With their eighth straight scudetto long since clinched, Juve slumped their way to the season’s finish line without a win in their final five games (three draws), including Sunday’s 2-0 loss away to Sampdoria. It was 0-0 for 83 minute, until Gregoire Defrel (84th) and Gianluca Caprari (91st) bagged late goals for the victory.
Atalanta (3rd) 3-1 Sassuolo (11th)
Atalanta completed their fairytale season and finished third in a hugely dramatic, chaotic way befitting their rapid rise to Champions League relevance. They finished 17th and avoided relegation by three points in 2015.
First, they fell behind when Domenico Berardi scored in the 19th minute. They were level by the 35 minute, thanks to Duvan Zapata’s equalizer. Then, things got weird.
Berardi was sent off during a massive skirmish between the two sides while leaving the field for halftime. With the score 1-1, and both Inter Milan and AC Milan ahead after 51 minutes, Atalanta were headed for a fifth-place finish.
Alejandro Gomez put Atalanta ahead three minutes later, though, and Mario Pasalic doubled the advantage in the 65th.
At that 51-minute mark, Keita Balde’s opening goal put Inter ahead of Empoli, but the visitors equalized in the 76th, briefly dropping them to fifth.
That lasted all of five minutes, as Radja Nainggolan put Luciano Spaletti’s side back in front, where they would finish the season. The top-four finished the day exactly as it began — Atalanta in 3rd and Inter Milan in 4th, each on 69 points.
SPAL (13th) 2-3 AC Milan (5th)
For those five glorious minutes, AC Milan were headed back to the Champions League for the first time since 2014, and were set to do so at the expense of their local rivals.
Finishing fourth, but behind Inter, would have been fine, but finishing fourth and ahead of Inter would have been a dreamland outcome. Alas, it’s a fifth-place finish on 68 points and another season in the Europa League for the Rossoneri.
Napoli failed to restore its eight-point lead over AC Milan in the Serie A table as Carlo Ancelotti’s squad required an 86th minute goal to earn a 1-1 road draw at Sassuolo.
Domenico Berardi put the home side up 52 minutes in as a cross from the right flank was blocked by a sliding Allan at the near post but the ball stayed in play and pinged around to Berardi who popped it into the back of the net from close range off the fingertips of a scrambling David Ospina. Gianluca Pegolo stopped Amadou Diawara’s long-range effort on 74 minutes, but Napoli managed to draw level in the 86th minute as Lorenzo Insigne collected a deflected cross and rifled it into the far corner.
Inter, meanwhile, popped off 15 shots on the SPAL defense, and while they only put two on target, they buried both those attempts in a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Matteo Politano and Roberto Gagliardini.
The hosts had the opener on the half-hour mark, but VAR ruled the goal out for a handball as Lautaro Martinez controlled a cross at the top of the box before rifling into the back of the net. After the break, Politano’s opener came on the 66th minute, collecting the ball thanks to a fortunate deflection off Pasquale Schiattarella before delivering a wonderful finish tucked inside the far corner. Gagliardini killed off the game with a sloppy volleyed effort from the penalty spot in the 77th minute and Inter moved six points in the final Champions League spot ahead of three teams level on points behind them.
Torino and Atalanta both kept pace with victories, moving up to 44 points to pull level with Roma and sit six back of Inter in fourth. Roma plays tomorrow, visiting Empoli.
Andrea Belotti bagged a winning brace as Torino went to Frosinone and came from behind to win 2-1, condemning the hosts to another week of relegation talk. Frosinone went ahead as Luca Paganini expertly headed home a corner into the far corner, giving the 19th-placed side hope. After the break, Belotti brought Torino level as he responded with a header of his own, meeting Iago Falque’s free-kick at the far post. His second featured an acrobatic finish, a low overhead kick that met Ola Aina’s headed cross in the 77th minute.
Lazio, meanwhile, fell behind the pace, slumping to a 1-1 draw with Fiorentina as Luis Muriel’s second-half goal cancelled out a Ciro Immobile opener. Lazio weathered 13 shots from the hosts, and while Fiorentina put just one on target, they scored with it as Kevin Mirallas did excellent work on the right flank and rifled in a cross to the middle where Murial simply redirected it into the far corner.
Robin Gosens was the one to send Atalanta through with a road win of its own, scoring the winner with a stunning 77th minute touch from an unbelievably tight angle nearly on the byline. Mario Pasalic’s cross was tipped by a diving Emil Audero, and with the goal open, Gosens redirected the ball over the goal line. His goal broke a 1-1 scoreline after Duvan Zapata and Fabio Quagliarella had cancelled each other out each with second-half goals.
Finally, Bologna pummeled Cagliari to earn a 2-0 win at home. The hosts ripped off a whopping 21 shots, putting nine on target that led to goals by Erick Pulgar and Roberto Soriano. The former scored from the spot in the 34th minute to open the scoring while Soriano finished it off with 13 minutes to go after great individual work on the ball at the doorstep.
According to the report: “The sole exception to the FIFA decision: Talents under the age of 21 who have been trained by their home club and have been under contract there for an extended period of time may continue to be loaned in unlimited numbers to further their development by collecting match practice elsewhere.”
This would waylay the current practice of bigger clubs like Chelsea, which has 40 players playing for other clubs including Americans Matt Miazga (Nantes) and Kyle Scott (Telstar).
Could this lead clubs to subvert academy rules and sign more players, younger? There are limits on scholars, sure, but clever teams are going to look for an edge.
And what would it mean to players from outside of Europe? Certainly Major League Soccer, Liga MX, and several name South American leagues would have its best young players a bit longer, but at what cost, if any, to national team development?
The rule would certainly strengthen teams deep into the market on account of Chelsea; Michy Batshuayi, Baba Rahman, Kenedy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Kurt Zouma, Kylian Hazard, Mario Pasalic, and Kenedy would have the loan number at 8 before Chelsea considered what to do with any of their other non-CFC Academy talents.
And while 40 is an absurd number, eight is average if pretty low.
Arsenal has 7, Bournemouth 6, Brighton 5, Burnley 8, Cardiff 4, Crystal Palace 6, Everton 14, Fulham 1, Huddersfield Town 5, Leicester 4, Liverpool 12, Man City 12, Manchester United 5, Newcastle 5, Southampton 12, Spurs 2, Watford 8, West Ham 7, Wolves 19.