In a bizarre weekend of Serie A action, Juventus dropped points to a newly-promoted team, the Rome derby ended goalless, while Adel Taarabt stole the headlines (for a few minutes) with a wonderful debut goal. As Inter Milan and Napoli bounce back from their defeats, Fiorentina continue to fight for the last Champions League place. With all the action heating up as the season progresses, here are five lessons from this weekend’s matches.
1. Mazzarri’s patched-up Inter manages to win
Having not won a game since the Milan derby (which was back in December), Mazzarri’s reimagined and slightly patched up Inter Milan side were able to defeat Sassuolo by one goal. The newly promoted club had just replaced the former manager Eusebio di Francesco with the more experienced Alberto Malesani, along with a variety of January signings including many Serie A veterans and journeymen like Paolo Cannavaro, Floccari, Brighi, and Biondini. The new signings had difficulty keeping pace with the Inter’s own new player Hernanes, along with the returning Guarin, and the ever-industrious Nagatomo. It was another key returning player Walter Samuel, who headed in the only goal from Hernanes’ corner. There were plenty of missed opportunities for Inter, with Diego Milito finding himself twice in front of the goal but unable to put it past Sassuolo’s heroic keeper Pegolo. Mazzarri replaced the Argentine forward with Ruben Botta in the second half, and along with Hernanes, the substitute helped knit together the nerazzurri midfield and attack for the rest of the match. This mixture of old and new faces managed to create, score, and win, however Mazzarri will need to take a look at Milito’s role, and whether or not the 34 year-old should continue to be part of the starting lineup.
2. AC Milan suffers against Napoli as Taarabt and Essien shine
For the first ten minutes of this match, Adel Taarabt had convinced us all that he truly was the Moroccan Balotelli. His early goal curled around Reina was a miracle of brilliance for Milan (especially in these tough times) which in the 11th minute was cancelled out by Inler’s deflected shot. For the rest of the match, it was Taarabt who provided any attacking invention, and with the real Balotelli barely contributing aside from a single powerful shot for Reina to block, Seedorf’s January signings (not including Honda, unable to play due to a stomach bug) did their best in the circumstances. Essien helped De Jong in the central holding pair in front of the defence, and the Ghanaian showed that he hadn’t lost any of his tough tackling or dynamism while at the fringes of Chelsea. For Napoli it was Higuain who made the difference. His two goals topped off a strong performance which included the return of Hamsik for the Neopolitans. Seedorf tried to invigorate his side with the substitution of Kaka (still recovering from the flu), however there was little the Brazilian could do especially with the uninspiring performance by Balotelli who was substituted later. While Napoli have gained ground on Juventus and Roma with this routine win, AC Milan is rooted in 10th place in the table with only Bologna to play before Atletico Madrid visits the San Siro.