Five things we learned from Serie A

December 04, 2016 at 23:09

At the capital derby, Roma’s absent fans were sorely missed, and so are Gonzalo Higuain’s scoring boots at Juventus.
Strike Gianluca Lapadula lost an internal battle but won the match for AC Milan with a late winner, and while Marek Hamsik ate into Diego Maradona’s 115-goal club record for Napoli.
Here are five things we learned in Serie A:
Fans’ absence makes Roma feel not at home
A Rome derby is not the same without half the fans, and the eery echoes resonating around a half-full Stadio Olimpico made it a strange experience for Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi. So much so he said Roma, the visitors at their shared Olimpico ground, felt they were playing away, at Napoli’s San Paolo stadium. Roma’s hardline ultras boycotted the Derby della Capitale, and their traditional stomping ground of the ‘Curva Nord’ (North End) to protest strict security measures introduced by city authorities last year in a bid to stem trouble and over-crowding due to fans sneaking past turnstiles. It left huge swathes of blue, the colour of the Olimpico seats, in the stadium at what is supposed to be the most intense derby in Italy. Roma overcame the relative lack of fans with two second-half goals in a 2-0 win that moved them up to second at four points off leaders Juventus.
Allegri steps up for misfiring Higuain
When it came to protecting misfiring striker Gonzalo Higuain from growing scrutiny, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri stepped up with aplomb when he admitted he hopes the Argentine doesn’t finish Serie A’s top scoer. “Every day someone needs to create a new Juventus problem,” Allegri lashed out at media after his injury-ravaged side beat Atalanta 3-1 to tighten their grip at the top. “Before, it was that we were playing badly … now, it’s Higuain. For me, it’s all just idle chit-chat.” Higuain, who hit a Serie A record of 36 goals for ex-club Napoli last season, has stalled at seven so far and hasn’t scored in Juve’s last four league outings. But Allegri, who aims to lead Juve to a record sixth consecutive league title, added: “When he was among the top scorers the past three seasons, he didn’t win the title. So it’s best for us he doesn’t finish top scorer.”
Cool head reaps reward for last-gasp Lapadula
In the absence of Colombian Carlos Bacca, AC Milan striker Gianluca Lapadula is making tentative strides. But a week after hitting a brace in a 4-1 win at Empoli, the Milan fans’ local favourite had to keep a cool head, following an on-field spat with French teammate M’Baye Niang over who would strike a penalty, on his way to rescuing their blushes against minnows Crotone with a last-gasp winner. Lapadula had won the penalty minutes after the restart but clashed with Niang when the French striker stepped up to take the ball away to place on the spot. Although Niang won that battle, he was left with egg on his face when he struck his effort off post and crossbar. Milan looked to be heading for a share of the spoils until Lapadula’s 86th minute strike secured their ninth win in 12 consecutive games to leave them third, four points off Juventus’s lead.
Hamsik on Maradona goals trail at Napoli
Napoli have never won Serie A without retired Argentine legend Diego Maradona, who helped steer the southerners to a second ‘scudetto’ in 1990 after their maiden title in 1987. But Maradona’s record 115-goal tally for the club is steadily coming under threat from Slovak midfielder Marek Hamsik, who scored his 104th Napoli goal in a 3-0 romp over Inter Milan. It helped Hamsik pull level with another Napoli favourite, Uruguay and Paris Saint Germain striker Edinson Cavani. Maradona scored 115 goals for Napoli over six, storied seasons between 1984 and 1991, when the Azzurri also finished runners-up in 1988 and 1989.
Palermo merry go-round set to continue
Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini made a total of eight coaching changes last season and has made two already this campaign, Eugenio Corini replacing Roberto De Zerbi after their fourth round Cup exit to La Spezia in midweek. For 90 minutes in Florence, Corini maintained hope that Palermo’s seven-game run of defeats, a new club record under De Zerbi, would end at Fiorentina only for a late Khouma Babacar winner to leave the coach distraught. Italian media reports Zamparini has overseen close to 60 coaching changes in 29 years as a club owner and Corini, who has signed a deal till the end of the season, saw Palermo return to bottom spot in his first game in charge.

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