Several games in the last round were either low-scoring or one-sided, so there are only a couple of candidates for Serie A game of the week: while Atalanta-Lazio was certainly the most entertaining one, Benevento-Spal had bigger implications. Since the first former got a lot of love in the players of the week column, let’s take a closer look at the latter.
Benevento approached the game still looking for the first win of the season and this was as good of an opportunity as any, after the miraculous draw against Milan in the last home game and facing an opponent they have had good success against in the lower leagues. On the other hand, Spal knew they would need points to keep up Hellas Verona, Crotone, Genoa and Sassuolo.
Despite their position in the standings, the game was back and forth and the teams did not hold punches or tried to protect the nil-nil. The first half had few offensive salvoes: while Spal looked a little more mature tactically and appeared to have a clearer game plan, the Giallorossi relied heavily on the sheer talent of some of their players, Amato Ciciretti, Marco D’Alessandro, Danilo Cataldi and Gaetano Letizia in particular. Alberto Grassi for the Biancazzurri should have buried a header after a delightful assist by Pasquale Schiattarella, while D’Alessandro had a big chance on a quick counter, but Alfred Gomis came out perfectly and closed the door.
The Estensi missed a big chance at the beginning of the second half, with Gianluca Di Chiara miraculously avoiding a tap-in after a great save by Vid Belec on a Sergio Floccari shot from distance. A couple of minutes later, the veteran striker hit the bar on a corner kick. Just as it seemed that Spal were taking control of the game, Benevento opened the score with an own goal by Michele Cremonesi at the 59th minutes: he was tangled with Andrea Costa and ended up deflecting a sharp free kick by Amato Ciciretti in his own goal.
Leonardo Semplici’s side responded quickly and this time Sergio Floccari found an easy goal from in close after being perfectly set up by Schiattarella. Five minutes later, Gaetano Letizia almost scored with a great shoot from about 40 meters away, trying to take advantage of Gomis’ reckless clearance, but ball bounced over the bar. As the law of football goes, Floccari completed the comeback almost instantly, tapping in a poor deflection by Vid Belec after a shot by Federico Mattiello.
Benevento tried to react, also with the help of few attackers coming off the bench, but Gomis neutralized their best attempt: a good free kick by Danilo Cataldi, quickly followed by a header by George Puscas, who probably should have done better as he was open.
Benevento are showing signs of life despite their position in the table and the double-digit deficit from the closest team, however they are so talent poor, especially in the defence and in the midfield. Avoiding relegation would be a bigger feat than what Crotone did a year ago at this point. Spal are in 18th position and will battle it out with the rest of the group, but these three points were necessary because they will have to go through a tough stretch before the break.
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