La Dolce Vita: Nicolò Zaniolo star of the Champions League as Cristiano Ronaldo hits 20th of the season

Even though there are five teams in the race for the final two UEFA Champions League qualification spots in Serie A, there was limited excitement last weekend.

However, the league featured potentially important results at the very top and very bottom of the table, as well as some notable individual performances.

In this latest edition of La Dolce Vita, we round up the latest week’s action as Serie A continues and the Champions League starts up again.

Zaniolo makes history as Roma win in Champions League

The Champions League knock-out rounds got off to a start on Tuesday, and AS Roma were one of the teams to open it.

They won 2-1 at home to Portuguese side FC Porto, with 19-year-old Nicolò Zaniolo getting both goals for the Serie A side, becoming the youngest Italian to score a Champions League brace.

Zaniolo has had a good start to 2019, playing a full 90 minutes on four occasions so far, and he now has four goals and two assists for this calendar year.

Unfortunately for Roma, Adrián López’s goal gave Porto a potentially important away goal. If the aggregate score of the two legs is drawn after the end of the second tie, then any goals that were scored away from home count double in an attempt to get a winning team.

If Porto win 1-0 in the second leg, they will go through, giving Roma an incentive to attack when the sides meet at the beginning of March.

Juve extend lead and extend run

Serie A leaders Juventus extended both the gap to second-place and their Serie A unbeaten run with a 3-0 away win against Sassuolo on Sunday.

Goals from Sami Khedira, Cristiano Ronaldo, netting his 20th of the season in all competitions, and Emre Can, eventually, gave them a convincing victory.

It didn’t start off so convincingly, though. Early on, Sassuolo striker Filip Đuričić nicked the ball away from Daniele Rugani deep in Juventus’ half and went one-on-one against Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny.

As Đuričić skipped past Szczęsny it looked like Juventus might concede. But the Polish keeper got a hand to the ball and, with the help of the video assistant referee (VAR) it was judged as a clean challenge and not the penalty that Sassuolo were appealing for.

Juventus came into the game on Sunday knowing that a win would extend their lead at the top of the table to 11 points after second-place Napoli drew 0-0 against Fiorentina on Saturday.

READ MORE: Ramsey confirms Juventus switch

Everyone keeps pace in race for fourth

Like in the Premier League, fourth place in Serie A marks Champions League qualification for the following season. With Juventus so far ahead at the summit, it’s this race that features the most exciting action in the league in 2018/19.

Inter, AC Milan, Roma, Atalanta, and Lazio are all in the race, currently third to seventh in that order, but they all won at the weekend. The only movement comes from the fact that Roma’s 3-0 away win at Chievo improved their goal difference enough to leapfrog Atalanta.

Frosinone win at the bottom

Frosinone got an important win in the relegation battle, picking up an away win at ninth-place Sampdoria while no other team around them got a victory.

The 1-0 win came thanks to a Daniel Ciofani goal – Frosinone’s first and only shot on target of the game in the 25th minute – and some defensive heroics from Bartosz Salamon. The Polish centre-back made an incredible 15 clearances during the game, the joint-most in Europe’s top five leagues this weekend.

It means that they’ve now cut the gap to 17th, the safety mark, from five points to two, making that area of the table very congested.

Udinese sit in 16th on 19 points, then Empoli and Bologna in 17th and 18th on 18, with Frosinone in 19th on 16.

Cragno heroics in vain

Milan beat Cagliari 3-0 on Sunday, but the score could have been much higher without the extraordinary efforts of Cagliari’s 24-year-old goalkeeper Alessio Cragno.

Cragno conceded a Luca Ceppitelli own goal and strikes from Lucas Paquetá and Krzysztof Piątek, but made nine saves during the match. That figure is the joint-highest across Europe’s top five leagues this weekend, along with Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris.

Only 16 goalkeepers across those five leagues this season have made ten or more saves in a match and, coincidentally, one of those was Cragno, saving a point for Cagliari in a 1-1 draw against Frosinone.

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