, Cleylton and André Santos ended a run of nine matches without a win.

Results

Belenenses 3-0 CD Nacional

Benfica 4-1 Santa Clara

Braga 2-0 Portimonense

Feirense 2-1 Aves

Marítimo 0-1 Boavista

Moreirense 1-3 Vitória Guimarães

Porto 2-1 Sporting CP

Tondela 5-2 Chaves

Vitória Setúbal 1-3 Rio Ave

Champions

Benfica

Champions League Qualifiers

Benfica, Porto

Europa League Qualifiers

Sporting CP, Braga, Vitória Guimarães

Relegated to Liga Pro

Chaves, Nacional, Feirense