Once again, the game with the most drama in Serie A was a battle for survival in the lowest part of the standings: Crotone-Spal was not only the highest scoring game in the last weekend, but it also had an extremely impactful result.
The Sharks approached the game hoping to redeem themselves after a tough loss against another rival, Benevento, but on the road. They had fared decently at home in the last month or so, sharing the spoils Cagliari and Atalanta and defeating Chievo. On the other hand, the Estensi were looking to resume winning after eight negative results and three straight losses, which had put Leonardo Semplici on the hot seat.
As for the lineups, Walter Zenga this time picked Ante Budimir over Marcello Trotta and re-instated Andrea Barberis as deep-lying midfielder. Semplici benched Federico Viviani and used Pasquale Schiattarella as anchor of the midfield, deployed two pure strikers and replaced the suspended Felipe with Lorenco Simic. All decisions that turned out to be fruitful.
The game started off at a low rhythm, as this kind of matches usually does because there is so much at stake. The Pitagorici, pushed by the home crowd, created a couple of decent scoring chances early on, but it was immediately clear that the guests were not intimidated. As a matter of fact, they struck first, towards the end of the first half: Manuel Lazzari duped a defender on the right flank and put a perfect ball in the box, which Mirco Antenucci smashed home.
Crotone came out firing in the second half and levelled the game after four minutes: Andrea Barberis’ dangerous attempt by the edge of the box was brilliantly saved by Alex Meret, but Budimir punched it in. However, just as it looked like that momentum was shifting and Crotone were ready to take over, Spal found a rather random goal: Lorenco Simic lofted a header from outside of the six yard, Alex Cordaz was not able to locale the ball and it hit the back of the net.
The Sharks’ squad became more and more offensive through Zenga’s substitutions, but Spal basically sealed the deal after 60 minutes, as Alberto Paloschi took full advantage of a poor backwards touch by Andrea Barberis and finished with aplomb all alone in front of the goalkeeper. Crotone did manage to cut the lead, thanks to a brilliant diving header by Ante Budimir with five minutes to go, but it was too little too late for them.
Crotone had the chance to wrap-up the relegation battle in the last two weeks, but they came out empty-handed and now the race is wide open, considering also that Verona beat Torino. Crotone would be the first team to avoid the drop right now, but they have just one point more than Spal and two more than Hellas. Sassuolo are not far away as they have a two-point cushion over the Sharks, while Chievo and Cagliari a four-points one, so they are not out of the woods. It will be a no-holds-barred fight the rest of the way.
From the fantasy perspective, Ante Budimir collected eight points thanks to his brace and has probably re-claimed the starting job after Marcello Trotta had supplanted him. Marco Davide Faraoni got two points because of the cross on the second goal. For the Ferraresi, Paloschi amassed four, Simic and Antenucci three due to a yellow card, Manuel Lazzari garnered two thanks to the dime and Schiattarella one for the free kick that led to the 2-1 goal by Simic.
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