MILAN, Jan 9 — Stuttering Roma are missing Africa Nations Cup-tied Mohamed Salah, Chelsea and Sevilla cold make Atalanta pay for their early-season success and Sampdoria’s flamboyant owner Massimo Ferrero hasn’t lost his trademark fire.
Here are five things we learned about Serie A last weekend:
Roma missing Africa-tied Salah
Mohamed Salah is at the Africa Cup of Nations and the Egyptian winger’s absence was felt as Roma laboured to a 1-0 win away at Genoa that closed the gap on Juventus to one point before the champions and Serie A leaders restored their four-point advantage with a 3-0 home win over Bologna in yesterday’s late game.
Fast, and adept at working his way around opposition players while in possession, Salah would have been an asset for Roma at the Luigi Ferraris stadium where Edin Dzeko missed a series of great chances for the visitors. In the end, Roma had Armando Izzo’s 36th minute own goal, and a couple of late stops from ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny, to thank for all three points. Salah has hit eight goals in 15 appearances for Roma this campaign and their loss could be Egypt’s gain at the CAN, where the north Africans meet Mali in their tournament opener.
Atalanta hit record form, but risk losing players
Atalanta completed the first half of the Serie A season in style, claiming a new club record of 35 points with 11 wins from 19 games including a 4-1 romp at Chievo where Alejandro Gomez hit a brace inside the opening 23 minutes. But their success has piqued the curiosity of clubs elsewhere and coach Gianpiero Gasperini could spend the latter half of the season trying to convince his bosses not to sell their key assets.
He confirmed yesterday that Roberto Gagliardini has already been sold to Inter Milan. Amid reports representatives from Chelsea and Spanish side Sevilla were in Chievo to observe 20-year-old Ivorian Franck Kessie as well as Andrea Conti, who hit Atalanta’s third goal, Gasperini went on the defensive, adding: “... we fully intend on hanging on to our other players until June.”
Fiery Ferrero roars up againFlamboyant Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero is notoriously outspoken, so it was hardly unexpected when the club’s film-producer owner fired up after a 2-1 defeat at title-chasing Napoli on Saturday. Once sanctioned by Serie A chiefs for calling Inter Milan’s former owner Erick Thohir, who is from Indonesia, a “Filipino” live on television, Ferrero had a poke at referee, Marco Di Bello, for “wrong” decisions that included Matias Silvestre’s sending-off for a “non-existant” foul on ‘keeper Pepe Reina, dubious offside calls that went Napoli’s way and for the five minutes of extra-time during which Lorenzo Tonelli hit the winner for Napoli on his club debut: “I want the referee (Marco) Di Bello to hold up his hands. And to get sanctioned by the federation!” slammed Ferrero. “Napoli were offside at least eight times! Come on, we’ve had enough. And why, ask me, was there five minutes added on at the end?”
Bacca’s 98-day goal drought ends
A lean spell of nearly 100 days for a striker is a lifetime, so it was no wonder AC Milan’s misfiring front man Carlos Bacca was linked with a move away from the seven-time European champions before the festive break. The headline writers could now change tack after the Colombia international ended his 98-day goal drought with an 88th minute strike that secured a precious 1-0 win over a stubborn Cagliari. Bacca’s first league goal since scoring from the penalty spot in a 4-3 home win over Sassuolo on October 2 moved the resurgent Rossoneri, who beat Juventus recently to claim the Italian Super Cup in Doha days before Christmas, up to fifth at nine points behind the league leaders from Turin.
Perisic keeps Inter ticking over
When it comes to gathering the plaudits, Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi, who has scored a league-leading 14 goals in 19 games, is usually front of the queue. But after a mediocre performance from the Argentine, the Nerazzurri had silky Croatian midfielder Ivan Perisic to thank for a pair of goals yesteday that secured a hard-fought and crucial 2-1 win at Udinese. Icardi was virtually absent in the first half until he set up Perisic for a low strike that beat Orestis Karnezis inside the goalkeeper’s near post seconds before the interval.
Minutes before full-time, Perisic rose to meet Joao Mario’s cross to beat the Greek keeper for his sixth goal of the campaign to help secure Inter’s fourth win on the trot. The Croatian said, humbly: “I don’t care who scores the goals, as long as we win. We’ve won four in a row, but we have to make it five.” — AFP