The current edition of Italian Serie A has remained highly topsy-turvy in nature, ever since the season began in August last year and the week 34 of the action, leading the league towards its business end was no different whatsoever. The matchday scheduled all the ten fixtures for the week on the same day unlike the usual categorization where the matches are bracketed over two day time. As many as 26 goals were scored on the day and football was largely played at an emphatic intensity across different geographies in Italy.
Milan March On
The title race, though far from settled, looks pretty much for Milan to lose now, as they surpassed the Brescia obstacle with a thinnest possible 1-0 victory at the Mario Rigamonti stadium, courtesy a late winner from the Brazilian ace Robinho. Allegri’s men looked far from convincing for the large part of the game in the absence of diabolical frontline of Ibrahimovic and Pato, but did just enough in the end to seal the three points. Rossoneri sit pretty at the top of the table, eight points clear of cross-town rivals Inter and it is time Silvio Berlusconi may breathe easy and afford to get back to his usual business.
Napoli, Udinese Disappoint
During the entire course of the current season, Napoli and Udinese are the two teams that have emerged as the prospects to take Calcio football to another level in the years to come. However, both the underdogs had a disappointing outing over the weekend, as they were undone by Palermo and Parma respectively. It is important here to note that both Palermo and Parma have had a forgetful season so far in their respective measure of squad strength – Palermo’s position in the table may suggest otherwise.
Napoli, as usual relied on goal-machine Edinson Cavani and the Uruguayan meant business straight away, as he converted a spot kick earned as early as in the second minute of play. Palermo were quick to counter but it took them some time to induce parity. Federico Balzaretti blasted a Cassani cross home to bring his team to terms following which Cesare Bovo put the home team in front in dying moments of the first half from the spot. Rosanero continued to look increasingly dangerous in the latter half but failed to further Napoli’s woes. This was a second straight loss for Walter Mazzari’s men and their title hopes have taken a serious blow.
An Interesting Camaraderie Between Juve And Amauri
Juventus-reject Amauri is doing everything in his powers to see his employers play Champions League football next season by making sure he scores against teams that stand between the Bianconeri and their European dream. One may also assume that the Brazilian-cum-Italian’s double against Udinese the other day – that earned Parma a priceless 2-0 away win – was majorly driven out of an intent to make a statement against a team in ‘Black & White’ shirts. The defeat keeps Udinese out of the top bracket and it seems the race for the fourth spot will go down to the wire.
While Amauri is still adamant on giving his sweat and blood to Juventus – nevermind wearing Parma colours – it seems Luigi Del Neri’s men themselves are not keen enough to let the club icon Alessandro Del Piero play European football in the newly proposed stadium for the next season. Facing Catania at Stadio Olimpico in Turin, Il Pinturicchio was at his artistic best and scored a brace in the first half itself to place ‘The Old Lady’ in a commanding position. However, dreadful defending which has defined the Turin giants’ season, was once again on show, as they allowed the visiting team to restore parity under dramatic circumstances in the last ten minutes of the match.
Game Of The Week
Defending champions Internazionale, after a shocking defeat at the hands of Parma last week, welcomed Edoardo Reja’s high flying Roman team SS Lazio to the San Siro. Inter have built a reputation of delivering the champions’ stuff under the most adverse situations and it was once again a time to show they are not yet done with the hunt for the title. Both the teams began the trade on a highly positive note and the game soon started to live up to the promise. Both sides moved the ball quickly and the power of the muscle too was much on show.
The champions were left bamboozled by the Romans, when ’keeper Julio Cesare was given marching orders after a clumsy challenge on Argentine forward Mauro Zarate inside the box. The visitors were awarded a consequent penalty and without any surprises, Zarate put them in front. Reja’s army failed to capitalise on the numerical advantage, as Inter were never pressed enough to mount a strong pressure that may have forced them err. The hosts were on level terms within the first half itself, as a scintillating Wesley Sneijder free kick beat the wall and went past Muslera to nullify Lazio’s lead.
