AC Milan travelled to the San Paolo stadium to take on a rejuvenated Napoli side, which has been doing wonders of late. The pre-match assumption was that this would be an easy affair for Napoli, and that Milan would lose by a big margin. Given the present state of the squad and the internal turmoil going on due to the repeated losses to even pedestrian clubs, the pre-match assumption was apt. The 4-3-3 returned for Milan as Allegri once more decided to tinker with his formation. This time around, Boateng was pushed to the right wing while El Shaarawy was slotted as a central striker while Bojan Krkic moved to the left wing.
Pato and Pazzini were both pushed to the bench as Allegri decided to risk a new attacking trident. Although the match was evenly poised in the beginning, a rather innocent long-range shot from Inler swerved in the air, throwing Abbiati to the wrong side. Wrong-footed, Abbiati fumbled to stop the shot but Napoli had already taken the lead. A soft goal later, Milan fought back hard and Montolivo came close to pulling one back for Milan. On the other side of the pitch however, Insigne made the deficit even larger when he turned and shot at Abbiati. On a normal day, Abbiati would’ve saved this with his eyes closed. But on this day, he let the ball slip under his legs. All he needed to do was to collect the ball and he made a total mess of it. Two uncharacteristic errors led to two goals. Minutes later, a wonderful interplay by Milan saw De Sciglio running on the right and his pass found El Shaarawy on the edge of the box. Taking a single shot, he superbly curled it over De Sanctis into the right corner. A superb goal and Milan were beginning to sense that maybe they could come away with something.
However, with Milan still trailing even after 75 minutes, Allegri brought on Pazzini first and then Robinho, replacing Montolivo and Boateng, who was anyways looking to hit the top stand at every shot of the ball. El Shaarawy scored his second of the night when he collected an exquisite through ball from Robinho. The Pharaoh now has 10 league goals, making him the highest scorer so far this season. At the end, even El Shaarawy was all smiles and joked about how Berlusconi told him to cut his hair short. All said and done, El Shaarawy continues to make Milan fans dream; a dream of not such a failed season but of a new beginning. Here’s hoping the dream is not nipped in the bud and he is not packed off to the oil-guzzling Parisians anytime soon.
Juventus had an amazing chance to increase their lead at the top of the table. However, an inspired performance by Marchetti stopped Juventus at home for the first time since February. Lazio, riding on the performance in the recent derby were on a high going into this match but were pegged by Juventus with Pogba pulling the strings in the midfield in the absence of Pirlo. Juventus had as many as 21 shots but none of them found the target. All they found was Marchetti, who literally was everywhere, keeping away not only stinging drives but also long-range shots.
While Saturday saw an unexpected draw from Juventus, second-placed Inter should have taken this chance to close the gap at the top. However, they were held 2-2 at home against a mid-table side, Cagliari. After Palacio put Inter ahead early in the game, Cagliari came back strongly scoring two goals. Sadly, it required an own-goal from Astori to secure a solitary point for Inter, who must’ve heaved a huge sigh of relief at this let-off. Palacio’s goal took his tally to six goals from the last five matches.
Atalanta has been the surprise package this season and their record against the big teams has been commendable. Facing a charged-up Fiorentina at home, Atalanta caved for the first time this season, letting in 4 goals. Fiorentina are riding high on their victory over Milan last week and their form continued in this match. Aquilani was back on the score-sheet, scoring two goals and setting up another. Atalanta fought back hard in the first half of the match; however their resistance seemed to grow thinner and thinner as the match progressed. This match marked the fifth successive victory for the Viola, although Vincenzo Montella is refusing to read too much into the recent results.
The Luigi Ferraris hosted the Derby della Lanterna this time with Sampdoria hosting Genoa. Genoa went into the match looking to physically dominate their opponent and were lucky not to get a red. Poli drew first blood for the home side and their lead increased further when Bovo scored an own goal in the first half. Immobile pulled one back for Genoa late in the second half, although it was not going to be enough for the visitors. Although Genoa hogged over 60% possession, they eventually succumbed to the late strike from Argentinian Icardi.
Meanwhile, Udinese hosted Parma at the Stadio Fruili as they looked to continue their fight for Europe. For much of the initial stages of the match, the hosts were on fire with none other than Di Natale leading the charge. A superb goal in the early stages calmed the nerves of the home team as Di Natale went for his second. Sadly, his effort minutes later was deemed offside. Parma came back strongly after that and equalized at the beginning of the second half. A see-saw match ensued between the two and two goals later, the match looked to be headed for a draw. Parma had the opportunity to go for the kill but were wasteful in front of goal. Parma’s second goal, scored by Palladino was their 1000th Serie A goal.
In other matches played last weekend, a second half brace from Almiron secured all three points for Catania at home. The relegation zone teams – Bologna, Palermo, Siena and Pescara saw a total of 6 red cards being shown, 4 in the match between Bologna and Palermo while 2 in the match between Siena and Pescara.