Weston McKennie and Juventus were firing on all cylinders in their much-needed win over Bologna, while a trio of Americans helped Venezia to their biggest victory of the season to break a four-game winless run.
Juventus 3 – 0 Bologna
Weston McKennie returned from international duty on fire, putting in one of his better performances of the season to help Juventus take a critical three points at home against Bologna.
The American played one hour for the hosts on the right side of a four-man midfield, making 37 total ball contacts, completing 76% of his 25 passes, taking a pair of shots to force one save, winning three of five duels, and most importantly setting up Juve’s second goal just before leaving the game.
Filip Kostic put the hosts on the board after 24 minutes, finishing a counter by taking Dusan Vlahovic’s pass on the left side of the area, and angling his shot across the face of goal, just inside the far lower corner.
Vlahovic then found his way to the scoreboard just before the hour mark, breaking free on the left side of the six-yard box with just enough space to head in a pinpoint, picture-perfect cross from McKennie for the 2-0 lead.
Moments later, the American was subbed out by Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri in favor of Juan Cuadrado, and the Columbian attacker responded by triggering an unlikely third goal for the hosts moments later.
Following a Juve corner, a weakly-hit clearance out of the Bologna penalty area floated to the right flank, where Cuadrado hit it back into the area with an off-balance, towering header. Arkadiusz Milik was waiting in perfect position to one-time his shot from 12 yards.
The victory breaks the Bianconeri’s embarrassing five-game winless streak across all competitions, and brings them to seventh in the Serie A standings, still well outside of the Champions League qualification places.
They will be confident of a straightforward win when they host Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday, then return to league action with a difficult visit to AC Milan on Saturday.
Empoli 1 – 3 AC Milan
Sergiño Dest played the final 18 minutes of AC Milan’s surprisingly tough 3-1 win over Empoli on Saturday night, however will be discouraged to have been overlooked earlier in the game.
Dest looked to have caught a possible break when Milan’s captain and right back Davide Calabria had to be pulled due to injury after 39 minutes, however head coach Stefano Pioli opted to bring in French youngster Pierre Kalulu instead of the American.
Dest did eventually enter the field with the game still scoreless in the 72nd minute when central defender Simon Kjær was forced out through injury, however was largely limited in action, with only nine touches, although he did complete all seven of his passing attempts and created one scoring chance.
The mostly dull game quickly turned on a dime, as fireworks got underway with four goals in the final 11 minutes of regulation and the significant amount of added time.
In the 79th minute, Rafael Leao scrapped his way into the right side of the area between three defenders and squared it to a wide-open Ante Rebic for the seeming late winner.
However, in the second minute of added time, Nedim Bajrami seemed to have earned an unlikely point for Empoli with a screaming, 25-yard free kick to the upper right corner.
The action was far from over, as Fodé Ballo restored the lead for Milan barely one minute later with a short poke from six yards, then Leao added a final goal for insurance in the 97th minute, taking advantage of Empoli’s all-or-nothing final push to break free behind the defense, chipping Guglielmo Vicario for the score.
The win raises the Rossoneri into the top four, where they currently trail third-place Lazio by goal differential. They have a tough visit to Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday, then host Juventus on Saturday.
Cagliari 1 – 4 Venezia
Gianluco Busio and Andrija Novakovich both earned the start for Venezia on Saturday afternoon, as a second-half burst saw the team finally get the wheels turning in their big win over Cagliari.
Novakovich played the full game at forward, completing 16 of 19 passes, putting both of his shots on-target, albeit without any goals or assists to his name, won half of his four attempted tackles and six of 13 duels, while committing three fouls.
Busio was deployed by head coach Ivan Javorcic in the center of a five-man midfield, and held down the fort with 50 touches, 31 passes completed in 40 attempts, four clearances, two blocks, two interceptions, five recoveries and two fouls committed.
Tanner Tessmann also played the final half-hour in the midfield in his first appearance since a red card in September, while Jack de Vries was an unused substitute and Patrick Leal wasn’t in the squad.
Marco Mancosu put the hosts ahead in the 38th minute with a direct free kick from the left side, however Venezia unleashed the beast after the break to take the sweeping victory.
Joel Pohjanpalo headed in a corner from Michaël Cuisance in the 50th minute to equalize for the visitors, then Denis Cheryshev put on a one-man show after the hour to secure the win.
The Russian international scored the eventual winner in the 64th minute when he cleaned up a strike from Novakovich that was initially blocked by the Cagliari keeper, then added a second two minutes later with a bit of help from Tessmann.
The big, American midfielder drew a pair of defenders to his spot in the center of the area to fight for a cross from the left flank. While none of the three players made effective contact with the ball, it landed aimlessly at the top left corner of the six-yard box.
Cheryshev’s first blast was blocked by the keeper, however it landed directly at his foot for a second crack, which he hit low and center for the 3-1 lead.
In the 82nd minute, the 31 year-old turned provider, sliding a through ball to Ridgeciano Haps between the last two defenders for a cool finish and the team’s fourth goal.
The victory lifts Venezia to 13th place, and they will try to keep the momentum when they host second-place Bari on Saturday.
Anthony Fontana was nowhere to be found on Sunday afternoon for Ascoli’s 1-1 road draw at Benevento in Serie B action.