Antonio Candreva’s 67th minute goal gave Inter Milan a lead against the run of play, and dominant Southampton failed to take advantage of an Inter red card in a 1-0 loss at the San Siro on Thursday. (video)
The setback was Southampton’s first in Europa League play this season, and costs them the top spot in Group K at the group stage’s midpoint.
A roundup of all of the weekend’s action in Italy’s top flight:
Inter Milan 1-2 Lazio
Inter Milan’s lead atop the Serie A table shrunk from four points to one on Sunday with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of 10th-place Lazio. The visitors went ahead through Antonio Candreva’s long-range blast in the 5th minute (below video), but Roberto Mancini’s side equalized through Mauro Icardi just after the half-hour mark. Candreva bagged his brace on 87 minutes. The defeat is just the third of the season for Inter (36 points), and second since the start of October, but with everyone else in the title race winning on the weekend, it’s already proved a costly result.
2nd-place Napoli broke a two-game winless streak with a 3-1 away victory over 9th-place Atalanta on Sunday. Marek Hamsik opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute, before — who else? — Gonzalo Higuain bagged a brace on 62 and 85 minutes. Sunday’s haul makes it 16 goals in league games for Higuain this season.
Fiorentina 2-0 Chievo
Still hanging around the title race, and very much in with a shout for UEFA Champions League qualification (top-three), is Fiorentina, who topped 11th-place Chievo on Sunday. Nikola Kalinic (20th minute) and Josip Ilicic (32nd) bagged the early goals to keep Paulo Sousa’s side third in the table, now just a point back of Inter.
Carpi 2-3 Juventus
Get off the tracks, everyone, because Juventus are coming through with a full head of steam… and then some. Sunday’s victory against 19th-place Carpi makes it seven in a row for Massimiliano Allegri’s four-time defending Serie A champions. Mario Mandzukic scored twice (18th and 41st minutes) for Juve, who also got a goal from Paul Pogba (50th). The 3-2 scoreline flatters Carpi, who took a 15th-minute lead through Marco Borriello and pulled back a consolation goal in second-half stoppage time through Leonardo Bonucci.
Things are beginning to look up again for Roma, who now are now three games unbeaten. The only problem: Sunday’s victory was their first in five games, and they’ve fallen to 5th during that poor run of form. Alessandro Florenzi opened the scoring in the 42nd minute and Sadiq Umar added the late insurance goal (89th minute) to keep Rudi Garcia’s side in the top-five (Europa League qualification), four points ahead of 6th-place AC Milan.
Frosinone 2-4 AC Milan
Speaking of Milan, the Rossoneri put four past 18th-place Frosinone on Sunday, which was enough from them to leapfrog Sassuolo for 6th place. After going down a goal on 15 minutes, Ignazio Abate equalized for Milan in the 50th minute. Carlos Bacca gave Milan the lead five minutes later, and Alex scored the eventual winner in the 77th minute. Frosinone hit back in the 83rd, but Giacomo Bonventura re-established the two-goal lead in second-half stoppage time.
Netherlands 6-0 Latvia The good news? Robin van Persie left little doubt as to whether their World Cup hangover had been cured, with the Manchester United striker scoring in the sixth minute to key three goals in each half. Arjen Robben added a brace, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar also scored two and Jeffrey Bruma also scored. The bad news? Daley Blind may have a serious injury.
Czech Republic 2-1 Iceland Ragnar Sigurdsson started the visitors off with a bang in the ninth minute, but Pavel Kaderabek netted off a set piece right before halftime and a Jon Dadi Bodvarsson own goal lifted the hosts to all three points and the top spot in the group. Iceland is three points behind with 9, a trio of points ahead of the third place Dutch.
Turkey 3-1 Kazakhstan Galatasaray striker Burak Yilmaz scored a brace as the hosts dominated play to the tune of an 18-6 advantage in shots attempted. With a pair of losses, the Turks are still two points back of the Netherlands for third place.
Cyprus 5-0 Andorra Group B is an absolute mess, and the Cypriot team is reaping the benefits, currently in third place above Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina. APOEL winger Giorgos Efrem scored a hat trick to key the win, as Cyprus had 83 percent possession.
Israel 3-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina The hosts led 2-0 when Toni Sunjic picked up a red card in the 47th minute to help Israel cruise to the win. No Edin Dzeko is going to be a problem for BNH, who lost the shots battle 14-13 and sunk to fifth out of six teams in Group B.
Belgium 0-0 Wales All the credit to the Welsh here, who defended as a team to put themselves a point behind Israel for tops in the group. If qualifying ended today, Belgium’s Red Devils would miss Euro 2016. Wow.
Italy 1-1 Croatia Both goals were scored in the first 15 minutes of the match, with Ivan Perisic evening things after Antonio Candreva put the hosts ahead. Croatia carried possession, shots and corners in the match but couldn’t get the three road points they wanted. The two sides are even atop the group on 10 points, with Croatia leading in goal differential by five points.
Bulgaria 1-1 Malta Livorno property Andrey Garabinov put the home team up early, but a penalty converted by Clayton Failla gave Malta its first point of qualifying. Bulgaria had 73 percent possession and outshot the Maltese 22-8.
