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Serie A Matchday 22 Wrap-Up: Roma Capitalizes on Rivals’ Slip-Ups

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The Giallorossi find themselves back in third after some results went there way around the league.

Spezia Calcio v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

We entered the weekend knowing that if Roma took care of business against Udinese then there would be a golden opportunity to take advantage of some rivals dropping points. That was because Inter was hosting Lazio and Napoli was hosting Juventus. With four of Roma’s six direct competitors for a Champions League place squaring off, it was a given that at least two of the four would falter.

Of course, how good of a weekend this would be for the Giallorossi was always dependent on Roma; first and foremost. If Roma slipped up against Rodrigo De Paul and company then it would make no difference what happened elsewhere because Roma wouldn’t make up ground regardless.

But, as we saw early on in Sunday’s match at the Olimpico, that wouldn’t need to be a worry. Roma came out firing on all cylinders to rebound in resounding fashion after last weekend’s defeat in Turin. Roma ran roughshod over the Zebrette in the capital; eventually winning the match 3-0.

That three-goal win meant that Roma was able to capitalize on losses by both Juve and Lazio— the two teams closest to the Giallorossi on the table. As an added bonus, Milan also lost, meaning Roma made up ground on half of its direct challengers for the top four.

As you can see, Roma has found its way back into the top three. So, as you digest the table, let’s rundown how it all went down this weekend on the peninsula.

Serie A Matchday 22 Results

Vesuvius Victorious Against Juve

Napoli 1, Juventus 0

Having met recently in the Supercoppa but still yet to play their first league fixture after the COVID-related controversy from the fall, Napoli and Juventus finally faced each other in league play.

Juve entered this one favored, despite the match being played in Naples. The Partenopei had struggled for form entering this one and reports were swirling that Gennaro Gattuso could be on the chopping block with a loss. Meanwhile, Juve entered riding high after defeating Roma and eliminating Inter from the Coppa Italia in the previous seven days. This one looked like a classic Juve victory in the making, but then it wasn’t.

Despite dominating play, Juve couldn’t find a way past Napoli’s reserve central defenders (Maksimovic and Rrhamani) and Alex Meret in goal, who was fantastic. The Bianconeri controlled 63% of possession and outshot Napoli 24 to 8, but it was all for naught. The match all came down to one key moment.

Just before the half-hour mark, VAR rewarded Napoli with a penalty when Giorgio Chiellini’s flailing arm caught Rrahmani in the face on a corner kick. Lorenzo Insigne stepped to the spot and drilled home the shot. That was all the Neapolitans would need to see off the champs 1-0.

The result means Roma jumps back over the defending champs Juventus into third place by a point, while Napoli remains in fifth place, three points behind Roma. It's important to keep in mind that Napoli and Juventus still have to play their remaining league match and have a game in hand over Roma.

Spezia Slays Milan

Spezia 2, Milan 0

Spezia kept up its giant-killing ways on Saturday when it dismantled top of the table Milan in impressive fashion 2-0 at home. Romanisti know all too well just how good Vincezno Italiano’s side can be on its day, but this victory may be it's most impressive to date.

The Serie A newcomers just completely outplayed the Rossoneri. Milan eked out the possession battle 54-46%, but in the end, it meant absolutely nothing, as Spezia held the visitors to no shots on goal. Overall, Spezia outshot Milan 17-7 and was able to put two of its four shots on target in the back of Gigi Donnarumma’s net.

Spezia struck twice in a span of eleven minutes to take home maximum points when Giulio Maggiore and Simone Bastoni scored in the 56th and 67th. The first was a lovely team goal that started with some hard work from False nine Kevin Agudelo before Maggiore tapped it home. The second was a highlight reel hit from Bastoni after the ball was rolled to him on a free-kick.

The loss sees Milan drop out of first place, leapfrogged by rivals Inter, which adds to the storyline of next week’s Derby della Madonnina. Roma now trails Milan by six points and faces the Rossoneri in two weeks' time. If results go their way next week, the Giallorossi could enter that match within striking distance of Milan.

