Champions League drama in last weekend of Serie A
ROME – The last weekend of Serie A fixtures saw Juventus cap off another triumphant season, confirming their 8th consecutive title a full 11 points ahead of second place, while the battles for UEFA Champions League spots and relegation, which have provided the real excitement towards the end of the season, fully lived up to expectations.
At the top of the table, Inter Milan snatched fourth place in the dying minutes of their match against Empoli, clinging on in dramatic fashion to hold on to a 2-1 victory, while Atalanta took third. That leaves Juventus, Napoli, Atalanta and Inter with Champions League football to look forward to next season while AC Milan and AS Roma will have to settle for the Europa League.
At the other end, a goalless draw between Fiorentina and Genoa saved both clubs from relegation, with Empoli’s defeat at Ferrara sending to Tuscan team down to Serie B along with Frosinone and Chievo in what proved a dramatic final day.
Atalanta came from behind to defeat a beleaguered 9-man Sassuolo by 3 goals to 1, to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in La Dea’s 111-year history. Goals from Duvan Zapata, Alejandro Gomez and Mario Pasalic were enough to secure third place in this year’s Serie A.
Inter had to work hard for their win over a determined Empoli, taking the lead early in the second half courtesy of Keita Balde, only for Mauro Icardi miss a penalty and the home team to equalise. Radja Nainggolan restored the lead for the Milanese team, but there was plenty of drama left in a match which proved the best of the weekend’s fixtures. Matias Vecino hit the post, Marcelo Brozovic had a goal disallowed, and Keita was sent off after two yellow cards.
Empoli finished on equal points with Genoa, but are relegated on head-to-head. Junventus, meanwhile, were unable to give outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri a fitting exit as they lost to Sampdoria 2-0 in a game that meant little to either team, stretching their winless streak to five matches.
If the title race has been a little lacklustre towards the back end of the season, the same cannot be said for the fight for the top four spots. Ultimately, Atalanta’s historic triumph and Inter’s determined performance meant disappointment for AC Milan. Roma were always outsiders for a top-four finish, though it was mathematically possible, but they managed nevertheless to bid Daniele de Rossi a victorious adieu with a 2-1 win over Parma.