Azerbaijan 0-1 Norway Borussia Monchengladbach holding mid Håvard Nordtveit headed home a cross in the 25th minute to give the visitors a close-range goal and a 1-0 lead they would not relinquish despite a stubborn effort from Berti Vogts’ crew.
New Italy boss Antonio Conte has named his roster for upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Malta, but striker Mario Balotelli, who has been considered one of Italy’s more dynamic forwards, didn’t make the cut again.
And this action arrived after Brendan Rogers decided to nix the Italian from his usual starting XI in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over West Brom earlier today.
Balotelli was also excluded from his country’s friendly vs. the Netherlands and Euro qualifier against Norway in September.
Conte has added a fresh face to replace the 24-year-old striker in the forward rotation. His name is Graziano Pelle and he’s enjoyed a great beginning to the season, scoring five goals in eight games so far this season. Pelle is a huge reason for Southampton’s early year success.
On the defensive side, youngster Daniele Rugani received his very first call-up to the senior team, and the Blues highest-capped defender, Juventus man Giorgio Chellini, is unsurprisingly set to star for his country.
One of the most anticipated matches of the World Cup’s opening week lived up to expectations, with both Italy and England flashing second round form during the Azzurri’s 2-1 win in Manaus, Brazil. Yet despite goals from Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli offsetting Daniel Sturridge’s first half equalizer, each side showed enough weaknesses to give future opponents hope. For Italy, that meant reminding the world of its inherent limitations, while England showed a surprising inability to deal with the obvious.
Here are five talking points from today’s marquee matchup:
1. This is so Prandelli’s Italy – Dominating possession, leveraging the skill of its midfielders, and relying on movement around its core. This is so Cesare Prandelli’s Italy, a team that represents the perfect balance of its coaches’ philosophy, players’ skills, and culture’s value.
In that way, there’s this brilliant, admirable balance to the Italians, especially considering their dependence on a few singular talents. Built around Andrea Pirlo, relying on Mario Balotelli, and hoping to protect its savvy but slow defense, all of the Azzurri’s defying qualities were on display in today’s opener.
Compared to the team that flopped four years ago, it’s a refreshing if imperfect change. Even against England, the defense’s shortcomings and the lack of attacking options was a problem. Just as we saw at Euro 2012 and the Confederations Cup, these issues could be Italy’s downfall.
Still, let’s not overlook the progress Prandelli’s made. Let’s not take his journey for granted. In the wake 2010’s group stage exit, the former Fiorentina boss had to completely remake this team. Now, as he approaches the end of his journey, we can appreciate the results.
2. Pirlo didn’t decide the match – Here’s a brief synopsis of the English media’s expectations for the match: Pirlo, Pirlo, and more Pirlo. At least, that’s what I remember. The coverage was so focused on the regista, you’d be forgiven for asking “how’s Italy going to win if they play 1-on-11?”
And no mistaking it, Pirlo was good. Organizing, probing, distributing as Italy pushed England in their defensive third, all the sublime greatness we associate with the 35-year-old icon was on display.
Thanks in part of England’s approach, he completed 105 passes at a 95 percent clip. England’s high man: Steven Gerrard, completing 67 balls. It was an amazingly prolific and efficient day – one that will leave mouths agape as people scan the final numbers.
Pirlo, however, didn’t decide the match. He may have dictated it, but it was Claudio Marchisio, Mario Balotelli, and Antonio Candreva that influenced the game’s biggest moments. At the final whistle, Pirlo’s greatness was clear, but his teammates’ contributions were just as important.
3. England’s attackers deserved the hype – Once the game opened up, it was clear Italy wasn’t going to be able to keep up. Raheem Sterling, when he dropped to pick up the ball, saw room as he turned toward the defense. Wayne Rooney took advantage of the same space in the second half. Danny Welbeck was able to beat defenders one-on-one, while Italy had problems with Daniel Sturridge’s runs. If England finished their chances, they were going to get a result. Unfortunately, their best chance of the second half fell to Rooney, who remains scoreless in World Cup.
Mind you, England did this is against Italy. Yeah, their defenders are slow, but they’re good, and we know how organized their midfield can be. The Three Lions may have only scored one goal, but they created enough chances to expect more going forward.
What does that say about Wednesday’s game, where England will face and even more stoic Uruguay central defense? Or in the group finale, where Costa Rica won’t offer as much resistance in the middle. It says …
4. There’s no margin for error, but reason to believe – … that England should still be favored to get out of its group. Perhaps Uruguay will recover from today’s loss, and maybe Costa Rica is for real, but based on what we saw today, the Three Lions should be considered favorites in each of their last two games. Even with this loss, Roy Hodgson should maintain his sights on the second round.
5. Hodgson’s team failed at the basics – Who would have bet the one big deficiency would be something so fundamental? Especially from a Roy Hodgson team? Nobody got out to meaningfully challenge Claudio Marchisio on the opener, and in the second half, the most basic of movements was able to get Antonio Candreva behind Leighton Baines before he cut back for his cross.
I don’t know if Roy needs to break out the ropes, but some back to basics drills might be in order. Or, given that more weak defending down their left led to the first goal, Hodgson may need to make some tough decisions about how to protect Leighton Baines, particularly given how little influence England had in the middle of the park.
Hodgson’s not really going to regret passing over Ashley Cole … is he?