Robin Hood was known for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. It seems Luigi Del Neri’s band of Merry Men have taken up after the legend a little too seriously as Juventus continued their rich run of form against the better sides in the Serie A during the 31st week in the league, stamping an authoritative 2-0 away win over AS Roma in the city of Rome. After already registering supremacy over both the Milanese outfits, Lazio and Udinese, the Bianconerri outplayed the Romans in their own den. After surviving early scares from skipper Francesco Totti and his deputy Daniele De Rossi, Juventus scored twice to register an important win. Fabio Grosso’s inclusion in the Left Back position may have led to questions about Del Neri’s selections but the World Cup winner full-back rose on the occasion setting up Krasic and Matri who did just about enough to take three crucial points back home in Turin.
This weekend was possibly the most anticipated one, as the two chief title contenders from the city of Milan locked horns in a derby that was deemed a potential title decider. Not for nothing do they call it ‘THE’ derby and it lived pretty much up to the billing despite all the flair and elegance being offered only from the red half of the city. Alexandre Pato could put no foot wrong on the big day as he put Milan in front during the very first minute of the game even before many could even take their seats. The wonder-kid from Brazil furthered the lead in the second half heading in a cross from Ignazio Abate who arguably had his best game of the season so far.
The bad boy of Italian football Antonio Cassano arrived, raised hell and left. ‘Fantantonio’ as he is fondly known, scored from the spot kick after Pato was horrendously fouled by Christian Chivu inside the box. Minutes later, Cassano fouled Ivan Cordoba out of sheer stupidity and earned his second yellow card after getting cautioned earlier for rather stupidly removing his shirt while celebrating. The win puts Milan five points clear at the summit and Inter need to re-instill a winning mentality before meeting Schalke 04 in the mid-week for the Champions League Quarter Final clash.
And The ‘Other’ Derby
In the Sicilian Derby, played at Stadio Angelo Massimino, the host team Catania destroyed arch rivals Palermo with an astonishing 4-0 drubbing of the latter. Four goals in the second half scripted the perfect demolition of the ‘Rosanero’. Bergessio, Ledesma and Pesce scored a goal each after confusion between Salvarote Sirigu and Federico Balzaretti led to an own goal to open the accounts for Catania. The humiliating result in the derby saw Palermo coach Serse Cosmi being shown the door after a mere month and a half since assuming the seat. Rumour has it president Maurizio Zamparini would reverse his decision of sacking Delio Rossi and the ex-Lazio manager may take charge of the dismantled Palermo outfit for the second time during the season.
Game Of The Week
When the two sides that have come to represent the surprise packages of the season crossed swords, the stage was bound to be set afire; and yet no one expected these two sides would play the best game of the league in a long, long time. Walter Mazzari’s Napoli welcomed Edorado Reja’s Lazio at the Sao Paolo stadium in Naples. Despite dominating possession and keeping the Lazio’s Uruguayan shot-stopper on his toes for the major period of the first half, Napoli could not pose any real threat on goal.
The visitors wasted no time in silencing the home crowd as their skipper Stefano Mauri – who has lately found his place in national team coach Cesare Prandelli’s plans too – collected the ball in the final third, ran past three opposition defenders and with a sublime touch, put the goal past Morgan De Sanctis’ range to put his team up front in a peculiar fashion. A loss of composure in a one-on-one battle saw Mauri miss his second moment of glory as the Biancocelesti captain posted his shot wide of target.
Though the first half saw no further major action post Mauri’s moment of exuberant brilliance, it was the post-interval show that was going to have the spectators glued on their seats. As many as six goals were scored during the period at the end of which scorecard tilted 4-3 in Napoli’s favour. The goals galore began with Javier Garrido’s quickly swung in free kick that was met by Brazilian defender Andre Dias in the box and the former Sao Paulo man chipped in with a crisp finish to give his team a threatening 2-0 lead that looked good enough to secure three points at that point. A Cavani-led storm sent Lazio packing as Napoli surpassed Inter for the second spot in the race for the title. In the process, he overtook the record for most goals scored for Napoli in one season going past Diego Maradona’s 22. Mazzari’s men now trail leaders Milan by three points.
The Relegation Treat And More
The four teams from the bottom spot in the table embarked on a memorable matchday over the weekend. While Lecce, Brescia and Bari registered victories to their name, Cesena held Fiorentina for a stalemate in an action-packed 2-2 draw. Lecce have developed this uncanny knack of being party-poopers for the clubs riding in the top block. Having already held Milan and Inter for draws and beaten Juventus, they strengthened the trend by undoing a high-flying Udinese 2-0.
In the evening kick-off on Saturday, Brescia upstaged the first upset of the weekend by denying Bologna a chance to step into the better half of the table. Riding on the goals from Hetemaj, Zoboli and Caracciolo, the ‘Biancoazzurri’ uprooted their opponents 3-1. Skipper Marco Di Vaio scored the only consolation goal for the ‘Rossoblu’. The Chievo-Sampdoria game ended for a goalless draw after neither team could breach the deadlock whereas Cagliari managed a narrow 1-0 away win over Genoa courtesy a Robert Acquafresca goal.
Goal Of The Week
Ricardo Montolivo had had decent outings during Italy’s international commitments in the week bygone but could not particularly impress anyone failing to score in either of the matches. It was time to mean business again as the Fiorentina midfielder scored a screamer from outside the box to give his team a 2-1 lead over lowly placed Cesena side. Proactive positioning, prompt decision making and powerful finish makes Montolivo’s effort goal of the week.
Lady Luck’s Mood Swings
The scorecard read 2-2 at 68 minute mark and the Napoli-Lazio contest was heading towards being an enthralling affair for the remainder of 20 more minutes. It is just when a moment of controversy spurred up as Cristian Brocchi’s devastating long range strike kissed the wood work and bounced over the goal-line but stayed disallowed. The Lazio bench was left flabbergasted at the decision as they missed a golden opportunity to get on top of the game. However, moments later, Salvatore Aronica, while attempting a back-pass ended up putting the ball into his own net – thus gifting Lazio a priceless away lead. How things even out!
Juventus – The Biggest Gainers
At the end of the 31st round of matches, the Turin giants may return home the most content outfit. Apart from an inspiring away win over Roma, other results too transpired in Juve’s favour as each of Lazio, Udinese and Roma dropped points. This keeps the Old Lady’s hopes to play in European competition next season pretty much alive. Two back-to-back wins must bolster the confidence of Del Neri’s men who cannot afford to do any wrong from here on.
The Race For The Capocannoniere
Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) – 25
Edinson Cavani (Napoli) – 25
Marco Di Vaio (Bologna) – 19
Samuel Eto’o (Internazionale) – 19
Alessandro Matri (Juventus) – 17
– Parth Pandya