Benevento is giving new meaning to the term “cellar dweller.”
Six matches into its Serie A debut season, the southern Italian club is being labeled the worst squad in Europe’s five major leagues.
With good reason.
Benevento has lost all six of its Serie A games, scored only one goal and conceded 16, including heavy back-to-back losses over the space of three days to Napoli (6-0) and Roma (4-0) earlier this month.
As if things could get any worse after those losses, Benevento captain Fabio Lucioni was suspended for doping two days after the Roma defeat. He blamed a healing spray applied by team physicians.
The Giallorossi’s last match was a 2-0 loss to basement rival Crotone on Sunday in which Benevento’s Nicolas Viola missed a penalty.
Crystal Palace in the English Premier League and Alaves in Spain also have zero points through six rounds but better goal differences _ minus 13 and minus 9 respectively.
Last-place Metz in France has won one match and Cologne in Germany at least earned a draw.
“If you look at the numbers it’s terrifying,” Benevento coach Marco Baroni said. “But we’re not giving up. We’ve got to start from scratch and rediscover the solidness and performance we displayed in the opening three matches.”
Amato Ciciretti scored Benevento’s only goal this season when the squad took an early lead in an opening 2-1 loss at Sampdoria.
Benevento also showed it could compete in a 1-0 loss to Bologna in its home opener. Then a stoppage-time goal was conceded in another 1-0 loss, to Torino, before things really fell apart against Napoli and Roma.
“Mentally it’s difficult for my players to bounce back after the heavy defeats to Roma and Napoli,” added Baroni, whose job is at high risk. “But I want to pull these lads out of the quick sand.”
“I’m focusing on keeping up their mental morale, because I know the squad can give more,” Baroni added. “We need to get a result that gives us some confidence.”
Things likely won’t get any easier this weekend, though, with third-place and undefeated Inter Milan visiting.
Still, fans are staying behind the team, and the 17,500-seat Ciro Vigorito stadium is sold out for the Inter match.
After all, just playing in Serie A is an achievement for a club that went bankrupt in 2005 and restarted in Italy’s fourth division.
The squad was in the third division as recently as 2015-16 but back-to-back promotions lifted it into Serie A for the first time in its 88-year history.
Under Baroni, Benevento also became the first club to win immediate promotion to the top flight in its first ever season in Serie B.
It did so by finishing fifth in the regular season and beating Carpi in a playoff final.
It didn’t take long for the celebrations to wear off, though.
There were already signs of difficulty at the beginning of August when Benevento was eliminated from the Italian Cup with a 4-0 loss at home to Serie B side Perugia.
The losses to Napoli and Roma lent support to Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio’s desired plan to reduce Serie A from 20 to 18 teams.
Hellas Verona, another promoted club that is next to last, is also winless and has a minus 13 goal differential after losing to Fiorentina, Roma and Lazio by a combined 11-0.
“It seems there’s a huge gap between the five or six top clubs and those at the bottom of the table,” Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago said. “And that’s hurting the league’s credibility.”