This looked like another ideal weekend for Roma to strengthen its position in the race for next season’s Champions League places. With Inter and Milan squaring off in the Derby della Madonnina and Atalanta hosting Napoli, at least two of the Giallorossi’s direct rivals would drop points this weekend. However, things didn’t go as planned in Campania on Sunday evening.
Roma faced a defensive crisis so pronounced that Paulo Fonseca had to call on Federico Fazio to make his first league start since the summer and we even saw Juan Jesus make an appearance off the bench. Considering that, you’d expect Roma’s defense to be the issue against Benevento, but the defense did its job, the attack was toothless against the Sorcerers.
The scoreless draw meant that Roma kept back-to-back league clean sheets for the first time under Fonseca, but it was also the third straight league match away from the Olimpico that Roma was kept off the scoresheet. Thanks to two opponents dropping three points, the draw wasn’t catastrophic. Nevertheless, Roma’s first dropped points against a bottom half side could come back to bite the Giallorossi in the long run.
Every point counts!— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) February 22, 2021
The updated #SerieATIM League Table after Matchday 2️⃣3️⃣. #WeAreCalcio pic.twitter.com/a8AI1b5hRr
Read on to see how it all played out on Matchday 23.
Serie A Matchday 23 Results
Lazio Survive Sampdoria
Lazio 1, Sampdoria 0
The Biancoceleste rebounded from last weekend’s loss to Inter by beating Claudio Ranieri’s Samp 1-0 at the Olimpico on Saturday. Lazio came out the aggressors and looked set to dominate the match after a Luis Alberto goal that was assisted by Sergei Milinkovic-Savic in the 24th minute.
However, Samp grew into the match as Lazio let its foot off the gas a bit in the second half. Samp had a couple of opportunities to level the score during the second stanza, but couldn’t take advantage as none of its four shots were on target. In the end, Simone Inzaghi’s side got the job done ahead of Tuesday’s visit from Bayern Munich to the Olimpico.
The win puts Roma’s rivals on 43 points, just one behind the Giallorossi after this weekend’s results.
Inter Dominates Derby della Madonnina
Milan 0, Inter 3
In the most highly anticipated Milan Derby in probably a decade, it was the black and blue side of the city that celebrated. Inter took the match to its city rivals from the opening whistle en route to a resounding 3-0 victory.
The Nerazzurri struck after just five minutes when Romelu Lukaku swung in a cross that was headed home by Lautaro Martinez. Inter continued to control the match throughout the first half with Milan often looking disjointed. However, it was the Rossoneri that opened the second stanza with a flurry of their own.
The much-maligned Samir Handanovic made three great saves within the first few minutes of the half to keep his side up 1-0. Then, in the 57th minute, Martinez struck again. The Argentine was the benefactor of a great team goal set up by Eriksen and Perisic to put Inter up 2-0.
That goal seemed to kill off the match as Milan didn’t threaten much from there on out and Lukaku put the game beyond all doubt in the 66th minute. The big Belgian struck on the counter-attack to make it 3-0 and secure a four-point lead for the Nerazzurri at the top of the table.
With the win, Inter now looks to be the prohibitive title favorite and is ahead of Roma by nine points. Meanwhile, Roma’s draw means the Giallorossi were only able to cut the gap with Milan to five rather than three, so next Sunday’s match-up will no longer allow Roma to draw even with the Rossoneri, but it could move within two of Milan.
Atalanta Annihilate Napoli in a Tale of Two Halves
Atalanta 4, Napoli 2
Luckily for me, the adult chore of grocery shopping needed to be done on Sunday and I decided to sacrifice the first half of this match with Roma playing the next match. I say I was lucky because the first half of this one was surprisingly sleepy. Two of the more exciting teams in the league combined for very few chances. There was little action to speak us of outside of Gianpiero Gasperini being red-carded on a non-penalty call.
Luckily for me, I arrived back in time to catch most of the second half because it saw six goals between the sides. Atalanta struck first in the 52nd minute when Luis Muriel picked out Duvan Zapata for the headed goal. But, the lead didn’t last long as Piotr Zelinski scored a lovely volley just six minutes later. It looked like the Partenopei were back in it, but La Dea killed off their hope rather quickly.
Robin Gosens struck in the 64th minutes to put Atalanta back up 2-1. Then Muriel found a goal of his own in the 71st. Napoli would get the score back to 3-2 on a Gosens own goal just moments later in the 75th. But Atalanta killed off any remaining chance Napoli had to comeback when Cristian Romero scored in the 79th minute.
It was a thrilling 4-2 victory for La Dea, which pulls them within one point of Roma for fourth place; level with Lazio. The loss drops Napoli back to 7th place, four behind Roma and three behind Atalanta and Lazio. However, Napoli does have a match in hand on all three teams.
Juventus Down Crotone
Juve 3, Crotone 0
After a terrible week that saw Juve lose to Napoli and then Porto in the Champions League, there was no way the Bianconeri would suffer a similar result against bottom of the table Crotone. The Calabrese side was able to get an unexpected draw against the defending champs the first time around but would have no such luck against an angry Juve side.
The Bianconeri peppered Alex Cordaz’s goal en route to a 3-0 victory. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice with his head in the first half, before Weston McKennie made it three after the break. The win puts Juve back into third place—a point up on Roma with a match in hand.
- Fiorentina 3, Spezia 0
- Cagliari 0, Torino 1
- Genoa 2, Hellas Verona 2
- Sassuolo 1, Bologna 1
- Parma 2, Udinese 2
FiveThirtyEight Top Four Probabilities
Just last week, the computers were feeling pretty good about Roma’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League. The Giallorossi were fourth favorites with a 49% chance of finishing in the top four. However, Sunday’s draw coupled with some of the other results around the league influenced the computers to reduce Roma’s chance of a top-four finish to 44%.
Meanwhile, Atalanta’s big win against Napoli increased its UCL qualification probability to 68%—a 24 % jump. That means La Dea is now being given the third best chance of finishing in the top-four. Additionally, AC Milan saw it’s probability drop 10 points 58% after its derby loss. That means Roma’s home match against the Rossoneri could go a long way in the computer’s view of who finishes in the top four.
Other takeaways from the new projections include Inter Milan now being given a 72% chance of winning the Scudetto after hammering the Rossoneri and increasing its lead to four at the top. Napoli (26%) and Lazio (28%) are still considered somewhat outsiders for a top-four finish despite Lazio being level with Atalanta and Napoli just three behind with a match in hand.
Check back in next week to see how Sunday’s match against Milan—win, lose, or draw— affects Roma’s top four chances.