Inter continued to be the better team in the second half and Samuel Eto’o – Nerazzurri’s best player of the season – lurked at the opportunity that came off a slip-up from Lazio defender Giuseppe Biava. The Cameroonian forced Muslera out of position and cleverly rounded the Uruguayan ’keeper before candidly putting the ball into the net to give his side a thumping 2-1 lead early in the second half. The attractive brand of football prevailed but Lazio failed to find any more goals and in their quest lost skipper Stephano Mauri, who was forced out of the pitch following an ugly tackle at Japanese fullback, Yuto Nagatomo. The victory helped Inter supersede Napoli at the second place while Lazio stay at fourth.
The Other Results
Roma found a major boost to their European dreams with a narrowest 1-0 win at home over Chievo through an early strike from Simone Perrotta. Fiorentina too went past Cagliari in a 2-1 away win. The win keeps Viola just into the top half of the table while pushes Cagliari at the top of the wrong half.
‘Atrocious’ is the only befitting word to describe Sampdoria’s season post the double loss of charismatic duo of Cassano and Pazzini. After two back-to-back losses against Lecce and Milan, the Genoa based outfit got the better of bottom struck Bari with the only goal of the match coming from a Nicola Pozzi spot-kick. The win temporarily takes Sampdoria out of the relegation zone owing to a better goal difference but the R-sword is still pretty much looming over their heads.
Cesena, another team fighting the battle of relegation, delivered a memorable performance in the city of Bologna beating the home team 2-0 courtesy two second half goals. The triumph takes Cesena out of the R-zone for the time being, while stay put at the 12th position.
If Sampdoria managed to clinch three points over the weekend, city rivals Genoa too were not far behind. It was goals galore in the Luigi Ferraris stadium, as Italy’s oldest club beat the promoted Lecce 4-2 and in process pushed the visitors in the bottom three of the table. Lecce managed to sneak in goals at crucial junctures to take a decisive lead on two occasions but the hosts ultimately proved too good for the Giallorossi.
Goal Of The Week
Andrea Cossu (Cagliari) v Fiorentina
Roberto Donandoni’s men were trailing at home against the opponents from Florence right at the stroke of half time. The hosts did not waste any time in returning the favour. Italian forward Robert Acquafresca, in the very first minute of the second half, began his run from the right drawing the Fiorentina centre backs close to him, and thus opening up space for Andrea Cossu, who was accurate in dealing with the chip directed towards him. The winger, despite receiving the ball at a difficult angle, did not prefer to control it and took a ferocious shot on the very first touch beating the line held by defenders. The sheer power on the shot was so immense that the Polish ’keeper Artur Boruc could not even manage a touch, despite a full-stretched dive.
Miss of the Week
Cesare Bovo (Palermo) v Napoli
The Sicilians were put behind by the team from Naples early in the first half and the hosts were presented a golden opportunity to bring the game on terms, when a Balzaretti cross from the left was horrendously handled by Napoli defence. Morgan Di Sanctis was out of position and Palermo centre back Cesare Bovo only had to kiss the ball with a gentle touch to put it into the net. However, the Italian somehow managed an Amauri like finish beat everyone and the post too.
Controversy of the Week
Juventus were protecting a one-goal lead in the stoppage time, desperately awaiting the final whistle. In the 93rd minute, Catania were awarded a free kick from a dangerous position. Francesco Lodi’s attempt met Felipe Melo in the wall and the referee awarded Catania another free kick adjudging Melo’s attempt as hand-ball. The call was pretty dubious in nature for the replays clearly showed that there was no raised arm from the Brazilian at all. However, the second attempt from Lodi actually beat the wall and landed in the part of the goal that was unmarked by Buffon. Italy’s number one cut a sorry figure as the final whistle was blown. The Old Lady had squandered three points on another occasion.
Team of the Week
Results at a glance
- Roma 1-0 Chievo
- Bari 0-1 Sampdoria
- Bologna 0-2 Cesena
- Cagliari 1-2 Fiorentina
- Genoa 4-2 Lecce
- Inter 2-1 Lazio
- Palermo 2-1 Napoli
- Udinese 0-2 Parma
- Brescia 0-1 Milan
- Juventus 2-2 Catania
Race for Capocannoniere
- Antonia Di Natale (Udinese) – 26
- Edinson Cavani (Napoli) – 26
- Samuel Eto’o (Internazionale) – 26
- Marco Di Vaio (Bologna) – 19
- Alessandro Matri (Juventus) – 18