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Serie A Weekly: AC Milan back to winning ways, Napoli’s downfall hits new low, Allegri enters history books

Serie A action in 2023 closed out with one of the most uneventful rounds of the season.

But despite numerous low-scoring affairs, Round 18 in the Italian top flight delivered some exciting moments.

Buckle up as we walk you through the 2023 sign-off matchday.

Mazzarri’s days in Naples potentially numbered after another fiasco

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis had a revolution at the forefront of his mind when he sacked Rudi Garcia and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new chief of staff in late November. 

However, the crisis has deepened, with Friday night’s abysmal 0-0 home draw against mid-table Monza condemning the experienced coach to a sixth winless game in charge. 

Without significant first-team elements, including Natan, Matteo Politano and Stanislav Lobotka, the reigning Serie A champions delivered another sub-par performance.

After a feeble first-half dominance and a disastrous start to the second half, Napoli had goalkeeper Alex Meret to thank for avoiding another defeat at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

The Italian stopper thwarted Matteo Pessina’s penalty midway through the second half to register Napoli’s first clean sheet in Serie A since early November. 

But whether that will be enough to salvage Mazzarri’s career in southern Italy remains to be seen.

Genoa upset the apple cart as Inter end 2023 on a sorrowful note

A fortnight after holding Scudetto-bidding Juventus to a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa applied the same recipe to knock Serie A leaders Inter Milan down from a four-game winning league streak.

Despite missing standout forward Lautaro Martinez, Simone Inzaghi’s troops took this trip to Liguria in high spirits after racking up four consecutive league victories by 2+ goals ‘to nil.’

When summer signing Marko Arnautovic found his Nerazzurri breakthrough in the 42nd minute to fire the visitors in front, not even the most optimistic Genoa fans believed in a comeback.

However, in-demand defender Radu Dragusin thought otherwise as he powered home a thumping header on the stroke of half-time to draw the Griffins level and set the final scoreline.

Pulisic takes Pioli down from the guillotine

AC Milan had one goal and one goal only – beat Sassuolo at home for the first time since 2019 and leave Stefano Pioli at the board’s mercy. 

Following a 2-2 draw at rock-bottom Salernitana last time out, the Rossoneri were hardly in a position to place lofty expectations ahead of themselves.

But a three-game winning home league run at the San Siro was inspiring as they aspired to end the Neroverdi’s incredible streak of three consecutive top-flight wins in Lombardy. 

However, the hosts’ underwhelming first-half display threatened Pioli’s managerial post at half-time before Christian Pulisic came to the rescue.

The forward has reaffirmed his hero status at Milan with a second-half winner, pouncing on Ismael Bennacer’s defence-splitting pass to beat Andrea Consigli and fire the Rossoneri to a narrow 1-0 win.

With Inter slumping at Genoa, Pioli’s men have reduced the distance on the top of the table to nine points, but the Scudetto still looks like a pipe dream.

Juventus topple Roma ‘Allegri style’

Saturday’s Serie A action drew to a close at the Allianz Stadium with a mouth-watering encounter between runners-up Juventus and top-four hopefuls Roma.

As expected, clear-cut opportunities were at a premium, although a goalless first half produced several half-chances on both ends of the pitch. 

Only two minutes into the second half, Adrien Rabiot avoided the offside trap to break one-on-one with Rui Patricio after receiving a delightful backheel pass from Dusan Vlahovic.

The French midfielder still had a lot to do as he beat the Roma goalkeeper to the near post from an acute angle to catapult Juventus to another precious 1-0 victory. 

Despite almost 50% of Juve’s top-flight wins this season yielding the same 1-0 scoreline, they’ve whittled down the gap on Inter to two points heading into the new calendar year.

Rabiot’s goal was worthy of the history books as Saturday’s triumph marked Massimiliano Allegri’s 76th 1-0 win in Serie A, most of any manager in the competition. 

Aptly named ‘Short Nose’ in his homeland, Allegri lived up to his tag as a ‘1-0 manager,’ leaving the legendary Carlo Ancelotti (75) in his wake. 

Around the grounds

Atalanta took advantage of Roma’s slip in Turin to move to sixth in the standings with a hard-earned 1-0 home win against bottom-half Lecce, maintaining a four-point gap on fourth-placed Fiorentina. 

The same scoreline saw La Viola overcome Torino at home and leapfrog Bologna into fourth after Thiago Motta’s side succumbed to a dreadful 3-0 defeat at Udinese.

Lazio pulled off a memorable late comeback to thrash newly-promoted Frosinone 3-1 on home turf despite lacking star duo Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto. 

Frosinone’s fellow promoted rivals Cagliari shared the spoils with relegation-threatened Empoli in an uneventful 0-0 draw at the Unipol Domus.

In another relegation six-pointer, Salernitana edged out out-of-sorts Hellas Verona 1-0 at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, courtesy of Loum Tchaouna’s strike at the start of the second half. 

Player of the week

Forwards have seemingly departed early for the holidays, and as a result, seven out of ten Serie A games this weekend featured one goal or fewer.

In one of the least impressive weekends in the Italian top flight this season, one name popped up. With Immobile and Alberto out, Lazio needed a hero to drag them out of the crisis.

Summer signing Taty Castellanos couldn’t have chosen a better moment to burst into life. In a two-minute blitz, the ex-Girona striker first scored a stunning header before setting Gustav Isaksen on a plater.

What’s next

Inter’s quest to redeem themselves for a sluggish performance at Genoa brings them back to Giuseppe Meazza for a routine-looking clash against 17th-placed Hellas Verona.

Second-placed Juventus head to the south to meet basement boys Salernitana, while Milan travel to the Stadio Carlo Castellani to take on a troubled Empoli side.

Stadio Olimpico sets the stage for arguably the most exciting match-up as Roma and Atalanta go head-to-head in a top-six six-pointer.

Troubled champions Napoli face a stern test in Turin against Torino, with Udinese hosting last season’s runners-up Lazio at the Dacia Arena. 

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