In a Serie A round that included some anticipated match-ups such as the Derby della Mole between Torino and Juventus, the bout for the sixth place between Sampdoria and Milan and an intriguing tilt between Atalanta and Fiorentina, the most hard-fought and high scoring game ended up being the battle for survival featuring Benevento and Crotone.
The Sanniti had won two games at home before running into Napoli, while Crotone were coming off four positive results: the commanding win against Verona and the three straight draws with Cagliari, Inter and Atalanta.
As for the lineups, Benevento were missing two starting attackers due to late injuries, Guilherme and Marco D’Alessandro, and the coach picked Massimo Coda and Vittorio Parigini to replace them, while Alin Tosca made his debut in the back. Crotone opted for a striker-less lineup, with Andrea Nalini serving as false-nine, flanked by Federico Ricci and the youngster Giovanni Crociata. On the other hand, they picked a stouter midfield featuring the centre-back Arlin Ajeti in lieu of Andrea Barberis.
Despite what was at stake, the game was actually back and forth and that once again signalled how Roberto De Zerbi and Walter Zenga are not your typical low-table team coaches. The home team tried to take control of the match, but the Sharks stuck first, with Crociata burying it from in close after Nalini managed to get loose in the box following a botched clearance and served him with a sliding pass.
Benevento immediately answered back, trying to find a way to score, helped by the roaring crowd. An attempt from distance by Nicolas Viola was parried away by Alex Cordaz, but in the closing minutes of the first half, the midfielder found Sandro at the end of a corner kick and the veteran outmuscled a couple of opponents and beat the goalkeeper with a powerful header.
Benevento kept pulling the strings and found the 2-1 score 20 minutes deep into the second half, thanks a Viola’s shot from outside the box and the deflection by a defender, which made the trajectory impossible to save for Cordaz. But Crotone refused to lay down, mustered a couple of good attacks and scored with a diving header by Ahmad Benali at the 73th minute, who was perfectly fed by a cross by Davide Faraoni.
Just as the game looked destined to end in a tie, Benevento found the winning goal: after a corner kick, Pietro Immello lofted a pass from the left side of the box, Berat Djimsiti flicked it on centrally, where Cheick Diabate smashed it home.
Benevento collected the third win of the season, which all came at home in the last couple of months. They remain bottom-of-the-league and 11 points behind Crotone, but at least they are competitive at the Vigorito Stadium. The Pitagorici are still in 17th position, so they would be the first team to avoid the drop, and they hold a four-point advantage over Spal and five-point one over Verona.
From the fantasy perspective, Nicolas Viola was the top earner with six points thanks to the goal and the dime, Diabaté got four, Sandro amassed three because he was booked, Berat Djimsiti and Filip Djuricic garnered one thanks to the assists. Ahmad Benali received four as he was shown yellow as well, while Andrea Nalini and Davide Faraoni picked up two due to their feeds.
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