In a full round of fixtures in Serie A, Alejandro Papu Gómez was back to his very best as Atalanta thrashed Sassuolo to climb to eighth in the table.
The Atalanta captain whipped in a free kick for former Estudiantes striker Duván Zapata to head the visitors in front and before the break, Papu doubled the lead with a jinking run and firm finish.
Sassuolo pulled one back after the break but a Papu corner led to Atalanta’s third minutes later and when the home side again reduced the deficit, Gómez came within a whisker of a sensational second with his shot from distance rattling off the crossbar.
Alejandro Gomez: Completed more dribbles against Sassuolo than any other player has managed in a single Serie A game this season (8). pic.twitter.com/y26qfILbr6
Atalanta didn’t have to wait long though as Josip Ilicic came off the bench to claim a late hat-trick. The second of those goals a neat one-two with captain Papu made it five as the visitors wrapped up a convincing 6-2 victory.
And it wasn’t only Papu enjoying himself on Saturday as Ignacio Pussetto produced possibly his best display since moving from Huracán to Udinese in a 2-0 win over Cagliari.
The 23-year-old, a strong aerial presence in attack, took a long ball down on his chest shortly before half time and volleyed Udinese ahead and his influence after the break was equally clear. Pussetto raced clear and tumbling under pressure from defender Luca Ceppitelli saw the Cagliari defender sent off. With the man advantage, it was the Argentinian who rolled the ball into the path of Valon Behrami to double the lead.
A vital three points took Udinese away from the relegation zone.
Perhaps the most relieved man in Serie A this weekend will be Gonzalo Higuaín after the Argentinian centre forward ended his goal drought in AC Milan’s vital 2-1 win over SPAL.
Not since a goal against Sampaoli at the end of October had Higuaín found the net so the relief was clear when Pipita thrashed the ball into the net from close range to put Milan ahead just after the hour mark.
After nine games without a goal, it was hardly a performance that suggested that Higuaín is back but it was a vital for both the striker, the club and manager Gennaro Guttuso. Milan were five games without a win and Guttuso was rumoured to be on the brink so Higuaín hitting the winner gives all concerned a little breathing space.
“It was an important goal and three fundamental points after all we’ve wasted before, but now we can have a rest with our families,” Higuaín said after the game.
“It’s natural the fans expect more from me. I came to Milan because I was convinced by the project here and I want to continue like this. Gattuso has always supported me and above all been honest. This goal is for him. Now we’ve got the Supercoppa, it’s the first trophy of the season and we want to win.”
Milan sit in fifth while there appears no doubt where the title will be ending up this season. Juventus scraped to a 2-1 win over Sampdoria thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace – the first assisted by Paulo Dybala after only two minutes. The win maintains the Bianconeri’s nine point lead over Napoli after Carlo Ancelotti’s challengers managed victory against Bologna.
Napoli were made to work hard to see off Bologna and twice saw their lead cancelled out before winning it 3-2. Former Argentina international Rodrigo Palacio flicked the ball on for Federico Santander to bring Bologna level the first time but Dries Mertens sealed it two minutes from time.
Inter also kept pace in third with a 1-0 win away to Empoli. Keita Baldé scored the only goal but another promising performance from the bench by Lautaro Martínez has many supporters wanting to see more of a Mauro Icardi-Lautaro partnership.