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Serie A Weekly: Inter & Juventus make no mistake, cards flying around in Rome derby, Empoli dig Garcia’s grave

The last Serie A weekend ahead of November’s international break produced some spectacular goals, but it was far from an eventful round.

While it wasn’t the most exciting matchday, Inter Milan proved their credentials with another routine win to stay at the top of the tree.

We walk you through the happenings of the Serie A Gameweek 12.

Complacent AC Milan get away with a robbery

A 2-1 home victory over Paris Saint-Germain in midweek Champions League action gave the impression that Milan could finally turn the corner after a rough patch.

However, they slipped at the same hurdle as last year.

It didn’t look so when Olivier Giroud and Tijjani Reijnders fired Stefano Pioli’s team 2-0 at half-time of their away match against bottom-half Lecce. 

Davide Calabria’s injury forced the captain to stay in the locker room at the interval, with the United States international Yunus Musah taking his place at right-back in the second half.

Musah’s introduction changed the game in the wrong direction for Milan as he lost track of Nicola Sansone for Lecce’s first before his poor giveaway enabled Lameck Banda to level the score.

Milan almost left Puglia empty-handed at the end, but VAR disallowed what would’ve been Roberto Piccoli’s stoppage-time winner for a foul in the build-up.

But a draw felt like a loss, condemning the Rossoneri to a fourth consecutive Serie A outing without a victory.

Defenders turn strikers as Juventus’ winning run continues 

Juventus may not be playing the most eye-catching football, but results keep going their way, as did in a 2-1 home triumph over promoted Cagliari on Saturday night. 

After a goalless first half, Massimiliano Allegri’s men opened the scoring early in the second half through Gleison Bremer, who outjumped his marker to connect his header with Filip Kostic’s cross. 

Only ten minutes later, another Juventus defender turned scorer. Daniele Rugani found himself unmarked inside the six-yard box and had no problems marshalling the ball into an empty net. 

If there was a downside, the record-time Serie A champions conceded a goal after over 600 minutes of top-flight action as Alberto Dossena’s thumping header finished behind Wojciech Szczesny’s back. 

Juventus won’t lose much sleep over it after posting a fifth consecutive league win to stay within a two-point distance of Inter ahead of the break.

Empoli wins a battle of Azzurri to put the final nail in Garcia’s coffin

Sunday’s home encounter against relegation-threatened Empoli might have been Rudi Garcia’s last game in charge of Napoli as the reigning champions succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to the Tuscan minnows.

Despite establishing control of the proceedings from the get-go and unleashing 18 shots, including seven on target, the Partenopei could get past Gli Azzurri goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.

A catalogue of missed opportunities backfired in stoppages, with second-half substitute Viktor Kovalenko slotting home an absolute beauty to uphold Aurelio Andreazzoli’s sterling record against Napoli.

The 70-year-old coach racked up his fifth win in six Serie A matches against the southern giants, prompting rumours of Garcia’s dismissal, effective immediately. 

No goals in an ill-tempered derby

A derby of few chances saw Lazio and Roma share the spoils in a tepid 0-0 draw at the Stadio Olimpico.

Even though Lazio captain Ciro Immobile admitted in a pre-game interview that ‘the whole city grinds to a halt’ for his fixture, the 181st edition of the Derby della Capitale will soon fall into oblivion.

Much of the credit goes to Jose Mourinho, who resorted to his old bag of tricks to avoid conceding rather than pursuing a victory, although he agreed to disagree in the post-match conference. 

The fact Roma failed to attempt a shot on target since Rick Karsdorp’s 12th-minute strike that was parried by Ivan Provedel perhaps best illustrates Mourinho’s approach.

Lazio had two massive first-half chances. Luis Alberto hit the post with a stunning shot from outside the box before Rui Patricio made a terrific save to deny Alessio Romagnoli’s header.

Referee Davide Massa had a lot on his plate as he handed out eight yellow cards, four to each team, to ease the tensions.

Puskas award nominee inspires Inter to another win

Inter had won all five competitive games since returning from October’s international break and entered the game against newcomers Frosinone as odds-on favourites. 

Little did the Nerazzurri know they would need a moment of brilliance from Federico Dimarco towards the end of the first half to penetrate Eusebio Di Francesco’s stubborn backline.

Spotting Stefano Turati off his line, the Inter left-back pulled off a Puskas Award-worthy strike, executing an incredible lob from over 50 yards out at full sprint to send Giuseppe Meazza into raptures.

Minutes into the second half, Marcus Thuram drew a penalty for the hosts after zig-zagging past visiting defenders. Hakan Calhanoglu stepped up to the plate and converted another spot-kick to seal the deal for Inter.

Around the grounds

Sassuolo missed out on a prime opportunity to arrest a five-game winless league streak as they hauled back an early two-goal deficit to hold winless Salernitana to a 2-2 home draw on Friday. 

Speaking of shared spoils, Udinese’s eight stalemate in 12 Serie A matches this season kept them narrowly above the drop zone as Atalanta pegged them back in added time to draw 1-1.

Bologna’s ten-match unbeaten run ended at the Artemio Franchi against Fiorentina, with Thiago Motta’s side losing 2-1, while Genoa deepened Hellas Verona’s crisis with a 1-0 triumph on home turf.

Player of the week

Kovalenko’s first goal in Serie A since October 2021 would’ve probably been the ‘goal of the week’ if it weren’t for Dimarco’s screamer from the halfway line.

But the Ukrainian’s strike handed Empoli a significant victory in their early relegation scrap and probably spelt the end of Garcia’s tenure at Napoli. 

Looking ahead

Bragging rights will be at stake when Juventus and Inter square off in the first Derby d’Italia of the season after the international break.

Whether Garcia will be in charge when Napoli take on Atalanta remains to be seen, but Pioli should be in the dugout for Milan’s must-win home clash against Fiorentina.

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