Atalanta Escapes Sardegna

Cagliari 0, Atalanta 1

Atalanta entered this one in a bit of up and down form, provisionally six points behind Roma after the Giallorossi won just before this match kicked off. And for long stretches, it looked like Atalanta would drop a few more points.

Cagliari defended well and limited Atalanta’s potent attack for much of the match. As expected, i Sardi ceded much of the possession to La Dea (64%) but conceded just two shots on target. It wasn’t the most entertaining match, and as ESPN commentator Mark Donaldson put it “the match sort of just meandered along”.

That was until the 90th minute when super-sub Luis Muriel struck yet again. The Colombian split two Cagliari defenders to score what looked to be the match winner. Then moments later Atalanta was called for a penalty when it appeared that Martin De Roon clearly upended Daniele Rugani as he shot from inside the box. Unfortunately, for Cagliari (and Roma) VAR overturned the decision and Atalanta won 1-0 thanks to the late drama.

The late win means Atalanta remains just three points behind Roma in sixth place.

Inter Top Lazio

Inter 3, Lazio 1

While it was a pretty good weekend for Roma, Inter Milan truly won the weekend. The Nerazzurri hosted Lazio in the match of the week at the San Siro—and it lived up to the billing.

Lazio went toe-to-toe with Inter and on another day could very well have won this one. However, despite controlling large swaths of the possession (65%) and outshooting Inter 14 to 12, the Biancoceleste couldn’t get it done.

Wesley Hoedt was whistled for a penalty that was upheld by VAR when he took out Lautaro’s trailing leg before getting the ball. It was a tough (but correct) call that would see Inter go up 1-0 as Romelu Lukaku buried the spot-kick.

As much as that goal hurt, the real hammer blow came right before the half when a loose ball fell to an unmarked Lukaku who buried the chance. The goal was initially called offside but reversed by VAR because it came off a defender to the Inter man. That goal sent Inter into the locker room up 2-0.

Lazio wouldn’t go down without a fight though. In the 61st minute, Lazio got one back when Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s free-kick deflected in off Gonzalo Escalante. However, Inter would seal the deal just moments later when Lukaku went on a blistering run and slid it to Lautaro who tapped it home.

The 3-1 win moves Inter to the top of the table. The Nerazzurri are a point ahead of Milan ahead of next weekend’s derby, while Roma is seven behind the leaders. Meanwhile, the loss drops Lazio to seventh (as they lose out on a tiebreaker to Napoli and Atalanta), but the Biancoceleste are just three points behind the Giallorossi.

Other Results

  • Bologna 1, Benevento 1
  • Torino 0, Genoa 0
  • Sampdoria 2, Fiorentina 1
  • Crotone 1, Sassuolo 2
  • Hellas Verona vs Parma- Mon. 14:45 EST

FiveThirtyEight Top Four Probabilities

Roma is now 4th favorite for a UCL place according to the latest projections.
https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/soccer-predictions/serie-a/

The ebb and flow of the most topsy-turvy Serie A season in recent memory continues as this weekend’s results again shook up the fivethirtyeight.com projections yet again. Inter saw the biggest net-positive among the top teams as its now a 57% favorite to win the league. That’s up from 44% just a week ago. The Nerazzurri are also given a 95% chance of UCL qualification.

Meanwhile, Juve’s and Milan’s title chances took a hit with their losses. The Rossoneri fall from 23% to 12% and Juve from 24% to 19%. The Bianconeri took a slight hit to their UCL chances dropping three points, but are still heavily favored at 81% for a top-four finish. Milan for its part saw a considerable drop to its UCL favorability. The Rossoneri are down 15% to 68% chance of a top-four finish.

Roma’s win saw it move into the good graces of the computers. The Giallorossi are now a top-four favorite at 49%, which is a 10% jump from last weekend. The computers see Atalanta as Roma’s closest competition at the moment (44%). They’re followed by Napoli (38%) and Lazio (24%). Expect these numbers to fluctuate weekly, so check back with us after each match day to see just where Roma stands in the projections.