Serie A: Records, Runs and Remarkable Ronaldo!
It was another action-packed weekend in Serie A, which continues to produce drama, despite an absence of passionate Italian fans.
Among the Serie A 2021 highlights this weekend was a first club hat-trick for more than half a century, the end of a 17-match run without victory and a perfect hat-trick in just 22 minutes.
I’m going to begin with a question to which I think I know the answer!
Has there ever been a better footballer than Cristiano Ronaldo?
Whatever your views on this, no-one can argue that his place in the pantheon of greats is long since assured.
In the build-up to this must-win game at Cagliari, there had been much speculation about the future of the 36-year-old.
Juventus had been left reeling in midweek with yet another last-16 exit in the Champions League, despite creating enough opportunities to beat Porto hands down, and that had prompted reports Ronaldo was heading back to Real Madrid where he won four Champions League titles in five years.
Whether the Portuguese genius stays in Turin for another year is unknown but if the club does fail to retain the Serie A title, he is one player who will be free of blame.
For here he was again, starting in the only current Serie A stadium he has never scored in, and putting that record right – just as he has numerous others almost at will.
Under new manager Leonardo Semplici, Cagliari had picked up seven points from three games.
In this one, they were blown away as CR7 vented his Champions League frustrations on the home side with a header, a right-footed penalty and a left-foot blast.
It was ruthless, it was remarkable, it was Ronaldo.
Milan are not in title equation
Unlikely title challengers Milan were still on the heels of their city rivals Inter before this weekend and had returned from their Europa League assignment in Manchester on Thursday night with an away goals advantage.
Standing in their way were Coppa Italia holders Napoli and a former favourite in Gennaro Gattuso.
Milan will always be his first love, of that there is no doubt, but there must have been an element of personal satisfaction as he beat the club who dispensed with his services nearly two years ago to effectively to end a title bid they never had the strength to sustain.
The fact is that Gattuso is a young manager who gains in experience with every passing year – his time in charge at the San Siro just came too early for him and when the club was not in a good place.
Vlahovic delights Viola and Fantasy Football Fans!
Dusan Vlahovic celebrates after scoring against Benevento at the Ciro Vigorito stadium
With both Benevento and Fiorentina hovering just above the drop zone and sliding back downwards after poor runs of form, any moments of inspiration were to be grabbed with both hands.
Step forward Dusan Vlahovic who netted a first-half hat-trick to give Fiorentina a 3-0 lead and all but the seal the points.
His treble revived the Viola, setting records in the process as he became the first player in 56 years to score a first-half hat-trick for the club.
What’s more, he admitted afterwards he was extra pleased as his contribution earned him extra ‘fantasy’ football points!
Both sides should avoid being drawn into a relegation battle, especially the Florence club which has some wriggle room as it approaches midtable with 11 league games remaining.
Parma are alive and kicking
As someone who grew up admiring the Parma side of the 1990s which comprised the likes of Lilian Thuram, Gianluigi Buffon, Juan Sebastian Veron, Gianfranco Zola, Tino Asprilla and Enrico Chiesa – and there were more – it has been surprising and somewhat sad to see the club struggle in more recent times.
Going into this contest with fifth-placed AS Roma, they were six points from safety and had only beaten the club from the Italian capital once in their past 11 meetings.
Then two Romanians combined, Dennis Man running onto a long ball and putting it across for the unmarked Valentin Mihaila to fire the hosts ahead.
Into the second half and when Graziano Pelle, making his first start for the club, went down in the box, Hernani sent Pau Lopez the wrong way from the spot.
What a way to end a 17-match winless run.
Parma remain 19th in the table but their survival chances have received a much-needed boost.
Inter show title credentials
The Serie A 2021 betting odds still make Inter Milan clear favourites to win their first Scudetto in 11 years.
Certainly, this SBOTOP observer can see that, after 18 months of massive spending, the depth of the squad at Antonio Conte’s disposal is paying dividends.
That was evident at struggling Torino who, after they equalised a penalty from £75 million striker Romelu Lukaku, were able to bring Alexis Sanchez off the bench and the Chilean showed his quality to set up a winning header for Lautaro Martinez.
The Scudetto is in Inter’s hands if they can continue this impressive run of form. They certainly seem united, determined and they have the quality and depth to claim the top prize.
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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 17-Mar-2021 at 7:47 PM