In one of the most drama filled rounds of all time, football fans were treated to a festival of late winners, goal fests and red cards.
Cagliari and Roma produced a four goal thriller with the Sardenian outfit shockingly stealing a point at the death with nine men.
Hours later, Roma’s neighbours, Lazio thought they had the match won when they dispatched their 96th minute penalty but ten-men Sampdoria’s resilience shun through with a 99th minute equaliser.
Wait, it gets even better.
How about six goals and two red cards in the space of 28 minutes?
That is exactly what occurred at the Mapei between Sassuolo and Fiorentina in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
As this all transpired, Juventus continued their stranglehold on Serie A with a solid victory over rivals Inter, while Milan couldn’t close the gap on their neighbours when they were held by a physical Torino outfit.
Late Drama #1 – The Miracle in Cagliari
The first of many drama filled contests saw Roma succumb to a dogged Cagliari outfit who fought back from a two-goal deficit to gain an unlikely point.
The game was all but won after the Giallorossi shot out to a two-goal lead early inside the opening half with the home side left with a mountain to climb.
All hope seemed lost until Artur Ionita’s 84th minute goal breathed new life into this contest.
This fightback appeared to be short lived fortunes Darijo Srna and Luca Ceppitelli were both sent off in a matter of seconds but there was yet another twist to come.
Marco Sau latched on to a picture perfect pass to smash home the equaliser to the delirium of the fans and coach, Rolando Maran.
A much-deserved point for the Rossoblu who had chances throughout the game but in turn leaves many questions to ponder about Roma and the future of Eusebio Di Francesco.
Another game without a win for the Roman outfit has them sitting in eighth as the question marks continue to be asked about the future of their manager and the squad.
Late Drama #2 – Another Roman side succumbs
It isn’t just Roma who are starting to fall into a pit of poor form.
Their neighbours Lazio made it five games without a win as they also squandered a last-minute equaliser against a side who didn’t finish the game with eleven men.
The Biancocelesti were behind early after a brilliant finish from Fabio Quagliarella but Lazio were able to fight back through late goals from both Francesco Acerbi and a 96th minute penalty from talisman, Ciro Immobile.
Immobile’s penalty coming minutes after Bartosz Bereszynski’s sending off, convincing all watching this was going to result in a Lazio win. But what happened next felt as though it had been taken straight out a George R.R Martin novel.
A last second long-ball into the box saw Riccardo Saponara ‘karate kick’ the ball into the back of the net stealing a point for the visitors with the latest ever goal recorded in Serie A history.
This draw, which saw Lazio being unable to momentarily jump Milan into fourth place could come back to haunt Simone Inzaghi’s men as they continue to lack a cutting edge in the final third.
In the past three Serie A games, Lazio have accumulated a total of 67 shots for a return of four goals and three draws – showing their lack of poise inside the area being a big part behind their slide out of the top four.
Remarkably in all three of those games they have found themselves going behind at one stage due to lacking focus at key moments. Once again, being apparent during Saponara’s equaliser.
How different the table may look had it not been for poor finishing.
Late Drama #3 – Sassuolo and Fiorentina play out a classic
62nd minute, the game is 0-0 at the Mapei between two sides looking for an important win to try and break away from the cluster of mid-table Serie A sides.
Enter a half-hour of six goals, two red-cards and masterful changes from Stefano Pioli which saw his Fiorentina side come down twice from two-goal deficits.
Pioli refused to start the out-of-form, Giovanni Simeone and his star-man Federico Chiesa who was oddly benched in a must-win game for Fiorentina who had been searching for their first victory since September.
After Alfred Duncan and Khouma Babacar put the home-side two goals ahead, it was the substitute Simeone who pulled one back to score his third goal of the season. But Sassuolo yet again found themselves two goals ahead with ten minutes to play thanks to a Stefano Sensi cracker.
Then the red cards began.
Filip Djurcic was sent off for the home-team which led to Marco Benassi pulling one back to set up an enthralling finish where a second red card was given, this time to Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic.
This weekend was unlike any other and the footballing gods were smiling down on those wanting late drama when Mirallas broke in behind to slam home his first goal for La Viola.
In the end, it was another game without a win for either side but for the neutral – it will be a game which will long live in the archives of Serie A folklore.
Juventus claim bragging rights in victory over Inter
Shifting our attention away from the thrills, spills and incredible finishes of Serie A action saw two old rivals meet to kick-off the round in Turin.
The Old Lady continued their fantastic Serie A campaign with a smash and grab victory over Inter thanks to a Mario Mandzukic header which ensured their unbeaten start in the league continued. Juve, who were far from their blistering best did what they had to see off their pecky rivals who had chances early to punish the Bianconeri.
However, it went to show that Juventus didn’t need to be at their best to seal victory but they took their chance brilliantly when Mandzukic broke clear of his man and slammed home the winner with his head. In particular, Max Allegri will be extremely encouraged by the performance of Rodrigo Bentancur who once again put on a very exciting performance along with Miralem Pjanic in the middle of the park.
Business as usual for Juve but a chance gone begging for Inter who simply should have gotten something from this game had it not been for some extremely poor finishing.
Milan miss chance to close gap on third in an uninspiring draw at home
Oh, the change in fortunes from week-to-week with Milan is absolutely incredible.
A week after an inspiring victory over Parma saw the injury-ravaged Rossoneri claim a much-needed victory in the light of an extreme injury crisis. However, a week later they looked a far cry from the side who were defying all injury odds with an extremely uninspiring performance from start to finish.
Beaten up by Torino’s physicality early, the threat of Iago Falque and Andrea Belotti created panic among the Milan defence who thanks to Gigio Donnarumma were lucky to not be behind. What was more worrying was the lack of chances created for Patrick Cutrone and Gonzalo Higuain who were completely ridded of any service due to poor performances from both Hakan Cahlanoglu and Suso.
The front two did have chances as the game wore on with Higuain selfishly taking a shot on when he had marauding team-mates bursting into the box which could have opened the scoring. As the game wore on, the overall frustration of Milan fans was summed up in the final moments when Cutrone had an easy one-on-one to win the game which he uncharacteristically squandered.
Some may say, yeah it was a second clean sheet of the season for Milan, that’s a positive to take away, right? No, the problems in the final third were apparent as both wingers failed to leave an impression on the game at all with Suso in particular looking a far cry from his performances throughout the season.
A positive other than the clean sheet only came in the form of another Man of the Match performance from Tiemou Bakayoko who continues to turn his season around. However, a lot to ponder for Gennaro Gattuso’s men who had the perfect chance to close the gap on Inter with a win.