Even with a game in hand because of their participation in the Supercoppa Italia, Inter Milan regained first place thanks to a 1-0 win at Fiorentina and a Juventus misstep.
While Lautaro Martinez guided Inter to victory on Sunday, Juve was forced to settle for a home draw against lowly Empoli on Saturday. The results left Inter with 54 points and Juventus with 53.
Third-place Milan also funbled a chance to keep pace with their crosstown rivals, coughing up a late lead to visiting Bologna to split the points.
Summary of the matches:
1. Juventus FC v Empoli FC
Juventus FC failed to continue its streak of consecutive victories. Yet all the conditions were there as their rival, Empoli FC, is 19th of 20 Serie A teams. The Bianconeri have found their striker Dusan Vlahovic again who in the last few matches has been in excellent physical condition, rediscovering his scoring touch as evidenced by two consecutive braces.
The start of the match was quite balanced with FC Juventus trying to push with moderation while Empoli FC tried to avoid exposure.
A decisive incident occured in minute 18 when Juve attacker Arkadiusz Milik made a dangerous as well as naive slide against an opponent. The match referee, after a VAR review, sent him off.
After the red card, the match bogged down. FC Juventus naturally struggled to create opportunities and the first half ended scoreless.
Rest undoubtedly allowed the Juventus players to regain the necessary physical and mental energy. In fact, FC Juventus started better again and broke the deadlock in the 50th minute thanks to Vlahovic, who skillfully took care of a loose ball in the penalty area, beating the opposing goalkeeper.
After taking the lead, Massimiliano Allegri's men tried to manage the pace of the match to render Empoli FC harmless. However, the numerical inferiority was hard to overcome and their Tuscan opponent began to create increasingly dangerous actions while sustaining possession. The draw, almost inexorable, was sealed by Tommaso Baldanzi with a shot from distance.
The match ended with a result that did not satisfy either team. Juve will now trail Inter when they travel to Milan next week while Empoli will rue not taking advantage of their numerical superiority.
2. AC Milan v Bologna FC
Just as were Juventus, AC Milan looked to be in excellent form ahead of their match against a rising Bologna FC side coached by Thiago Motta that has pleased Serie A fans with its proactive and fluid style of play.
The match began with the Rossoneri trying to make themselves dangerous through prolonged phrasing. The first clear opportunity was favored by an initiative by the Portuguese ace Rafael Leao which was thwarted by the opposing goalkeeper.
After starting poorly, Bologna FC regained control of the ball, managing to persistently approach the goal defended by Mike Maignan. In minute 29, the visitors snuck into the lead through a daring offensive action concluded by talented Dutch striker Joshua Zirkzee.
A few minutes later Christian Pulisic, well served in depth by his teammate Ruben Loftus-Cheek, would have the opportunity to bring the match back to a draw. The Team USA star found himself in front of the opposing goalkeeper but wasted the chance with a high lob.
Before the end of the first half, AC Milan managed to equalize even after wasting a penalty that was well saved by goalkeeper Łukasz Skorupski who was aided by a weak attempt from striker Olivier Giroud.
On the scoring play, Loftus-Cheek found the equalizer with a close-range touch, anticipating the exit of the opposing goalkeeper. The assist was supplied by Rossoneri captain Davide Calabria.
The second half continued in the same vein. Both teams were aggressive and pressing forward in search of goals.
Of particular note were the brilliant initiatives of Zirkzee who will certainly be at the center of transfer rumors next summer due to the great year he is experiencing.
In the 73rd minute a second penalty was awarded to AC Milan. This time, French fullback Theo Hernandez stepped up, but he too wasted the spot kick.
Despite the errors, AC Milan did not give up, finally finding the lead in the 83rd minute again thanks to Loftus-Cheek who did well to head a cross from Alessandro Florenzi.
In the final minutes, Bologna FC tried everything while AC Milan changed its style of play trying to defend their lead. This is not exactly one of the strong points of Stefano Pioli's team. This time, the new signing Filippo Terracciano made a big mistake by awarding a penalty to his opponents in the final minutes of the match. Bologna's attacking winger Riccardo Orsolini did not waste the wonderful opportunity by sealing the final equalizer.
In conclusion, two wasted penalties and Loftus-Cheek's first brace were not enough for AC Milan because Bologna FC proved to be a truly tough opponent, thanks the talented Zirkzee and Orsolini's penalty.
3. ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale
FC Internazionale arrived in Florence with the firm intention of obtaining victory so as to appear in the big upcoming match against Juventus as leaders. For its part, ACF Fiorentina wanted a useful result so as to support its candidacy for UEFA Champions League qualifying.
From the outset, ACF Fiorentina threatened with striker M'bala Nzola who saw his opening goal nullified due to offside.
Despite the Viola's good start, it was the Neroazzurri who found the advantage. Forward Marcus Thuram challenged goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano, and immediately thereafter Lautaro Martinez found the net with a precise header of a corner kick.
After the goal, ACF Fiorentina returned to attacking insistently, with midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura creating danger on several occasions.
For its part, FC Internazionale looked to the counterattack, attempting to take advantage of Fiorentina's new tactics while courageously keeping a high defensive line.
The match continued in this direction until the key episode, in the 72nd minute. Goalkeeper Yann Sommer rashly came off his line and ran over Nzola. With the help of VAR, the ref awarded the penalty kick.
Newcomer Nico Gonzalez stepped up for the home team but the Swiss goalkeeper proved to be the better specialist. Among many, we can remember the penalty saved by the phenomenal Kylian Mbappé in the Switzerland v France match at the last European Football Championships.
The duel was won by Sommer, recalling his penalty save off Kylian Mbappé in the most recent Euros, and he saved easily as the Argentine striker kicked too weakly.
The rest of the match saw Fiorentina attempt various attacks in search of an equalizer but Inter confirmed its defensive solidity, the best in Italy.