The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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Bastoni scores late as Empoli continue improvement under Nicola with 3-2 win at Sassuolo

Associated Press Sunday, 25 February 2024, 06:28 Last update: about 3 months ago

Substitute Simone Bastoni scored deep in stoppage time to help Empoli snatch a 3-2 win at Sassuolo on Saturday in a Serie A relegation fight and continue its positive run under Davide Nicola.

Bastoni was brought on with 10 minutes remaining and headed in a rare — and important — goal in the fourth minute of time added on.

Empoli was one spot above last place when Nicola replaced Aurelio Andreazzoli as coach last month but has not lost a game since, winning three of its six matches to move up to 13th, five points above the relegation zone.

Nicola has a reputation as an escape specialist, having helped Crotone and Salernitana avoid relegation in recent seasons.

Sassuolo, in contrast, is in free fall and has now lost five of its past six matches to leave it level on points with 18th-place Hellas Verona.

The match was between sides going in the opposite direction and Empoli took the lead in the 11th minute when Sebastiano Luperto headed in Răzvan Marin’s free kick.

Luperto hit his head on the base of the left post as he was doing so and the Empoli captain received treatment as he lay on the ground but was able to continue.

Empoli thought it had doubled its lead in the 23rd. Matteo Cancellieri’s cross went past everyone and came off the left post. Sassuolo defender Marcus Pedersen headed the rebound off the line but it came straight to Youssef Maleh, who turned and fired it in but it was ruled out as he had controlled the ball with the help of his hand.

Sassuolo was given a way back into the match nine minutes into the second half when it was awarded a penalty following a video review for a foul on Ruan by Ardian Ismajli.

Andrea Pinamonti had missed a penalty against Atalanta last week but he made no mistake from the spot this time.

Empoli restored its lead with a penalty of its own 10 minutes later, with M’Baye Niang winning and converting the spot kick after his shot had been handled by Sassuolo captain Gian Marco Ferrari.

Ferrari redeemed himself 13 minutes from time when he headed Nedim Bajrami’s free kick into the bottom left corner.

However, Bastoni scored his first goal in nearly two years to snatch a vital win for Empoli.

MALDINI SCORES

Daniel Maldini scored his first goal for Monza to set his new team on the way to a 2-0 win at bottom club Salernitana.

Maldini, who joined on loan from AC Milan in January, played a perfectly timed one-two with Roberto Gagliardini before running into the left side of area and firing into the far bottom corner to give Monza the lead in the 78th minute.

The 22-year-old is the son of Paolo Maldini and the grandson of Cesare Maldini – both former Milan captains.

Monza captain Matteo Pessina sealed the match five minutes later with a delicate chip over Salernitana goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Ochoa had made a superb save early in the second half to parry a shot from Gagliardini at point-blank range.

Milan Đurić also hit the post for Monza within 80 seconds.

Monza moved up to 11th. Salernitana remained seven points from safety.

ACROBATIC RETEGUI

Mateo Retegui scored a stunning overhead kick as Genoa beat 10-man Udinese 2-0.

A cross was deflected into Retegui's path by Udinese defender Lautaro Giannetti and the Argentina-born Italy forward gave Genoa the lead in acrobatic fashion in the 36th minute.

Mattia Bani headed in Genoa's second four minutes later.

Both sides had hit the woodwork before the deadlock was broken.

Udinese defender Thomas Kristensen was sent off four minutes into the second half after receiving a yellow card either side of the interval.

However, Udinese almost got back into the match but Lorenzo Lucca's goal was disallowed for a foul by him in the buildup.

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