MILAN: Gonzalo Higuain still has feelings for Napoli, Empoli ‘keeper Lukasz Skorupski has none for former club Roma and Inter Milan coach Frank De Boer is growing increasingly frustrated.
Here, AFP sports looks at five things we learned from week 11:
Napoli pulls on Higuain heart strings
It was by far the biggest story of the weekend, but even before hitting the winner for Juventus in a 2-1 defeat of Napoli, Gonzalo Higuain showed he still has a special place in his heart for fans of his former club. It was his first game against Napoli since moving to Juve for an Italian transfer record fee of 90m euros in the summer, but Higuain buried the hatchet with Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri with an emotional hug before kick-off. Although he hit the winner for Juve 19 minutes from time, Higuain refused to celebrate — holding his arms out wide as he was mobbed by his teammates. But that was the easy part. Napoli host Juventus on April 2, and Argentine striker Higuain will face a hostile reception from the notoriously volatile Azzurri supporters.
Skorupski makes Roma pay
Roma’s expectations of a win at Empoli were shared by most watchers of Serie A, but the goalkeeper they allowed to walk away from the club three years ago, Lukasz Skorupski, had other ideas. Skorupski, who made five appearances for Roma in 2013, produced heroics at the Carlo Castellani stadium on his way to stopping Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah, Radja Nainggolan and Stephan El Shaarawy with a series of fine saves. Empoli’s defence did the rest as the league minnows handed Roma their first scoreless stalemate of the season. “It would be a mistake for any side to come here and think they can simply score by shooting once they get into the area,” said Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi. Roma, whose goalkeeper is Poland number one Wojciech Szczesny, remain second, but are now four points behind leaders Juventus.
Inter ‘mentality’ a problem for De Boer
With four wins in 11 games, the pressure on Inter Milan coach Frank De Boer continues to grow. But although he has “faith” in his players, the Dutchman says their mentality is all wrong. “We have to really work on our mental approach to games because we can’t afford to play two halves in such different fashion,” De Boer lamented after a 1-0 loss at Sampdoria left his team 13 points adrift of Juventus. “Today, some players gave me 70%, but they need to give me 100% all the time. We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror at ourselves and realise that playing for Inter is a source of pride.”
No party for history-makers Crotone
Crotone made history on Sunday by securing their maiden Serie A win with a 2-0 defeat of Chievo, but for coach Davide Nicola, it’s time to get back to work. “Even though we took three points from a quality side, it seems an exaggeration to me to define this as a day of celebration,” said Nicola, whose side up until Sunday morning had taken just two points from their opening 10 games and conceded slightly more than two goals per game on average, 21 in total. “We’re trying to prove our worth quickly in this league, but although we’re starting to score some goals, we still have to stop conceding so many.”
Hart still working on his Italian
England goalkeeper Joe Hart made a positive impression last month when he spoke a few words of Italian at his official presentation with Torino, but is in the early stages of mastering the language of Dante. Pushed by Torino coach Sinisa Mihajlovic to speak Italian on Sunday, Hart, who is on-loan from Manchester City, quickly reverted to English so he could fully get his point across. He notably apologised for a mistake that gave Inter a 2-1 win in midweek: “I take responsibility, it happens to all goalkeepers,” said Hart, who parried a question about his future with the Serie A side, who face Udinese on Monday. “We play Udinese tomorrow, that’s all.”