Sinisa Mihajlovic was on the bench again for Bologna’s first home match at the Stadio Dell’Ara, despite having been in the hospital receiving treatment for leukaemia. While it seemed at times that his efforts would be in vain, Bologna were able to reward their Mister with a win against SPAL 2013, and Roberto Soriano dedicated his game-winner to the Serbian manager.
The match kicked off with a couple of attempts from Mattia Destro in the first 15 minutes, who then faded for much of the match. There was a delay in the 21st minute when Andrea Petagna and Danilo collided, but both players were able to continue after treatment. Bologna captain Andrea Poli forced Etrit Berisha into a nice save with a shot to the lower right corner, then a Tokehiro Tomiyasu header from a Nicola Sansone cross was close but just wide.
At the other end, Mattia Valoti had a shot from the box, but it was Poli and Riccardo Orsolini that both forced back to back saves from Berisha in the 38th. Former Inter Milan man Gary Medel had a shot blocked just two minutes later. The first half ended scoreless, with chances on both ends, but Bologna dominating.
The second half saw both sides intensify the battle, and shots were fired right away, specifically by Soriano and Sansone. It wouldn’t be Serie A without a VAR controversy, so Marco Di Bello whistled for a VAR review on a potential handball in the box in the 57th. Bologna were not awarded the penalty, but Medel did earn his requisite yellow card a few minutes later.
The final 30 minutes were like a blitzkrieg, with attempts mingled with substitutions and brilliant saves. Like Berisha’s amazing save on Orsolini in the 79th, which was immediately followed by Lukasz Skorupski coming way off of his line to clear the ball at the other end. Or Skorupski’s full-stretch save on Simone Missiroli in the 85th.
It was only a matter of time before Bologna scored. However, the sheer number of chances was unbelievable. And so in the 90th, substitute Federico Santander did score. However, it was called back for offside. He did get to keep the yellow card he earned for his shirtless celebration, though. Finally, in the third minute of stoppage time, Orsolini sent in a brilliant cross to Soriano, who headed it home to win the match.
Takeaways From the Match
Bologna are fierce and determined, much like their manager. Perhaps they don’t have the talent pool of the larger teams, but what they lack in star power, they make up for in work ethic. Their wingers and midfield terrorized SPAL’s defence with a whopping 23 shots, nine of which were on target. Their ability to take chances equally well from both set pieces and the run of play may boost their chances of finishing higher on the table this year.
SPAL did not roll over for Bologna, but they were unable to create as many chances or maintain the ball in the final third like the Rossoblu. However, they do have a few strong players that can create opportunities and be dangerous.
Stand Out Players
Soriano scored the goal, but was crucial in buildup play as well, especially in the second half. Sansone was brilliant throughout the match, slipping in between SPAL’s defence and running at them in the box. Equally adept, and with even more attempts and crosses, was assist man Orsolini. Berisha will have PTSD from facing him, and the Bologna winger forced the SPAL keeper into the most sensational saves, too.
To that end, both keepers also stood out, making key saves throughout the match. Berisha especially was brilliant and had six saves against the Bologna barrage. One player who stood out for SPAL, even in defeat, was Federico di Francesco. He was always involved in plays, creating chances, and had some nice attempts as well.
However, the biggest standout was Mihajlovic, bravely guiding his soldiers despite fighting the battle of his life. His courage and grinta are an inspiration.