For the second straight game, goal-scorer Weston McKennie was the dominant figure for Juventus, while Andrija Novakovich got on the scoreboard to help Frosinone to victory in Serie B.
Juventus 2 – 0 Udinese
Weston McKennie once again proved instrumental in stretching Juve’s unbeaten Serie A run to eight games, scoring the late insurance goal against Udinese on Saturday night.
Juve were far and away the dominant side in the contest, holding two-thirds of possession and more than doubling the total number of passes compared to their opponents. McKennie was particularly effective, with 68 total touches, 33 of 40 passing, three total shots and three intercepted passes.
Starting on the left side of a stacked midfield behind Paulo Dybala and Moise Kean, albeit typically in a more advance playing position, he first troubled the Udinese goal in the fifth minute with a an open volley attempt from just inside the area, however struck the ball well too high to be of any real threat.
Dybala quickly opened the scoring for Juventus after 19 minutes, hanging around outside of the area just long enough to let the play take shape around him, then timing a darting run forward into the area to take the Udinese defense by surprise. Exactly at that moment, Kean, who had drawn several defenders to his position, release the ball to the Argentinean who only need a few steps before unleashing his blast towards the upper left corner for 1-0.
McKennie pestered Udinese keeper Daniele Padelli again two minutes past the half-hour when his leaping header from the middle of the area flew wide right, then teamed up on a back-and-forth with Dybala in the 65th minute which saw the latter fire his shot a few yards too far to the left.
The American was hungry to follow up his goalscoring form from their midweek loss, and headed a cross from Mattia di Sciglio wide right in the 74th minute, however would finally quench his thirst five minutes later.
In almost identical fashion to his score on Wednesday, McKennie drifted in towards the upper right corner of the six-yard box as di Sciglio queued up a cross from the left, and only needed a short jump to connect on the well-placed header to the lower right corner of goal to secure the 2-0 win.
Juventus are now nipping at the heels of fourth-place Atalanta, but will temporarily turn their focus towards a Coppa Italia visit from Sampdoria on Tuesday, before visiting AC Milan five days later.
Venezia FC 1 – 1 FC Empoli
Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio both saw some action for Venezia on Sunday afternoon, however the highlight of the game belonged to new arrival Nani, whose immediate impact saved a draw for the hosts against visiting Empoli.
Tessmann was selected by head coach Paolo Zanetti to start in the team’s central midfield, however in a troublesome move, was pulled after only 35 minutes after an ineffective performance that up to that point only saw him make eight total contacts. Busio came on for the final ten minutes with the game already on even terms, and while he had minimal impact in their push for the win, was an active presence and displayed an accurate 100% passing rate.
Empoli was first on the scoreboard already in the 26th minute, with Szymon Zurkowski in position to hit an emphatic volley from six yards to the right of goal thanks to an accurate long cross from Filippo Bandinelli.
After the team showed little hope of responding to the goal, Zanetti pulled Tessman and winger Sofian Kiyine ten minutes later in favor of Antonio Vacca and David Okereke, which eventually paid off after a long wait.
The undoubtedly most anticipated moment of the game happened in the 72nd minute when legendary Portuguese winger Nani, who just arrived a few days before after spending the last few seasons in Orlando, entered as an attacking reinforcement in place of defender Cristian Molinaro, and the investment paid dividends only seconds later.
Playing a short give-and-go with Mattia Aramu, Nani flicked a one-touch pass into the path of Okereke, who took one touch to settle before striking his low shot into goal to equalize.
Busio entered eight minutes later, however Venezia’s final push was to little avail, as they were unable to ride the momentum to a late winner.
While securing the late point will certainly lift Venezia’s spirits on the short-term, it does little to help their place in the standings long-term as they still remain less than a game above the relegation places, albeit with a game in hand compared to 18th-place Cagliari.
Having already exited the Coppa Italia, they will have a full week of rest before facing their up-to-now toughest game of the season, a visit to leaders Inter Milan on Saturday.
AC Pisa 1 – 3 Frosinone
Andrija Novakovich made the most of his time on the field for Frosinone on Saturday afternoon, scoring the late insurance goal for his team and having his overall most dangerous game of the season in their convincing win over Pisa.
The American entered the game after 63 minutes for right-side attacker Luigi Canotto with the game tied at one apiece, and did his part to help his team secure the three points in their first game since the holiday break by applying constant pressure on the opposing goal.
Frosinone missed the chance for an early lead when Camillo Ciano’s 11th-minute penalty attempt was saved by an excellent diving parry by the Pisa keeper, and were made to regret their wastefulness on the stroke of halftime when Pisa’s Davide Marsura beat the keeper to a long ball in and poked it over the line for the 1-0 lead at the break.
Almost immediately after the restart, Alessio Zerbin brought Frosinone back on equal terms with a highlight-reel, looping shot from the left side of the area to the far post, setting the stage for a second half that would be dominated by the visitors.
Novakovich entered three minutes after the hour and only needed five minutes to make his presence known, forcing Pisa’s keeper Nicolas into a save of his powerful header in the 68th.
Zerbin put Frosinone in the lead in the 71st minute, volleying a long cross from Francesco Zampano which took a high deflection off of Samuele Birindelli, and landed in goal behind Nicolas, who had clumsily fallen over in the fracas.
Novakovich remained dangerous, putting the ball into the net in the 75th minute only to see it called back for offside, but finally manifested the 3-1 insurance goal in the 85th minute from nothing but his relentless work. Stealing the ball from Pisa central defender Maxime Leverbe, he caught Nicolas well off his line, rounded the Brazilian keeper and rolled his low shot into the goal for his second score of the season.
The result brings Frosinone to seventh place following a weekend with several Serie B cancellations. They are back in action on Friday with a visit to Parma.
Bryan Reynolds was not in uniform for Roma on Sunday evening as they defeated Cagliari by a 1-0 scoreline at home. Reynolds is rumored to be on his way out of Rome on a loan for the rest of the season.
Giuseppe Barone was not available for Ascoli on Friday for their 4-2 road victory over Ternana. The result pulls them to the edge of the promotion playoff spots with half of their games played this season. Barone could be joined soon by another American, as former Philadelphia Unio player Anthony Fontana is currently on trial at Ascoli.