BERARDI BACK TO HIS GOAL-SCORING HABIT
During the 2016-17 season, Domenico Berardi was not always a first choice player due to injury problems. He got back to his goal-scoring habits in the home game against Lazio, the 31st league match of the season. Unfortunately the side from Rome won that one 2-1. In the 25th minute Sassuolo capitalised on a moment of indecision by the Lazio defence. The Lazio goalkeeper, Strakosha, brought down Berardi in the area while he was trying to latch onto a through-ball from Missiroli and the referee awarded a penalty. And it was Berardi himself who took the penalty, wrong-footing Strakosha.
Sassuolo had more than one chance to double their lead, but it was a snaking run by Felipe Anderson, followed by a perfect pass, that set up Immobile to level the score in the 42nd minute. And then, in the 38th minute of the second half, an own-goal by Acerbi gave the victory to Lazio, infuriating the trainer Eusebio Di Francesco: “We didn’t deserve to lose – said Eusebio – we were just guilty of inexperience.”
Another game in which Sassuolo was caught out was the one against Atalanta the 31stof the Championship. “At Bergamo – continued Acerbi – we played one of our best games of the season”. In the 36th minute Pellegrini put Sassuolo into the lead and then, in the 73rd minute, Cristante equalised. “They were very determined and they wanted to qualify for the Europa League as soon as possible; they were also more on edge during the first part of the game. We seemed to have our minds more free. All in all, a one-one draw was a fair result”.
The following week, the green and blacks beat Sampdoria 2-1 at the Mapei Stadium. The Liguria team took the lead through Schick after 28 minutes. Sassuolo then started the second half with goals from Ragusa after 4 minutes and Acerbi after 11 minutes. “The goal by Samp – pointed out Francesco – kick-started the reaction of the team”. For Acerbi, scoring the winning goal was like a dream come true. “I often dream about playing up front during a game, being part of the attack”, admitted the defender born in Vizzolo Predabissi, just a few kilometres from Milano. The win against “Samp” was extremely important: we hadn’t won a home game for several months. We broke that run of bad luck and it was important for our self-confidence”. In the next home match against Napoli, the 33rd of the season, Sassuolo went back to their habit of losing a winning advantage. The second half was full of fireworks, with the Belgian star Mertens putting the Naples side in the lead after 7 minutes. Then, back-to-form Berardi, in the 14thminute, and the rising star Mazzitelli, in the 35th minute, put Sassuolo into the lead. In the 39th minute, however, a mixture of Sassuolo bad luck and the grand class of Napoli decided the outcome of the game: 2-2 thanks to Milik.
“Napoli – declared Acerbi – plays the best football in Italy. We played a great match against the Naples team. In defence I had to juggle between Mertens and Hamsik, two highly skilful opponents. We were in the lead and Napoli managed to force a draw, but we have nothing to be ashamed of”.
Things went better in Tuscany the following week: Empoli 1 - Sassuolo 3. The green and blacks took the lead with a goal from the defender Peluso in the 19th minute, with Empoli levelling the score almost immediately with a goal from Pucciarelli. And then the Sassuolo show commenced. Matri in the 34th minute and, in the second half, Duncan in the 12th minute to earn the Mapei club three really important points. “At the Castellani Stadium – said Francesco – it was our desire to win that prevailed. We knew the Tuscany team needed points to stay up, but we were angrier”. Sassuolo has proven to be a real thorn in the side for Empoli this season; in fact, the Emilian team also beat the blue and whites in the Viareggio international youth team tournament.
Sassuolo had much less to celebrate after the next game, drawing 2-2 at the Mapei Stadium against Fiorentina. The determined, effective play from Politano gave the team trained by Di Francesco the lead after 28 minutes, but the “purples” levelled the score after 37 minutes with a goal from Chiesa. Mounting pressure from the green and blacks in the second half resulted in them taking back the lead in the 40th minute, with a goal from Iemmello. But then the old habits took over and, during added time in the 49thminute, Bernardeschi levelled the score, stunning the Mapei Stadium into silence.
“This was yet another niggling result. The game against the purples just about sums up our season”, admitted Acerbi. ”We deserved to win the game but we allowed them to draw level in added time”. In the lunchtime match at San Siro, the 36th of the season, Sassuolo beat Inter Milan 2-1. The blue and blacks started the game well and put the Sassuolo defence under pressure. The Inter striker, Icardi, even hit the post when he was just 60 centimetres from goal. But from that moment on it was Sassuolo that dominated the game and for their new player, Iemmello, the sky really was the limit. The striker from Foggia scored in the 36th minute. The reaction from Inter was quite tame and Iemmello added a second goal in the 5th minute of the second half. Inter brought on their “mystery man” Gabriel Barbosa and this switch helped liven up the match. Inter increased the pressure and, in the 25th minute, a goal from Eder rekindled the enthusiasm of their fans. Inter had their opponents camped in their own area for the last part of the game and, at the end, they had won 15 corner kicks against just 2 for Sassuolo. The game, however, finished 2-1 for Sassuolo. “We were good at remaining tight when things got tough – said Acerbi proudly – even towards the end, when Eder reduced our lead. We looked for the victory with more determination and, in the end, we were rewarded”.
For Iemmello the sky really was the limit: “Me, a fan of Inter Milan, and I scored two goals at the ground where my favourite team plays”. Iemmello has been playing for Sassuolo since the end of January 2017. For the second season running, the Mapei Group team has come off the Meazza pitch with a victory against the blue and blacks. During the 2015/16 season, Berardi scored a penalty in the 94th minute to give the Emilian team their 1-0 victory.
LEADING GOAL SCORER
In the penultimate match, Sassuolo won 6-2 against Cagliari at the Mapei Stadium. For the team captain, Magnanelli, this match represented his return to the starting line-up after a long lay-off for injury. And it was “Magna” himself who gave the green and blacks the lead in the 7th minute. After just 13 minutes the score was already 3-0, thanks to further goals from Berardi and Politano. The timid reaction from the Sardinian team led to Sau scoring for them after 25 minutes. But the home team then became impossible to catch, with more goals from the midfielder Sensi (34 minutes) and Iemmello (11th minute of the second half). Before the end of the match there were two more goals; from Ionita for Cagliari in the 15th minute of the second half and from Matri in the 45th minute. “We wanted to thank our fans by scoring plenty of goals in our last match at the Mapei Stadium, and we did it”, was the unanimous comment from the green and blacks.
DEFREL: AN ELECTRIC PERFORMANCE
Away with defensive play for a spectacular game: this was the recurrent theme of the last game in the Championship in Turin. The final score was 5-3 for the Bulls, even though the green and black striker, Gregoire Defrel, won the goal-scoring contest against the 100 Million Euros man, Belotti. Belotti scored one goal, Defrel scored 3.
The team trained by Sinisa Mihajlovic took the lead through Boyè after 6 minutes, but the talented Defrel levelled the score in the 14th minute. Baselli gave the Turin side the lead again in the 22nd minute and then, at the other end, Defrel showed his worth in the 40th minute when he exploited a through ball from Politano to level the score. In added time of the first half, however, De Silvestri (46th minute) pierced the goal defended by Pegolo, first-choice keeper on this occasion for “Sasol”. Goals by Iago Falque (58thminute) and Belotti (79th minute) then built up a commanding lead that took Sassuolo even further from victory. A few sparks flew on the pitch when Acquah elbowed the Sassuolo captain Magnanelli and, from the spot, Defrel completed the first hat-trick of his career. And, following the customary shower, several key Sassuolo players were called up to be part of the Italian national squad.