When Valentine’s Day coincides with a crucial weekend in the Serie A calendar, a little romance is to be expected. The only question is where you find it.
Lorenzo Insigne celebrated a winning goal for Napoli against Juventus by revealing a T-shirt dedicated to his wife, Jenny. The Gazzetta dello Sport columnist Luigi Garlando hailed the timing of Inter, nicknamed La Beneamata (The Beloved), waiting all season to go top at this perfect moment. Spezia’s Ricky Saponara pulled down a teammate’s shorts and spanked him on live television.
“I didn’t even realise that was happening,” confessed the player on the receiving end, Giulio Maggiore. “Riccardo likes to have fun. It’s totally fine, though. When you’re celebrating, anything can happen.”
That final sentiment could apply just as well to watching Serie A this season. This was another weekend of upended expectations, starting with Napoli’s 1-0 victory over Juventus. The Partenopei had collected four losses and just two wins from their preceding seven matches, amidst speculation that Gennaro Gattuso’s job was at risk.
Insigne himself had become something of a scapegoat, his missed penalty during the Supercoppa defeat to Juventus held up as evidence of scarce mental strength. At that stage, he had failed to convert any of three career spot-kicks against the Bianconeri. But when Giorgio Chiellini swatted a hand into the face of Amir Rrahmani at a set-piece on Saturday, Insigne cancelled that statistic with aplomb.
A win kept Napoli in the hunt for the Champions League places. It also offered an opportunity to Milan. Beat Spezia, and they would move 10 points clear of Juventus. Such a result would also heap pressure on to second-placed Inter, who faced a daunting fixture against Lazio the following night.
But that is not how things worked out. Instead, it was Spezia who swept a nation off its feet. Vincenzo Italiano’s team sat 16th in the table before kick-off, 28 points behind Milan, yet they dominated the game from the start.
The numbers tell their own story. Spezia scored twice, and hit the woodwork once, while Milan failed to register a shot on target for the first time in 18 months. The images were more vivid still, the Rossoneri reduced to chasing shadows by opponents who played with more intensity and aggression but also more creativity and self-expression. continue reading
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