AC Milan are Winter Champions of Serie A

AC Milan are Winter Champions of Serie A

Played last weekend, the 18th round of games in Serie A marks the halfway point in the 2020/21 season. Some crucial games were played over this round, like the famous Derby d’Italia between Inter and Juventus, and the Derby della Capitale between Lazio and Roma. 

 

To start the weekend off, Lazio and Roma squared off in Rome, at the Stadio Olimpico. Before the game, Roma was in a strong third place spot only four points behind leaders AC Milan. Lazio on the other hand were down the order and out of all European competition spots. 

 

Despite Roma being in a better spot and better form, Lazio outclassed them in a convincing 3-0 win with two goals from Luis Alberto and one from Ciro Immobile. Lazio had far less possession but capitalized their chances on fast breakaways with the help of starring wingback Lazzari, who assisted two of the three goals. They were also incredibly composed at the back only letting Roma get a single shot on net throughout the whole game. 

 

Saturday was Napoli’s turn to take on a convincing Fiorentina side who had been able to crush reigning champions Juventus in their home turf just a few rounds back by a margin of three goals to zero. 

 

Played at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples, the game was as one sided as it gets, with Napoli’s attack finding the back of the net in six different occasions. Captain Insigne was on target twice, once from the penalty spot. Zielinski, Demme, Politano, and Lozano completed the goleada on Saturday afternoon. 

 

Despite the scoreboard being very one sided, Fiorentina actually didn’t have that terrible of a game. With more overall shots than Napoi, they simply couldn’t find the target, as only two of those eleven shots were within the framing of the net. As much as their attacking play was sort of efficient, their defensive shape was very  inconsistent and Napoli’s quick and creative play easily exploited the gaps. 

 

Sunday night was the most awaited moment for a great portion of the fans around Italy, as Juventus travelled to Milan to play Inter at San Siro. Perhaps the fiercest of competition between rival teams in Italy, this game also played a crucial role in the development of the team’s season, as Juventus was within four points of Inter before the match. 

 

After beating leaders AC Milan, Juventus looked to beat direct title rivals Inter and close the gap between second and third place. As much as this was a good plan, Juventus were outclassed by Inter at San Siro and looked awfully disoriented and out of shape throughout most of the game. 

 

Former Juventus coach Antonio Conte, now manager of Inter Milan, had told the press that he knew how to hurt Juventus prior to the match. Fair to say he was not lying, as Inter used quick counter attack play and fast development of the ball down the flanks to secure a two nothing win over Juventus. 

 

Juventus scored an early goal when Ronaldo tapped the ball in after Chiesa squared it across the face of the goal. However, the goal was quickly ruled out as Chiesa was in an offside position. 

 

That would be Juventus’ best chance during the game, as Inter grew in confidence and began attacking the Bianconeri backline with Hakimi’s pace and Lukaku’s physical style of play. Arturo Vidal, ex Juventus midfielder, scored a thumping header in the 12th minute to secure a lead for Inter, which Barella doubled on after a run in behind Chiellini was met with a phenomenal pinned ball by Bastoni. 

 

Lautaro Martinez had plenty of chances to get himself on the scoresheet as well. The Argentine missed an open net tapin off of a rebound from Lukaku’s shot, and had a couple further chances in the second half that fell just wide of the post.  

 

In the post match interview, Conte told the press that “we played a nearly perfect game”, while Andrea Pirlo, Juventus’ coach, said “we could not have played worse than that”. With this crucial win, Inter briefly came equal in points to Milan at the top of the table and pulled a seven point gap to Juventus. 

 

The pressure was on Milan to deliver a win in Sardinia against Cagliari to respond to Inter and keep their lead. With the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the first minute, Milan shifted through the gears nicely and secured a 2-0 win with both goals from Zlatan, despite Alexis Salaemakers being sent off in the middle of the second half. 

 

So, at the end of the first half of the season, the fight for the title looks like a two way race between Milan and Inter. Juventus, Napoli and Roma will all put up a challenge for a potential third spot or better, while Lazio and Atalanta will bring their fight for the fourth Champions League spot.