Talking points from the weekend’s Serie A matches

FILE PHOTO: Serie A - Juventus v Benevento
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Juventus v Benevento - Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy - March 21, 2021 Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo before the match REUTERS/Massimo Pinca/File Photo

March 22, 2021

By Alasdair Mackenzie

ROME (Reuters) – Talking points from the weekend’s Serie A matches.

PIRLO UNDER PRESSURE

Andrea Pirlo’s debut season as Juventus head coach has rarely been plain sailing, but Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at home to relegation battlers Benevento was one of the darkest days of his reign so far.

The rookie coach had already been criticised after his side crashed out of the Champions League to Porto at the last-16 stage earlier in March, and their hopes of claiming a 10th consecutive Serie A title are now in tatters.

Filippo Inzaghi’s Benevento were without a victory in 11 matches before visiting Turin but Adolfo Gaich got the winner after pouncing on a careless Arthur Melo pass across his own box to leave Juve in third place 10 points off leaders Inter Milan.

Juventus’ ‘Curva Sud’ fan group published a post in response saying: “Enough! You are humiliating the shirt”.

However, the club’s Managing Director Fabio Paratici faced the cameras after the match to underline his faith in Pirlo’s project.

“This game doesn’t change our ideas,” he told Sky Italia.

“We set out down a path last summer that also concerns the coach, and our path continues. We are happy with what we are doing, we’re trying to keep our heads down and work hard to improve.”

FONSECA BLASTS ROMA MENTALITY

AS Roma coach Paulo Fonseca lost patience with what he perceived to be the weak mentality of his players after their rotten record in big matches continued with a 2-0 defeat at home to Napoli.

The Giallorossi are without a win against fellow top-seven sides this season – Inter, AC Milan, Juventus, Atalanta, Napoli and Lazio – and have picked up three points from nine in these fixtures, at least eight fewer than any other team.

Napoli striker Dries Mertens reached 100 Serie A goals as he scored twice in a dominant first half for the visitors and Roma’s improvement after the break was not enough to change the tide.

“We started the match without courage, without the mentality to do better,” Fonseca told Roma TV. “In the second half we did everything differently.

“It’s difficult to explain the difference in attitude between the two halves, maybe this team lacks mentality.

“For me it’s only a mental problem, I have no doubts. We didn’t have the courage to play in the first half, then after conceding the second goal we started to.”

EVERGREEN IBRAHIMOVIC SETS NEW RECORD

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to the AC Milan starting lineup against Fiorentina proved eventful as the Swede scored the opening goal in his side’s thrilling 3-2 win in Florence.

The striker, who was fit to start for the first time since Feb. 28 following a muscular injury, became the oldest player to score 15 Serie A goals in a season at the age of 39 years and 169 days.

“Enough talk about my age! Like I’ve already said, the more time passes, the younger I feel – like Benjamin Button,” he told Sky Italia.

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Ken Ferris)